How Do I Write a Response to a Case Study?
A case study is a description of a series of problems, challenges or issues that need to be investigated and solved. Subject Coordinators use case studies because they approximate real-world situations, thus they add a dimension of reality to your studies. They are also used to assess how well you have understood the relevant theories and concept, by your ability to apply these to solve the problems detailed in the case study. Your task is to read, analyse and present a solution to the case study.
A case study has these main features:
- It's taken from real life (although true identities will be concealed);
- It's believable for the reader (the case contains the setting, personalities, sequence of events, problems and conflicts); and
- It includes sufficient information for the reader to appreciate the problems and issues.
The following is a suggested method for approaching case studies. Remember to check your Subject Outline for any suggestions that your Subject Coordinator may have provided.
- Read the case study through without stopping to analysis it. Do this to get a basic understanding of what happened, who was involved and the general problems.
- Read it a second time to identify the key elements including what happened; the sequence of events; who was involved; any significant relationships; the facts and problems.
- With an understanding of what you have been asked to do (i.e. the assignment question), re-read the case study, this time clarifying the key issues and identifying the problems that need to be solved. Remember, case studies are written so that you can propose solutions. As with real-life situations, there is usually more than one way to solve any problem.
- Integrate the problems using the theories and concepts that you come to understand from your readings. Do not just simply describe the problems or theories. Instead you need to analyse them. If you need to make assumptions to fill in any gaps that are not provided in the case study, you will need to explain your reasoning.
- Consider a range of possible solutions to the problems. Evaluate the problems by giving your opinion or some expert's opinions, by considering the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. Justify your choices.
- Depending on your assignment question, detail your response to the case study in the form of a report.
As you write up a response to a case study, you may like to think about, and try to answer a range of questions:
- What is this case study about in general?
- What specific issues are associated with it?
- What do I already know about these issues?
- How do they link with the theories we have studied?
- What alternative approaches to dealing with the issues would be appropriate?
- If an alternative approach were used, what impact might it have?
Case studies provide you with an active learning experience with opportunities including:
- deepening your understanding of theories through viewing them in relation to practical situations;
- developing a greater appreciation of the complexity of problems that can arise in practice;
- analysis and evaluation;
- expressing ideas concisely and with clarity;
- creating convincing, reasoned arguments;
- proposing solutions to genuine problems.
Additional web resources
Case studies: analysing and evaluating
Case Studies: Business Resources for Students; Online Study Centre, Houghton Mifflin. At this link you can learn how to effectively analyse and write a case study. http://college.cengage.com/business/resources/casestudies/students/index.html
Case Studies: understanding, analysing and writing a case study; Business & Economics Information Services, The University of Auckland