Case studies
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A concise guide to writing convincing case studies

Case studies are an avenue of qualitative research. They are different from the other variations of qualitative research methodologies in that they involve intensive analyses and descriptions of entities under study.

Investigations identify questions or topics of interest about the case by carefully analysing multiple sources of an appropriate pre-existing information schema. A typical case study research is generally narrative, comprising a series of illustrative descriptions of key case aspects.

Case studies as qualitative methodology explore a phenomenon within specific bounds of space and time. Therefore, researchers need to gather detailed and in-depth data for reporting case descriptions and describing case themes.

An article by the US National Library of Medicine highlights several pieces of literature that define the nature of case studies as “well-bounded” and “… a unit around which there are boundaries”. Case studies attempt to understand a phenomenon in a holistic, real-life context and must exhibit rigorous and accurate analysis.

The holistic approach and the empirical study of a subject within its natural space and time-bound context make case studies a potent research instrument. Writing a good case study, thus, requires a careful and rigorous strategy.

This article looks into such a compelling case study writing strategy in depth.

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Writing great case studies: The stages

Rigorous analysis from multiple sources, detailed descriptions, studying a phenomenon or entity in the natural context – are the primary characteristics of any case study, be it a Zara business case study or a nursing case study for aspiring health caregivers. Crafting a case study that exhibits all of the above characteristics necessitates a step-by-step approach.

The three main steps or stages of developing a good case study are research, analysis and organising, and finally, drafting.

Let’s look into each stage minutely:

The Research Phase

Case study writing requires writers to analyse and interpret information synthesised from multiple sources. Therefore, effective and efficient planning is crucial for holistic research and gathering space-and-time bound information about a subject.

Determining the purpose and the learning outcomes of the research are of paramount importance. They dictate the nature of the information acquired, the methods of acquisition, and even the sources.

Literature, library and Internet research, and one-on-one interviews are the prominent sources of information for any research, including case studies. 

– Researchers should explore and study what has been written before about the subject. Important research journal articles, credible online articles, books, case studies, etc., are excellent secondary information sources.

Thorough research can help uncover insightful information, research gaps, or exciting ideas to support case analysis and/or solutions. In-depth research can even change the course and objectives of the entire case study.

– Interviews and surveys remain the best avenues of gathering primary information. Therefore, it is crucial to locate reliable and knowledgeable from the domain associated with the case study research subject.

Interview questions should revolve around understanding the interviewee’s opinions, gathering vital information and reliable facts.

– One must always keep the audience in mind while framing questions and gathering relevant information.

Readers must understand the intricacies of the case analysis and the eventual outcomes. Therefore, the information presented should help them understand the case or problem and the reasons and logic of the proposed solution.

After thorough research and data gathering, it is time for detailed analysis and proper organisation.

The Analysis and Organisation Stage

In-depth and intellectual analysis, coupled with proper presentation of data, is crucial to the success of any case study.

– All information must be collated into one place. It is not possible to include all information in a case study, so it is vital to sort and select essential and insightful information. Researchers should discard the excess and arrange necessary details to ensure everything’s entirely understandable for the audience.

– Narrative structure and the presentation of complex issues are significant concerns. As case studies generally involve detailed and evocative descriptions, one needs to present case details and subsequent analysis engagingly for the audience.

Case studies should contain vivid descriptions of situations, principles, and resolutions, whether academic or professional. In addition, the narrative of a case study should inform readers about all the actors, the setting, the sequence of actions, and the key problems or issues central to the case.

– The organisation of a case study’s narrative should be in a logical and presentable sequence. It can be chronological, in order of importance, or as per the setting and sequence of events. The basic idea is to make the narrative structure clear by emphasising vital points and using effective transitions.

– Proper sections should be assigned. Segmenting and structuring information into appropriate sections can aid the reader in understanding the case study. Structuring information is essential for understanding the case, related factors, and the case analysis and results.

– Presenting a holistic case analysis is the ultimate aim. Once the problem or the case has been thoroughly defined, it is time to lay the groundwork for the case analysis. Researchers should remember that all information and analyses must justify the purpose of the case study and align with the proposed learning outcomes.

A well-written case study must analyse a problem in a multi-faceted manner. Therefore, unbiased and well-rounded views and multiple perspectives can make readers commend and appreciate the case study more.

– A perfect case study analysis should be like a successful detective story. It should make readers think about the problem, deliver a thorough examination and investigation, and then offers a logical solution. 

There may be multiple interpretations, many solutions, different judgments, and different possible actions; the naturalistic context of case studies leads to the rise of such open-ended situations. Delivering multiple, contrasting solutions and comparisons of varying perspectives can elevate the quality of any case study.

After exhaustive and multi-faceted analysis, it is time to put things on paper.

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The Drafting Stage

The writing process should be congruent to the learning outcomes of the case study. The diction, grammar, and sentence and content structuring should lead to a narrative that connects and engages readers instantly.

– Shaping an effective outline is essential for reproducing the research narrative on paper. As discussed in the preceding section, the presentation and organisation of data and analysis is crucial to success.

– The outline should align with the case study narrative, offering sequential and logical presentation of the case and the analysis. The learning outcomes and the central problem of the case should guide the entire narrative.

– Add sufficient information to ensure the reader’s comprehensive understanding. Facts, evidence, explanations, interpretations, along with detailed evaluations of essential and supporting data, are the essence of a convincing case study.

Revising is essential to developing the perfect final draft. 

– Re-reading, evaluating, and making necessary changes to improve the written case is vital.

– The researcher should put themselves in the shoes of an objective and critical reader while revising the draft.

– Considering the following questions can lead to effective reviewing.

  • Will the case study lead to the intended learning outcomes?
  • Are the information and evaluation presented related to the learning outcomes?
  • Is the study focused and complete?
  • Are all the elements of a compelling narrative present? (Storytelling style, development of the setting and presentation of case issues, portrayal of central actors, a logical solution, an objective and unbiased approach)
  • Is everything presented in a logical order?
  • Are all information and analyses connected with appropriate transitions?
  • Is the entire content of the case study accurate and relevant in terms of the subject matter under research

– The conclusion of the case study should leave readers with an effective solution. In addition, it should also be able to invoke emotions and provoke them to think deeply about the problems analysed.

A good case study lets readers discuss the case and highlight all vital aspects necessary for a holistic understanding.

Be it an academic or business case study; the above development process can help any researcher develop a thought-provoking, intuitive and engaging case study on any subject. Hope this article was an informative and interesting read for everyone.

If you require professional case study writing help, always seek assistance from a reputed academic service provider.

All the best!

Author’s Bio: Patrick Earle is a professor of strategic management from a prominent business school in Texas, the USA. He is also an avid blogger and part-time tutor at Assignmenthelp.us, a leading academic service provider in the United States.

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