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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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Q. Need help with writing a case study analysis?
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Answered By: Coleen Neary Last Updated: Jun 02, 2023 Views: 237635
A case study analysis requires you to investigate a business problem, examine the alternative solutions, and propose the most effective solution using supporting evidenc e.
Before you begin writing, follow these guidelines to help you prepare and understand the case study:
- Take notes, highlight relevant facts, and underline key problems.
- Identify two to five key problems
- Why do they exist?
- How do they impact the organization?
- Who is responsible for them?
- Review course readings, discussions, outside research, and your experience.
- Consider strong supporting evidence, pros, and cons: is this solution realistic?
Once you have gathered the necessary information, a draft of your analysis should include these sections:
- Identify the key problems and issues in the case study.
- Formulate and include a thesis statement, summarizing the outcome of your analysis in 1–2 sentences.
- Set the scene: background information, relevant facts, and the most important issues.
- Demonstrate that you have researched the problems in this case study.
- Outline possible alternatives (not necessarily all of them)
- Explain why alternatives were rejected
- Why are alternatives not possible at this time?
- Provide one specific and realistic solution
- Explain why this solution was chosen
- Support this solution with solid evidence
- Concepts from class (text readings, discussions, lectures)
- Outside research
- Personal experience (anecdotes)
- Determine and discuss specific strategies for accomplishing the proposed solution.
- If applicable, recommend further action to resolve some of the issues
- What should be done and who should do it?
After you have composed the first draft of your case study analysis, read through it to check for any gaps or inconsistencies in content or structure: Is your thesis statement clear and direct? Have you provided solid evidence? Is any component from the analysis missing?
Source : University of Arizona Writing Center. (n.d.). Writing a case study analysis . URL: https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/writing-case-study-analysis
- For additional help with the final draft on revisions and editing, please refer to Writing@APUS, The Final Product for tips on proofreading,
- Looking for other business writing resources? See: How to Find Business Communication & Writing Resources
Questions? Contact the library .
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- Analyze a case study (Cenage)
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- How to Write and Format a Business Case Study (ThoughtCo,)
- Boston Univerity Libguide | Open Access Business Case Studies
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Definition and Introduction
Case analysis is a problem-based teaching and learning method that involves critically analyzing complex scenarios within an organizational setting for the purpose of placing the student in a “real world” situation and applying reflection and critical thinking skills to contemplate appropriate solutions, decisions, or recommended courses of action. It is considered a more effective teaching technique than in-class role playing or simulation activities. The analytical process is often guided by questions provided by the instructor that ask students to contemplate relationships between the facts and critical incidents described in the case.
Cases generally include both descriptive and statistical elements and rely on students applying abductive reasoning to develop and argue for preferred or best outcomes [i.e., case scenarios rarely have a single correct or perfect answer based on the evidence provided]. Rather than emphasizing theories or concepts, case analysis assignments emphasize building a bridge of relevancy between abstract thinking and practical application and, by so doing, teaches the value of both within a specific area of professional practice.
Given this, the purpose of a case analysis paper is to present a structured and logically organized format for analyzing the case situation. It can be assigned to students individually or as a small group assignment and it may include an in-class presentation component. Case analysis is predominately taught in economics and business-related courses, but it is also a method of teaching and learning found in other applied social sciences disciplines, such as, social work, public relations, education, journalism, and public administration.
Ellet, William. The Case Study Handbook: A Student's Guide . Revised Edition. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2018; Christoph Rasche and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Analysis . Writing Center, Baruch College; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.
How to Approach Writing a Case Analysis Paper
The organization and structure of a case analysis paper can vary depending on the organizational setting, the situation, and how your professor wants you to approach the assignment. Nevertheless, preparing to write a case analysis paper involves several important steps. As Hawes notes, a case analysis assignment “...is useful in developing the ability to get to the heart of a problem, analyze it thoroughly, and to indicate the appropriate solution as well as how it should be implemented” [p.48]. This statement encapsulates how you should approach preparing to write a case analysis paper.
Before you begin to write your paper, consider the following analytical procedures:
- Review the case to get an overview of the situation . A case can be only a few pages in length, however, it is most often very lengthy and contains a significant amount of detailed background information and statistics, with multilayered descriptions of the scenario, the roles and behaviors of various stakeholder groups, and situational events. Therefore, a quick reading of the case will help you gain an overall sense of the situation and illuminate the types of issues and problems that you will need to address in your paper. If your professor has provided questions intended to help frame your analysis, use them to guide your initial reading of the case.
- Read the case thoroughly . After gaining a general overview of the case, carefully read the content again with the purpose of understanding key circumstances, events, and behaviors among stakeholder groups. Look for information or data that appears contradictory, extraneous, or misleading. At this point, you should be taking notes as you read because this will help you develop a general outline of your paper. The aim is to obtain a complete understanding of the situation so that you can begin contemplating tentative answers to any questions your professor has provided or, if they have not provided, developing answers to your own questions about the case scenario and its connection to the course readings,lectures, and class discussions.
- Determine key stakeholder groups, issues, and events and the relationships they all have to each other . As you analyze the content, pay particular attention to identifying individuals, groups, or organizations described in the case and identify evidence of any problems or issues of concern that impact the situation in a negative way. Other things to look for include identifying any assumptions being made by or about each stakeholder, potential biased explanations or actions, explicit demands or ultimatums , and the underlying concerns that motivate these behaviors among stakeholders. The goal at this stage is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situational and behavioral dynamics of the case and the explicit and implicit consequences of each of these actions.
- Identify the core problems . The next step in most case analysis assignments is to discern what the core [i.e., most damaging, detrimental, injurious] problems are within the organizational setting and to determine their implications. The purpose at this stage of preparing to write your analysis paper is to distinguish between the symptoms of core problems and the core problems themselves and to decide which of these must be addressed immediately and which problems do not appear critical but may escalate over time. Identify evidence from the case to support your decisions by determining what information or data is essential to addressing the core problems and what information is not relevant or is misleading.
- Explore alternative solutions . As noted, case analysis scenarios rarely have only one correct answer. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the process of analyzing the case and diagnosing core problems, while based on evidence, is a subjective process open to various avenues of interpretation. This means that you must consider alternative solutions or courses of action by critically examining strengths and weaknesses, risk factors, and the differences between short and long-term solutions. For each possible solution or course of action, consider the consequences they may have related to their implementation and how these recommendations might lead to new problems. Also, consider thinking about your recommended solutions or courses of action in relation to issues of fairness, equity, and inclusion.
- Decide on a final set of recommendations . The last stage in preparing to write a case analysis paper is to assert an opinion or viewpoint about the recommendations needed to help resolve the core problems as you see them and to make a persuasive argument for supporting this point of view. Prepare a clear rationale for your recommendations based on examining each element of your analysis. Anticipate possible obstacles that could derail their implementation. Consider any counter-arguments that could be made concerning the validity of your recommended actions. Finally, describe a set of criteria and measurable indicators that could be applied to evaluating the effectiveness of your implementation plan.
Use these steps as the framework for writing your paper. Remember that the more detailed you are in taking notes as you critically examine each element of the case, the more information you will have to draw from when you begin to write. This will save you time.
NOTE : If the process of preparing to write a case analysis paper is assigned as a student group project, consider having each member of the group analyze a specific element of the case, including drafting answers to the corresponding questions used by your professor to frame the analysis. This will help make the analytical process more efficient and ensure that the distribution of work is equitable. This can also facilitate who is responsible for drafting each part of the final case analysis paper and, if applicable, the in-class presentation.
Framework for Case Analysis . College of Management. University of Massachusetts; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Rasche, Christoph and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Study Analysis . University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center; Van Ness, Raymond K. A Guide to Case Analysis . School of Business. State University of New York, Albany; Writing a Case Analysis . Business School, University of New South Wales.
Structure and Writing Style
A case analysis paper should be detailed, concise, persuasive, clearly written, and professional in tone and in the use of language . As with other forms of college-level academic writing, declarative statements that convey information, provide a fact, or offer an explanation or any recommended courses of action should be based on evidence. If allowed by your professor, any external sources used to support your analysis, such as course readings, should be properly cited under a list of references. The organization and structure of case analysis papers can vary depending on your professor’s preferred format, but its structure generally follows the steps used for analyzing the case.
The introduction should provide a succinct but thorough descriptive overview of the main facts, issues, and core problems of the case . The introduction should also include a brief summary of the most relevant details about the situation and organizational setting. This includes defining the theoretical framework or conceptual model on which any questions were used to frame your analysis.
Following the rules of most college-level research papers, the introduction should then inform the reader how the paper will be organized. This includes describing the major sections of the paper and the order in which they will be presented. Unless you are told to do so by your professor, you do not need to preview your final recommendations in the introduction. U nlike most college-level research papers , the introduction does not include a statement about the significance of your findings because a case analysis assignment does not involve contributing new knowledge about a research problem.
Background analysis can vary depending on any guiding questions provided by your professor and the underlying concept or theory that the case is based upon. In general, however, this section of your paper should focus on:
- Providing an overarching analysis of problems identified from the case scenario, including identifying events that stakeholders find challenging or troublesome,
- Identifying assumptions made by each stakeholder and any apparent biases they may exhibit,
- Describing any demands or claims made by or forced upon key stakeholders, and
- Highlighting any issues of concern or complaints expressed by stakeholders in response to those demands or claims.
These aspects of the case are often in the form of behavioral responses expressed by individuals or groups within the organizational setting. However, note that problems in a case situation can also be reflected in data [or the lack thereof] and in the decision-making, operational, cultural, or institutional structure of the organization. Additionally, demands or claims can be either internal and external to the organization [e.g., a case analysis involving a president considering arms sales to Saudi Arabia could include managing internal demands from White House advisors as well as demands from members of Congress].
Throughout this section, present all relevant evidence from the case that supports your analysis. Do not simply claim there is a problem, an assumption, a demand, or a concern; tell the reader what part of the case informed how you identified these background elements.
Identification of Problems
In most case analysis assignments, there are problems, and then there are problems . Each problem can reflect a multitude of underlying symptoms that are detrimental to the interests of the organization. The purpose of identifying problems is to teach students how to differentiate between problems that vary in severity, impact, and relative importance. Given this, problems can be described in three general forms: those that must be addressed immediately, those that should be addressed but the impact is not severe, and those that do not require immediate attention and can be set aside for the time being.
All of the problems you identify from the case should be identified in this section of your paper, with a description based on evidence explaining the problem variances. If the assignment asks you to conduct research to further support your assessment of the problems, include this in your explanation. Remember to cite those sources in a list of references. Use specific evidence from the case and apply appropriate concepts, theories, and models discussed in class or in relevant course readings to highlight and explain the key problems [or problem] that you believe must be solved immediately and describe the underlying symptoms and why they are so critical.
This section is where you provide specific, realistic, and evidence-based solutions to the problems you have identified and make recommendations about how to alleviate the underlying symptomatic conditions impacting the organizational setting. For each solution, you must explain why it was chosen and provide clear evidence to support your reasoning. This can include, for example, course readings and class discussions as well as research resources, such as, books, journal articles, research reports, or government documents. In some cases, your professor may encourage you to include personal, anecdotal experiences as evidence to support why you chose a particular solution or set of solutions. Using anecdotal evidence helps promote reflective thinking about the process of determining what qualifies as a core problem and relevant solution .
Throughout this part of the paper, keep in mind the entire array of problems that must be addressed and describe in detail the solutions that might be implemented to resolve these problems.
Recommended Courses of Action
In some case analysis assignments, your professor may ask you to combine the alternative solutions section with your recommended courses of action. However, it is important to know the difference between the two. A solution refers to the answer to a problem. A course of action refers to a procedure or deliberate sequence of activities adopted to proactively confront a situation, often in the context of accomplishing a goal. In this context, proposed courses of action are based on your analysis of alternative solutions. Your description and justification for pursuing each course of action should represent the overall plan for implementing your recommendations.
For each course of action, you need to explain the rationale for your recommendation in a way that confronts challenges, explains risks, and anticipates any counter-arguments from stakeholders. Do this by considering the strengths and weaknesses of each course of action framed in relation to how the action is expected to resolve the core problems presented, the possible ways the action may affect remaining problems, and how the recommended action will be perceived by each stakeholder.
In addition, you should describe the criteria needed to measure how well the implementation of these actions is working and explain which individuals or groups are responsible for ensuring your recommendations are successful. In addition, always consider the law of unintended consequences. Outline difficulties that may arise in implementing each course of action and describe how implementing the proposed courses of action [either individually or collectively] may lead to new problems [both large and small].
Throughout this section, you must consider the costs and benefits of recommending your courses of action in relation to uncertainties or missing information and the negative consequences of success.
The conclusion should be brief and introspective. Unlike a research paper, the conclusion in a case analysis paper does not include a summary of key findings and their significance, a statement about how the study contributed to existing knowledge, or indicate opportunities for future research.
Begin by synthesizing the core problems presented in the case and the relevance of your recommended solutions. This can include an explanation of what you have learned about the case in the context of your answers to the questions provided by your professor. The conclusion is also where you link what you learned from analyzing the case with the course readings or class discussions. This can further demonstrate your understanding of the relationships between the practical case situation and the theoretical and abstract content of assigned readings and other course content.
Problems to Avoid
The literature on case analysis assignments often includes examples of difficulties students have with applying methods of critical analysis and effectively reporting the results of their assessment of the situation. A common reason cited by scholars is that the application of this type of teaching and learning method is limited to applied fields of social and behavioral sciences and, as a result, writing a case analysis paper can be unfamiliar to most students entering college.
After you have drafted your paper, proofread the narrative flow and revise any of these common errors:
- Unnecessary detail in the background section . The background section should highlight the essential elements of the case based on your analysis. Focus on summarizing the facts and highlighting the key factors that become relevant in the other sections of the paper by eliminating any unnecessary information.
- Analysis relies too much on opinion . Your analysis is interpretive, but the narrative must be connected clearly to evidence from the case and any models and theories discussed in class or in course readings. Any positions or arguments you make should be supported by evidence.
- Analysis does not focus on the most important elements of the case . Your paper should provide a thorough overview of the case. However, the analysis should focus on providing evidence about what you identify are the key events, stakeholders, issues, and problems. Emphasize what you identify as the most critical aspects of the case to be developed throughout your analysis. Be thorough but succinct.
- Writing is too descriptive . A paper with too much descriptive information detracts from your analysis of the complexities of the case situation. Questions about what happened, where, when, and by whom should only be included as essential information leading to your examination of questions related to why, how, and for what purpose.
- Inadequate definition of a core problem and associated symptoms . A common error found in case analysis papers is recommending a solution or course of action without adequately defining or demonstrating that you understand the problem. Make sure you have clearly described the problem and its impact and scope within the organizational setting. Ensure that you have adequately described the root causes w hen describing the symptoms of the problem.
- Recommendations lack specificity . Identify any use of vague statements and indeterminate terminology, such as, “A particular experience” or “a large increase to the budget.” These statements cannot be measured and, as a result, there is no way to evaluate their successful implementation. Provide specific data and use direct language in describing recommended actions.
- Unrealistic, exaggerated, or unattainable recommendations . Review your recommendations to ensure that they are based on the situational facts of the case. Your recommended solutions and courses of action must be based on realistic assumptions and fit within the constraints of the situation. Also note that the case scenario has already happened, therefore, any speculation or arguments about what could have occurred if the circumstances were different should be revised or eliminated.
Bee, Lian Song et al. "Business Students' Perspectives on Case Method Coaching for Problem-Based Learning: Impacts on Student Engagement and Learning Performance in Higher Education." Education & Training 64 (2022): 416-432; The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Georgallis, Panikos and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching using Case-Based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Georgallis, Panikos, and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching Using Case-based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; .Dean, Kathy Lund and Charles J. Fornaciari. "How to Create and Use Experiential Case-Based Exercises in a Management Classroom." Journal of Management Education 26 (October 2002): 586-603; Klebba, Joanne M. and Janet G. Hamilton. "Structured Case Analysis: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in a Marketing Case Course." Journal of Marketing Education 29 (August 2007): 132-137, 139; Klein, Norman. "The Case Discussion Method Revisited: Some Questions about Student Skills." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 30-32; Mukherjee, Arup. "Effective Use of In-Class Mini Case Analysis for Discovery Learning in an Undergraduate MIS Course." The Journal of Computer Information Systems 40 (Spring 2000): 15-23; Pessoa, Silviaet al. "Scaffolding the Case Analysis in an Organizational Behavior Course: Making Analytical Language Explicit." Journal of Management Education 46 (2022): 226-251: Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Schweitzer, Karen. "How to Write and Format a Business Case Study." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-and-format-a-business-case-study-466324 (accessed December 5, 2022); Reddy, C. D. "Teaching Research Methodology: Everything's a Case." Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods 18 (December 2020): 178-188; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.
Ca se Study and Case Analysis Are Not the Same!
Confusion often exists between what it means to write a paper that uses a case study research design and writing a paper that analyzes a case; they are two different types of approaches to learning in the social and behavioral sciences. Professors as well as educational researchers contribute to this confusion because they often use the term "case study" when describing the subject of analysis for a case analysis paper. But you are not studying a case for the purpose of generating a comprehensive, multi-faceted understanding of a research problem. R ather, you are critically analyzing a specific scenario to argue logically for recommended solutions and courses of action that lead to optimal outcomes applicable to professional practice.
To avoid any confusion, here are twelve characteristics that delineate the differences between writing a paper using the case study research method and writing a case analysis paper:
- Case study is a method of in-depth research and rigorous inquiry ; case analysis is a reliable method of teaching and learning . A case study is a modality of research that investigates a phenomenon for the purpose of creating new knowledge, solving a problem, or testing a hypothesis using empirical evidence derived from the case being studied. Often, the results are used to generalize about a larger population or within a wider context. The writing adheres to the traditional standards of a scholarly research study. A case analysis is a pedagogical tool used to teach students how to reflect and think critically about a practical, real-life problem in an organizational setting.
- The researcher is responsible for identifying the case to study; a case analysis is assigned by your professor . As the researcher, you choose the case study to investigate in support of obtaining new knowledge and understanding about the research problem. The case in a case analysis assignment is almost always provided, and sometimes written, by your professor and either given to every student in class to analyze individually or to a small group of students, or students select a case to analyze from a predetermined list.
- A case study is indeterminate and boundless; a case analysis is predetermined and confined . A case study can be almost anything [see item 9 below] as long as it relates directly to examining the research problem. This relationship is the only limit to what a researcher can choose as the subject of their case study. The content of a case analysis is determined by your professor and its parameters are well-defined and limited to elucidating insights of practical value applied to practice.
- Case study is fact-based and describes actual events or situations; case analysis can be entirely fictional or adapted from an actual situation . The entire content of a case study must be grounded in reality to be a valid subject of investigation in an empirical research study. A case analysis only needs to set the stage for critically examining a situation in practice and, therefore, can be entirely fictional or adapted, all or in-part, from an actual situation.
- Research using a case study method must adhere to principles of intellectual honesty and academic integrity; a case analysis scenario can include misleading or false information . A case study paper must report research objectively and factually to ensure that any findings are understood to be logically correct and trustworthy. A case analysis scenario may include misleading or false information intended to deliberately distract from the central issues of the case. The purpose is to teach students how to sort through conflicting or useless information in order to come up with the preferred solution. Any use of misleading or false information in academic research is considered unethical.
- Case study is linked to a research problem; case analysis is linked to a practical situation or scenario . In the social sciences, the subject of an investigation is most often framed as a problem that must be researched in order to generate new knowledge leading to a solution. Case analysis narratives are grounded in real life scenarios for the purpose of examining the realities of decision-making behavior and processes within organizational settings. A case analysis assignments include a problem or set of problems to be analyzed. However, the goal is centered around the act of identifying and evaluating courses of action leading to best possible outcomes.
- The purpose of a case study is to create new knowledge through research; the purpose of a case analysis is to teach new understanding . Case studies are a choice of methodological design intended to create new knowledge about resolving a research problem. A case analysis is a mode of teaching and learning intended to create new understanding and an awareness of uncertainty applied to practice through acts of critical thinking and reflection.
- A case study seeks to identify the best possible solution to a research problem; case analysis can have an indeterminate set of solutions or outcomes . Your role in studying a case is to discover the most logical, evidence-based ways to address a research problem. A case analysis assignment rarely has a single correct answer because one of the goals is to force students to confront the real life dynamics of uncertainly, ambiguity, and missing or conflicting information within professional practice. Under these conditions, a perfect outcome or solution almost never exists.
- Case study is unbounded and relies on gathering external information; case analysis is a self-contained subject of analysis . The scope of a case study chosen as a method of research is bounded. However, the researcher is free to gather whatever information and data is necessary to investigate its relevance to understanding the research problem. For a case analysis assignment, your professor will often ask you to examine solutions or recommended courses of action based solely on facts and information from the case.
- Case study can be a person, place, object, issue, event, condition, or phenomenon; a case analysis is a carefully constructed synopsis of events, situations, and behaviors . The research problem dictates the type of case being studied and, therefore, the design can encompass almost anything tangible as long as it fulfills the objective of generating new knowledge and understanding. A case analysis is in the form of a narrative containing descriptions of facts, situations, processes, rules, and behaviors within a particular setting and under a specific set of circumstances.
- Case study can represent an open-ended subject of inquiry; a case analysis is a narrative about something that has happened in the past . A case study is not restricted by time and can encompass an event or issue with no temporal limit or end. For example, the current war in Ukraine can be used as a case study of how medical personnel help civilians during a large military conflict, even though circumstances around this event are still evolving. A case analysis can be used to elicit critical thinking about current or future situations in practice, but the case itself is a narrative about something finite and that has taken place in the past.
- Multiple case studies can be used in a research study; case analysis involves examining a single scenario . Case study research can use two or more cases to examine a problem, often for the purpose of conducting a comparative investigation intended to discover hidden relationships, document emerging trends, or determine variations among different examples. A case analysis assignment typically describes a stand-alone, self-contained situation and any comparisons among cases are conducted during in-class discussions and/or student presentations.
The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . 6th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2017; Crowe, Sarah et al. “The Case Study Approach.” BMC Medical Research Methodology 11 (2011): doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-11-100; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing; 1994.
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How to Analyse a Case Study
Last Updated: October 10, 2022 Fact Checked
wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 19 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 405,636 times. Learn more...
Case studies are used in many professional education programs, primarily in business school, to present real-world situations to students and to assess their ability to parse out the important aspects of a given dilemma. In general, a case study should include, in order: background on the business environment, description of the given business, identification of a key problem or issue, steps taken to address the issue, your assessment of that response, and suggestions for better business strategy. The steps below will guide you through the process of analyzing a business case study in this way.
- Describe the nature of the organization under consideration and its competitors. Provide general information about the market and customer base. Indicate any significant changes in the business environment or any new endeavors upon which the business is embarking.
- Analyze its management structure, employee base, and financial history. Describe annual revenues and profit. Provide figures on employment. Include details about private ownership, public ownership, and investment holdings. Provide a brief overview of the business's leaders and command chain.
- In all likelihood, there will be several different factors at play. Decide which is the main concern of the case study by examining what most of the data talks about, the main problems facing the business, and the conclusions at the end of the study. Examples might include expansion into a new market, response to a competitor's marketing campaign, or a changing customer base.  X Research source
- Draw on the information you gathered and trace a chronological progression of steps taken (or not taken). Cite data included in the case study , such as increased marketing spending, purchasing of new property, changed revenue streams, etc.
- Indicate whether or not each aspect of the response met its goal and whether the response overall was well-crafted. Use numerical benchmarks, like a desired customer share, to show whether goals were met; analyze broader issues, like employee management policies, to talk about the response as a whole.  X Research source
- Suggest alternative or improved measures that could have been taken by the business, using specific examples and backing up your suggestions with data and calculations.
- Always read a case study several times. At first, you should read just for the basic details. On each subsequent reading, look for details about a specific topic: competitors, business strategy, management structure, financial loss. Highlight phrases and sections relating to these topics and take notes. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- In the preliminary stages of analyzing a case study, no detail is insignificant. The biggest numbers can often be misleading, and the point of an analysis is often to dig deeper and find otherwise unnoticed variables that drive a situation. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- If you are analyzing a case study for a consulting company interview, be sure to direct your comments towards the matters handled by the company. For example, if the company deals with marketing strategy, focus on the business's successes and failures in marketing; if you are interviewing for a financial consulting job, analyze how well the business keeps their books and their investment strategy. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- Do not use impassioned or emphatic language in your analysis. Business case studies are a tool for gauging your business acumen, not your personal beliefs. When assigning blame or identifying flaws in strategy, use a detached, disinterested tone. Thanks Helpful 15 Not Helpful 4
Things You'll Need
You might also like.
- ↑ https://plato.acadiau.ca/courses/Busi/IntroBus/CASEMETHOD.html
- ↑ https://www.gvsu.edu/cms4/asset/CC3BFEEB-C364-E1A1-A5390F221AC0FD2D/business_case_analysis_gg_final.pdf
- ↑ https://bizfluent.com/12741914/how-to-analyze-a-business-case-study
- ↑ http://www.business-fundas.com/2009/how-to-analyze-business-case-studies/
- ↑ https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/writing-case-study-analysis
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WCU » WCU Student Resources » Research and Writing » Writing a Case Study Analysis
Guidelines for Writing a Case Study Analysis
A case study analysis requires an investigation to a problem. Then, examine the alternative solutions. Next, propose the most effective solution using supporting evidence.
Preparing the Case
Before you begin writing, follow these guidelines to help you prepare and understand the case study:
- Read and examine the case thoroughly Take notes, highlight relevant facts, and underline key problems.
- Focus your analysis Identify key issues. Who or what are responsible?
- Detect solutions Review: course readings, discussions, outside research, and your experience.
- Select solution[s] Consider all supporting evidence, pros, and cons: is this solution genuine?
Drafting the Case
A draft of your analysis should include these sections:
- Introduction Identify the key problems and issues in the case study. â€¢ Formulate and include a thesis statement, summarizing the outcome of your analysis in 1â€“2 sentences.
- Background Set the scene: background information, relevant facts, and the most important issues. Demonstrate that you have researched the problems in this case study.
- Choices Explain why alternatives were rejected or not possible at this time.
- Solution[s] Provide one specific and realistic solution. Explain why this solution was chosen. Support this solution with solid evidence.
- Recommendations Determine and discuss specific strategies for accomplishing the proposed solution. What should be done and who should do it?
Finalizing the Case
Read through your work to check for any gaps or inconsistencies in content. I suggest reading it out loud. It can bring the inconsistencies or gaps to light much faster than reading it in silence to yourself.
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Case Study Analysis: Examples + How-to Guide & Writing Tips
A case study analysis is a typical assignment in business management courses. The task aims to show high school and college students how to analyze a current situation, determine what problems exist, and develop the best possible strategy to achieve the desired outcome.
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Many students feel anxious about writing case analyses because being told to analyze a case study and provide a solution can seem like a big task. That is especially so when working with real-life scenarios. However, you can rest assured writing a case analysis paper is easier than you think. Just keep reading this article and you will find case study examples for students and the advice provided by Custom-writing experts!
- 👣 Main Steps
- 🕵 Preparing the Case
🔬 Analyzing the Case
- 📑 Format & Structure
- 🙅 Things to Avoid
- 🏁 Conclusion
👣 writing a case study analysis: main steps.
Business management is built on case analysis. Every single economic result shows that the methods and instruments employed were either well-timed and expedient, in the event of success, or not, in case of failure. These two options indicate whether the strategy is efficient (and should be followed) or requires corrections (or complete change). Such an approach to the case study will make your writing piece more proficient and valuable for the reader. The following steps will direct your plan for writing a case study analysis.
Step 1: Preliminary work
- Make notes and highlight the numbers and ideas that could be quoted.
- Single out as many problems as you can, and briefly mark their underlying issues. Then make a note of those responsible. In the report, you will use two to five of the problems, so you will have a selection to choose from.
- Outline a possible solution to each of the problems you found. Course readings and outside research shall be used here. Highlight your best and worst solution for further reference.
Step 2: Drafting the Case
- Provide a general description of the situation and its history.
- Name all the problems you are going to discuss.
- Specify the theory used for the analysis.
- Present the assumptions that emerged during the analysis, if any.
- Describe the detected problems in more detail.
- Indicate their link to, and effect on, the general situation.
- Explain why the problems emerged and persist.
- List realistic and feasible solutions to the problems you outlined, in the order of importance.
- Specify your predicted results of such changes.
- Support your choice with reliable evidence (i.e., textbook readings, the experience of famous companies, and other external research).
- Define the strategies required to fulfill your proposed solution.
- Indicate the responsible people and the realistic terms for its implementation.
- Recommend the issues for further analysis and supervision.
Step 3: Finalizing the Case
Like any other piece of writing, a case analysis requires post-editing. Carefully read it through, looking for inconsistencies and gaps in meaning. Your purpose is to make it look complete, precise, and convincing.
🕵 Preparing a Case for Analysis
Your professor might give you various case study examples from which to choose, or they may just assign you a particular case study. To conduct a thorough data analysis, you must first read the case study. This might appear to be obvious. However, you’d be surprised at how many students don’t take adequate time to complete this part.
Read the case study very thoroughly, preferably several times. Highlight, underline, flag key information, and make notes to refer to later when you are writing your analysis report.
If you don’t have a complete knowledge of the case study your professor has assigned, you won’t conduct a proper analysis of it. Even if you make use of a business case study template or refer to a sample analysis, it won’t help if you aren’t intimately familiar with your case study.
You will also have to conduct research. When it comes to research, you will need to do the following:
- Gather hard, quantitative data (e.g. 67% of the staff participated in the meeting).
- Design research tools , such as questionnaires and surveys (this will aid in gathering data).
- Determine and suggest the best specific, workable solutions.
It would be best if you also learned how to analyze a case study. Once you have read through the case study, you need to determine the focus of your analysis. You can do this by doing the following:
Compare your chosen solutions to the solutions offered by the experts who analyzed the case study you were given or to online assignments for students who were dealing with a similar task. The experts’ solutions will probably be more advanced than yours simply because these people are more experienced. However, don’t let this discourage you; the whole point of doing this analysis is to learn. Use the opportunity to learn from others’ valuable experience, and your results will be better next time.
If you are still in doubt, the University of South Carolina offers a great guide on forming a case study analysis.
Receive a plagiarism-free paper tailored to your instructions.
📑 Case Analysis Format & Structure
When you are learning how to write a case study analysis, it is important to get the format of your analysis right. Understanding the case study format is vital for both the professor and the student. The person planning and handing out such an assignment should ensure that the student doesn’t have to use any external sources .
In turn, students have to remember that a well-written case analysis provides all the data, making it unnecessary for the reader to go elsewhere for information.
Regardless of whether you use a case study template, you will need to follow a clear and concise format when writing your analysis report. There are some possible case study frameworks available. Still, a case study should contain eight sections laid out in the following format:
- Describe the purpose of the current case study;
- Provide a summary of the company;
- Briefly introduce the problems and issues found in the case study
- Discuss the theory you will be using in the analysis;
- Present the key points of the study and present any assumptions made during the analysis.
- Present each problem you have singled out;
- Justify your inclusion of each problem by providing supporting evidence from the case study and by discussing relevant theory and what you have learned from your course content;
- Divide the section (and following sections) into subsections, one for each of your selected problems.
- Present a summary of each problem you have identified;
- Present plausible solutions for each of the problems, keeping in mind that each problem will likely have more than one possible solution;
- Provide the pros and cons of each solution in a way that is practical.
- Conclusion . This is a summary of your findings and discussion.
- Decide which solution best fits each of the issues you identified;
- Explain why you chose this solution and how it will effectively solve the problem;
- Be persuasive when you write this section so that you can drive your point home;
- Be sure to bring together theory and what you have learned throughout your course to support your recommendations.
- Provide an explanation of what must be done, who should take action, and when the solution should be carried out;
- Where relevant, you should provide an estimate of the cost in implementing the solution, including both the financial investment and the cost in terms of time.
- References. While you generally do not need to refer to many external sources when writing a case study analysis, you might use a few. When you do, you will need to properly reference these sources, which is most often done in one of the main citation styles, including APA, MLA, or Harvard. There is plenty of help when citing references, and you can follow these APA guidelines , these MLA guidelines , or these Harvard guidelines .
- Appendices. This is the section you include after your case study analysis if you used any original data in the report. These data, presented as charts, graphs, and tables, are included here because to present them in the main body of the analysis would be disruptive to the reader. The University of Southern California provides a great description of appendices and when to make use of them.
When you’ve finished your first draft, be sure to proofread it. Look not only for potential grammar and spelling errors but also for discrepancies or holes in your argument.
You should also know what you need to avoid when writing your analysis.
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🙅 Things to Avoid in Case Analysis
Whenever you deal with a case study, remember that there are some pitfalls to avoid! Beware of the following mistakes:
- Excessive use of colloquial language . Even though it is a study of an actual case, it should sound formal.
- Lack of statistical data . Give all the important data, both in percentages and in numbers.
- Excessive details. State only the most significant facts, rather than drowning the reader in every fact you find.
- Inconsistency in the methods you have used . In a case study, theory plays a relatively small part, so you must develop a specific case study research methodology.
- Trivial means of research . It is critical that you design your own case study research method in whatever form best suits your analysis, such as questionnaires and surveys.
It is useful to see a few examples of case analysis papers. After all, a sample case study report can provide you with some context so you can see how to approach each aspect of your paper.
👀 Case Study Examples for Students
It might be easier to understand how a case study analysis works if you have an example to look at. Fortunately, examples of case studies are easy to come by. Take a look at this video for a sample case study analysis for the Coca-Cola Company.
If you want another example, then take a look at the one below!
Business Case Analysis: Example
CRM’s primary focus is customers and customer perception of the brand or the company. The focus may shift depending on customers’ needs. The main points that Center Parcs should consider are an increase in customer satisfaction and its market share. Both of these points will enhance customer perception of the product as a product of value. Increased customer satisfaction will indicate that the company provides quality services, and increased market share can reduce the number of switching (or leaving) customers, thus fostering customer loyalty.
Case Study Topics
- Equifax case study: the importance of cybersecurity measures .
- Study a case illustrating ethical issues of medical research.
- Examine the case describing the complications connected with nursing and residential care.
- Analyze the competitive strategy of Delta Airlines .
- Present a case study of an ethical dilemma showing the conflict between the spirit and the letter of the law.
- Explore the aspects of Starbucks’ marketing strategyin a case study.
- Research a case of community-based clinic organization and development.
- Customer service of United Airlines: a case study .
- Analyze a specific schizophrenia case and provide your recommendations.
- Provide a case study of a patient with hyperglycemia.
- Examine the growth strategy of United Healthcare.
- Present a case study demonstrating ethical issues in business .
- Study a case of the 5% shareholding rule application and its impact on the company.
- Case study of post-traumatic stress disorder .
- Analyze a case examining the issues of cross-cultural management .
- Write a case study exploring the ethical issues the finance manager of a long-term care facility can face and the possible reaction to them.
- Write a case study analyzing the aspects of a new president of a firm election.
- Discuss the specifics of supply chain management in the case of Tehindo company.
- Study a case of a life crisis in a family and the ways to cope with it.
- Case study of Tea Leaves and More: supply chain issues .
- Explore the case of ketogenic diet implementation among sportspeople.
- Analyze the case of Webster Jewelry shop and suggest some changes.
- Examine the unique aspects of Tea and More brand management .
- Adidas case study: an ethical dilemma .
- Research the challenges of Brazos Valley Food Bank and suggest possible solutions.
- Describe the case of dark web monitoring for business.
- Study a case of permissive parenting style .
- Case study of Starbucks employees .
- Analyze a case of workplace discrimination and suggest a strategy to avoid it.
- Examine a case of the consumer decision-making process and define the factors that influence it.
- Present a case study of Netflix illustrating the crucial role of management innovation for company development.
- Discuss a case describing a workplace ethical issue and propose ways to resolve it.
- Case study of the 2008 financial crisis: Graham’s value investing principles in the modern economic climate.
- Write a case study analyzing the harmful consequences of communication issues in a virtual team .
- Analyze a case that highlights the importance of a proper functional currency choice.
- Examine the case of Hitachi Power Systems management.
- Present a case study of medication research in a healthcare facility.
- Study the case of Fiji Water and the challenges the brand faces.
- Research a social problem case and suggest a solution.
- Analyze a case that reveals the connection between alcohol use and borderline personality disorder .
- Transglobal Airline case study: break-even analysis.
- Examine the case of Chiquita Brands International from the moral and business ethics points of view.
- Present a case study of applying for Social Security benefits.
- Study the case of a mass hacker attack on Microsoft clients and suggest possible ways to prevent future attacks.
- Case study of leadership effectiveness .
- Analyze a case presenting a clinical moral dilemma and propose ways to resolve it.
- Describe the case of Cowbell Brewing Company and discuss the strategy that made them successful.
- Write a case study of WeWork company and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of its strategy.
- Case study of medical ethical decision-making.
- Study the case of The Georges hotel and suggest ways to overcome its managerial issues.
🏁 Concluding Remarks
Writing a case study analysis can seem incredibly overwhelming, especially if you have never done it before. Just remember, you can do it provided you follow a plan, keep to the format described here, and study at least one case analysis example.
If you still need help analyzing a case study, your professor is always available to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. You can also get help with any aspect of the project from a custom writing company. Just tackle the research and hand over the writing, write a rough draft and have it checked by a professional, or completely hand the project off to an expert writer.
Regardless of the path you choose, you will turn in something of which you can be proud!
✏️ Case Study Analysis FAQ
Students (especially those who study business) often need to write a case study analysis. It is a kind of report that describes a business case. It includes multiple aspects, for example, the problems that exist, possible solutions, forecasts, etc.
There should be 3 main points covered in a case study analysis:
- The challenge(s) description,
- Possible solutions,
- Outcomes (real and/or foreseen).
Firstly, study some examples available online and in the library. Case study analysis should be a well-structured paper with all the integral components in place. Thus, you might want to use a template and/or an outline to start correctly.
A case study analysis is a popular task for business students. They typically hand it in the format of a paper with several integral components:
- Description of the problem
- Possible ways out
- Results and/or forecasts
Students sometimes tell about the outcome of their research within an oral presentation.
- Case Study: Academia
- Windows of vulnerability: a case study analysis (IEEE)
- A (Very) Brief Refresher on the Case Study Method: SAGE
- The case study approach: Medical Research Methodology
- Strengths and Limitations of Case Studies: Stanford University
- A Sample APA Paper: Radford University
- How to Write a Case Study APA Style: Seattle PI
- The Case Analysis: GVSU
- How to Outline: Purdue OWL
- Incorporating Interview Data: UW-Madison Writing Center
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Quite an impressive piece The steps and procedures outlined here are well detailed and the examples facilitates understanding.
Thank you for the great feedback, Collins!
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Thanks a lot. A knowledge shared with a structured template. Stay the course
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Thank you very much for this insightful guidelines… It has really been a great tool for writing my project. Thanks once again.
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This article was very helpful, even though I’ll have a clearer mind only after I do the case study myself but I felt very much motivated after reading this, as now I can at least have a plan of what to do compared to the clueless me I was before I read it. I hope if I have any questions or doubts about doing a case study I can clear it out here.
Sarmistha, I’m happy you found the article helpful 🙂
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13 Case Studies
Valéry Ridde, Abdourahmane Coulibaly, and Lara Gautier
Case studies consist of an in-depth analysis of one or more cases, using a variety of methods and theoretical approaches. The choice of cases (single or multiple) studied is crucial. Case studies are particularly suitable for studying the emergence and processes involved in policy implementation and for contributing to theory-based evaluations.
Keywords: Qualitative methods, quantitative methods, mixed methods, case study, theoretical approaches, single/multiple cases, empirical triangulation, analytical generalisation
I. What does this method consist of?
Also used in anthropology, the case study approach has long been used in evaluation, where it is considered not as a method but as a research strategy (Yin 2018). By studying a policy in context and using multiple lines of evidence, the case study (single or multiple) seeks to answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions from a systems approach and with the support of theoretical approaches. Conducting a case study for a public policy evaluation follows a standard evaluation process: planning, drafting the protocol, preparing the field, collecting and analysing data, sharing results and making recommendations for policy improvement (Gagnon 2012). As with all evaluations, the choice of methods should follow the objectives and the evaluation question, not the other way around. A case study may thus mobilise qualitative, quantitative and different mixed methods designs.
The case study strategy is therefore appropriate when organising an evaluation of policy emergence, process, relevance or adaptation. It is often mobilised when evaluation teams have little or no control over the events and context that influence policy actions. This is often the case outside of experimental situations, which are rare in the field of public policy. It is therefore mostly recommended for understanding a contemporary, often complex, phenomenon organised in a real context.
The case study approach can be used to explain a public policy, describe it in depth or illustrate a specific situation, which can sometimes be original and enlightening for decision-making. The advantage of case studies is that they can be adapted to different situations where there are multiple variables of interest around a policy. It is also about being able to use multiple sources of data, both quantitative and qualitative, which allow for empirical triangulation. The case study strategy allows theoretical propositions and the state of scientific knowledge to guide data collection and analysis. It fits perfectly with, but is not limited to, theory-based evaluation approaches (see separate chapter on theory-based evaluation ).
There are a myriad of proposals for the types of case studies that are possible. Firstly, it is possible to use single/single case studies (involving one policy) or multiple case studies (several policies in the same organisational context or one policy in different contexts). Secondly, these cases can be studied holistically (the policy as a whole) or at different levels of analysis (the dimensions of the policy that the intervention theory will have specified or the particular regional contexts). The choice of case studies should be heuristic (to learn from the study) and strategic (to have data available within the available budget, to answer useful questions). A key criterion for case selection is to have sufficiently relevant information to understand the policy in depth and complexity. Case sampling should therefore be explicit, rigorous and transparent. The selection of case studies can thus be critical, unique, typical, revealing, instrumental, etc. This selection can also be carried out in collaboration between the research and policy teams to ensure that the choices are relevant and feasible. The selection can also be based on prior quantitative analyses to obtain the starting situation of the cases and, for example, choose cases that are very contrasting or very similar in their performance with regard to the policy being analysed.
Sometimes it can also be useful to have a diachronic approach in order to produce longitudinal case studies. For example, analysing a policy over time can reveal the influences of changes in the context or in the strategies of those implementing it, or of those benefiting from it. Starting with cases with similar initial conditions and then studying their evolution is referred to as ‘racing cases’ by Eisenhardt (Gehman et al. 2018).
When analysing the data, the case study approach requires, in addition to the usual analyses specific to the methods (content analysis, thematic analysis, descriptive or inferential statistics, etc.), to mobilise a replication logic. The idea is to compare, in a systematic and rigorous way, the empirical data and the theory, be it the theory of the policy intervention or a theoretical or conceptual framework used to understand the policy. This process is referred to by Yin as analytical generalisation. When several cases support the same theory, it is possible to suggest the presence of a replication logic ( Yin 2010).
Configurations can be heuristic tools for this analysis, whether they are organisational or rooted in critical realism (see separate chapter on realistic evaluation ). Furthermore, finding similar patterns, or situations, in different contexts strengthens the ability to generalise the results of case studies. Yin believes that analytical generalisation requires the construction of a very strong case that will be able to withstand the challenges of logical analysis. Thus, it is essential to specify this theoretical rationale at the outset of the case study, either by mobilising a theory or from the state of the art without it being entirely specific to the public policy being analysed. At the beginning of a case study, it is therefore necessary to remain at a relatively high conceptual level, at least higher than the policy under study. Secondly, the empirical results of the case study must show how they align (or not) with the theoretical argument at the outset. Finally, it will be necessary to discuss how this theoretical thinking, based on this particular policy, can also be applied to other situations and policies in the particular case study. The fact that, even at the beginning of the case study, a counter-argument (rival hypotheses) was also formulated, and that empirical evidence was sought during the data collection process (which refutes them), reinforces the validity of this process of analytical generalisation. Finally, the power of multiple case studies is that this analytical generalisation is strengthened when the results of one case are similar to those of other cases.
Some research teams even propose that case studies can lead to theory-building, especially when analysing complex objects such as public policies.
II. How is this method useful for policy evaluation?
Before deciding to embark on a case study approach, two preliminary questions should be asked which will determine the appropriateness of the approach:
Does the phenomenon I am interested in need the case(s) to be understandable? (e.g., Theory-building case studies)
Does the case(s) represent an empirical window that informs the analysis of the wider phenomenon?
Once one or the other has been answered positively, the evaluative questions can be defined:
Under what real-life conditions can public policy X, piloted in context A, be scaled up in contexts B, C, and D?
How did the controversy about public policy Y in context B emerge?
What are the success factors for the implementation of public policy X in context A?
How were public policies Y and Z implemented in context B?
Why did public policy X in context A and B fail, while it had positive effects in context C?
Why did public policy X implemented in context A fail, while public policy Y implemented in the same context A succeeded?
What is it about the characteristics of public policy Z implemented in contexts A, B, and C that informs μ theory-building case studies?
The case study can be used at any point in the evaluation process, ex ante (at the time of policy design), in itinere (during implementation), or ex post (e.g. to better understand the results produced).
III. An example of the use of this method in Burkina Faso
Simple and multiple longitudinal case studies were mobilised to study a public health financing policy in Burkina Faso (Ridde 2021).
The World Bank encouraged the government to test in a dozen districts a modality for financing health centres in addition to the state budget. The idea was to organise a performance-based payment system in which health centres and health professionals received additional funds based on the achievement of activity results. For example, for each delivery performed in the centre with a partographer, they received 3.2 euros to be shared between the structure and the staff, according to complex procedures and indicators. Verification and control processes were organised to ensure the reliability of payment claims.
To study the emergence of this new policy, we conducted a single case study (focusing on the policy) to better understand its origin, ideas, proposed solutions, people who proposed it, power issues, etc. We employed a literature review and 14 qualitative in-depth interviews with policy makers, funding agencies and experts on the subject. Using an analytical generalisation approach, we compared this emergence to understand whether what happened in Burkina Faso was also happening in Benin.
To study the implementation of the policy in Burkina Faso, we then used multiple longitudinal case studies. For reasons of time and budget, we selected three districts representing the diversity of situations in which the policy was implemented. Then, within each of these districts, we selected six cases from the primary health centres (about 30 per district) and one case that was the referral hospital (only one per district). The six cases were selected according to the three types of financing strategies that the policy wished to test, so two cases per type. We decided to select two cases with the greatest possible contrast within each of the three types: one very performant health centre and one not at all. Performance was calculated using a quantitative method (time series) on the basis of indicators of health centre attendance in the years preceding the policy. This etic analysis (from the external perspective) ranked all the health centres according to their order of performance to support case selection. The latter also benefited from the emic opinion (from the internal point of view) of local health system managers in order to take into account their own perception of the performance of the centres, beyond the quantitative approach which only gives a partial view of performance. Thus, for each of the seven cases selected per district (7×3 = 21), we used multiple sources of data to understand the challenges of policy implementation: analysis of documentation, formal qualitative interviews (between 114 and 215 per district) and informal interviews (between 26 and 168 per district), and observations of situations. A data collection grid was also used to measure the fidelity of policy implementation. In order to better understand the evolution of policy implementation, and in particular adaptations over time, three data collection moments were carried out over a 24-month period, thus following the longitudinal multiple case study approach.
Finally, these case studies have also been fruitful in studying, with a qualitative approach and a long immersion in the field, the unexpected consequences (positive or negative) of this policy. Although this dimension of the evaluation is still too little understood, its implementation in Burkina Faso has shown the relevance of this approach (Turcotte-Tremblay et al. 2017). Limiting oneself to the expected effects, which is often implied by an extreme focus on the sole theory of intervention developed by the teams that define the policy, reduces the heuristic scope of the evaluation. While successes are essential, challenges may also be necessary to improve public policies with the help of case studies.
For all these approaches, the analysis was carried out in a hybrid manner, both deductive (with respect to the intervention theory or a conceptual framework) and inductive (original empirical data). The comparison between cases, between districts and between countries allowed for an increase in abstraction in an analytical generalisation process.
IV. What are the criteria for judging the quality of the mobilisation of this method?
Judging the quality of a complex approach such as case studies requires a global vision, going beyond the specific but essential reflections of the usual methods (quantitative and qualitative). To this end, Yin (2018) proposes to study the quality of case studies in terms of four dimensions:
Construct validity (studying the expected policy and not something else): using multiple sources of evidence, describing and establishing a causal chain, involving stakeholders in the validation of the protocol and reports;
Internal validity (confidence in results): compare empirical data with each other and with theory, construct explanatory logics, account for competing and alternative hypotheses, use logical frameworks/theories of intervention;
External validity (ability to generalise results): use theories, use the logic of analytical replication;
Reliability (for the same case study, the same findings): use a policy study protocol, develop a case database.
V. What are the strengths and limitations of this method compared to others?
The main strength of the case study is its ability to ‘incorporate the unique characteristics of each case and to examine complex phenomena in their context’, i.e. in real-life conditions (Stiles 2013, 30).
The case study strategy, due to the abundance and variety of the corpus of data mobilised, and the research methods employed (qualitative, quantitative or mixed), most often allows for a rich description of the public policy(ies) being evaluated and the contexts of implementation. This is particularly true of single case studies, which allow for in-depth analysis. With regard to multiple case studies, the main advantage is that it allows for more potential variation, which increases the robustness of the explanation. The downside is that these strategies require a significant time commitment. Thus, the sheer volume of work can be problematic, especially if the deadlines set by the sponsors are short. In addition, if there are several evaluative questions, or a question that invites the linking of implementation issues to outcomes, then it may be necessary to consider combining the case study (which may focus on process analysis, for example) with another complementary research strategy, such as quasi-experimental approaches (Yin and Ridde, 2012). Finally, several biases may arise – the biased choice of case(s), low statistical power when conducting quantitative analyses. These biases may erode comparability across cases or contexts. The rich justification of the choice of cases (public policies) (Stake 1995) and the description of the context(s), as well as the process of analytical generalisation, described above, help to reduce the impact of these biases.
With regard to theory-building case studies, both advantages and disadvantages of the case study are identified (Stiles 2013). The case study strategy here consists of comparing different statements from theory with one or more observations. This can be done by describing the few cases in theoretical terms. Thus, although each detail can only be observed once, they can be very numerous and therefore useful for theory building. However, the same biases mentioned above are likely to occur (biased case selection, low statistical power). Confidence in individual statements may be eroded by these biases. On the other hand, as many statements are examined – reflecting a variety of contexts and therefore possible variations – the overall strengthening of confidence in the theory may be just as important as in a hypothesis testing study.
Some bibliographical references to go further
Gagnon, Yves-Chantal. 2012. L’étude de cas comme méthode de recherche . 2nd ed. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec.
Gehman, Joel. and Glaser, Vern L.. and Eisenhardt, Kathleen M.. and Gioia, Denny. and Langley, Ann. and Corley, Kevin G.. 2018. “Finding Theory–Method Fit: A Comparison of Three Qualitative Approaches to Theory Building.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 27(3): 284‑300. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492617706029 .
Ridde, Valéry, éd. 2021. Vers une couverture sanitaire universelle en 2030? Éditions science et bien commun. Québec: Canada: Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/ZENODO.5166925 .
Stake, Robert E. 1995. The Art of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Stiles, William B. 2013. “Using Case Studies to Build Psychotherapeutic Theories.” Psychothérapies , 33(1): 29‑35. https://doi.org/10.3917/psys.131.0029 .
Turcotte-Tremblay, Anne-Marie. and Ali Gali-Gali, Idriss. and De Allegri, Manuela. and Ridde, Valéry. 2017. “The Unintended Consequences of Community Verifications for Performance-Based Financing in Burkina Faso.” Social Science & Medicine , 191: 226‑36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.09.007 .
Yin, Robert K. 2010. “Analytic Generalization.” In Encyclopedia of Case Study Research , by Albert Mills, Gabrielle Durepos, and Elden Wiebe, 6. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks California 91320 United States: SAGE Publications, Inc. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412957397.n8 .
Yin, Robert K. 2018. Case study research and applications: design and methods . Sixth edition. Los Angeles: SAGE.
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