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Tips for Writing a Successful Case Study

Tips for Writing a Successful Case Study


By Dr. Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University

Note: This post was originally published on the Online Learning Tips blog.

The case study is an assignment that students often dread. While many students believe that a case study is a good learning tool, they have difficulty figuring out exactly what the instructor wants. Another common student complaint is that writing a case study is difficult because the assignment is too general or was explained insufficiently by the instructor.

But there are ways to write a good case study, even with incomplete information. Usually, what an instructor seeks is a project well supported by scholarly research and logical statements.

Understand the Assignment

The first step in producing a successful case study is to understand the assignment. For example, if the assignment requires four pages, submit no less than four pages. Submitting less content than is required by your instructor will likely lower your grade.

If you have any questions about your case study, ask the instructor for clarification. It is better to ask questions and find out what’s needed, than to assume you know the project’s requirements and miss the point of the assignment.

Remember to follow all instructions. If a rubric is available from your instructor, review that as well to make sure you include all of the required elements in your case study.

Second, make sure your case study has the following four sections: an introduction, a discussion, a recommendation and support. Including these sections will lead to a successful case study. Also, include any other sections that are among your instructor’s requirements.

Keep Your Introduction Short and Highlight the Facts

The introduction should review the problem of the case study and identify the questions to be addressed. It’s important to keep the introduction brief. A common mistake is to write an overly long introduction.

Remember that the professor already knows the case study, so there is no reason to rehash all the details. Set the stage for the assignment, but do not make the introduction a major part of the paper.

The discussion section should offer possible solutions or options. A good way to organize the discussion section is to write one or two paragraphs to cover each aspect of the case study. A good discussion weighs different options. Show what options were considered and explain the thinking process. Avoid making recommendations at this stage.

A Successful Recommendation Needs Clarity

The recommendation section contains the solutions or answers to the case study. Offer the best solution or answer, and avoid making multiple recommendations.

A successful recommendation to a case study must be clear, taking one position or the other. If you have multiple recommendations, your reader will compare them and see one position as stronger than the others. The reader will then wonder why you were indecisive in making a recommendation.

A Support Section Requires References and Sources

The support section requires at least three referenced sources that must be properly cited in the discussion and recommendations sections, using the citation style appropriate to your academic discipline. As a student, it is important to offer your opinion regarding a solution, but you need to prove why one solution is better than others and explain your reasoning.

Citing the opinion of experts helps you improve your case study. Good support is the hallmark of a great case study; it makes your ideas even more compelling and worthy of a good grade.

Check Your Work for Logic and Clarity

In the end, a successful case study should reflect your ability to reach important decisions logically and cohesively. You should also do a quick double-check by making sure that you answer the following questions in every case study: Who, what, when, where, why and how?

Checking these questions will ensure that you cover all aspects of the case study. making strong arguments and supporting them with well-researched facts, your case study will stand up to the scrutiny of your instructor and any other readers.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Gordon has 25 years of professional experience in supply chain and human resources. Robert has earned a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership, an MBA and a B.A. in History. He has authored over 100 published articles, including five books covering a variety of business topics.