Guide: How to Write a Case Study
Sometimes knowledge can be retrieved not only through meticulous scrutiny of vast volumes of information, but also through analyzing a single case, which can be considered illustrative, trendsetting, and so on. This is exactly what you do when working on a case study: you do research of a situation, examine its reasons and possible results, and apply the results of such study to analyze other similar cases that occur eventually. This is a useful practice in many disciplines starting from sociology and/or psychology, and ending up with law: the term “legal precedent,” for example, is closely related to what a case study is.
The most important part of a case study is the research. However, rather often students assigned with a case study get stuck even before this phase having no idea about what to actually work on, what topic would make a nice case study, and so on. Here are some recommendation to adhere to in a case when your teachers/instructors did not provide you with a topic or clear instructions.
- usually, it is a good idea to focus on events or situations that are in a certain way outstanding, deviant, interesting, or drawing attention in some other way. Studying typical cases will not make a good topic for a case study.
- the easiest way to find a topic for a case study is to browse the Internet. Media is full of stories of all kinds, including those that might serve as potential subjects for a case study. Global events, technological breakthroughs, political and/or social incidents, crimes, unusual phenomena, and so on can make nice topics for a case study. Reviewing the recordings you made during classes can also help you choose a case to research.
- a more solid and grounded approach would be to go to your local library and study the literary sources on the discipline that you need a case study for. Such sources usually contain illustrating examples illustrating, so it is likely that you will find a suitable case for your research.
Make sure to read instructions to your future research carefully; rather often, it is enough to simply follow the instructions given to you by your teacher. Reading them carefully is important, because your teacher might want you to research a topic from a specific perspective, and not following his/her instruction might influence the outcomes. For example, the case of unexpected mass migration could be studied from at least two angles: the immigrants’ contribution to the economic development of the hosting country, or the problems they create for the local population in terms of taking job places.
Now it is time to actually start researching the case.
- Find information about the chosen cas in non-profile sources. It means that you should research media, news websites, articles, interviews on the subject, and so on. Do not trust the media too much--it tends to create much ado about nothing--but rather listen to the opinions of different experts on the subject. The attention experts pay to a certain event is a reliable indicator of whether it is worth researching. After you get the general context, research the primary sources on the subject: similar case studies conducted in the past, research that somehow refer to the case chosen by you, and so on. Remember that there might be cases like yours occurred in a distant past; although you should stick to the present, examples from the past might enable you to understand certain aspects of your research better. For example, studying the anti-semitic upheavals in Nazi Germany of 1930’s might help you understand the processes behind the contemporary anti-semitism better. Learn about the background of the chosen case, study the events preceding it, people involved, public reaction, major opinions existing in the society on the subject, and so on.
- Depending on the discipline and the case itself, decide on the methods you will be using for analyzing the case. Think of a case as of a mechanical lock: to open it, you need the proper key, which is the method. Different disciplines (and even separate cases) have different methods which suit researching them the most. For example, in chemistry or physics one of the best methods is the experiment, or observation. Sociology, psychology, political science, and other similar disciplines like to operate with quantitative methods such as statistics, comparative analysis, etc. Be careful when choosing methods for your research, because the outcomes depend on them.
- Sort out the data you have gathered.
- Using the selected methods, analyze the acquired data about the case. Identify the main problem(s) connected to the case, and think of the possible solutions of this problem. Find supporting evidence to defend your position on the subject.
After all this work, the actual writing of a case study paper is a piece of cake. You just need to take the following steps:
- Prepare the introduction, in which you will get your audience acquainted with the main problems the studied case refers to. Provide the context and the background on the subject of your study, Present your thesis statement in the end of the introductory paragraph.
- Introduce the major research approaches/opinions on the chosen case; introduce up to three alternative ways to solve or interpret your case, and show why they are not applicable (unlike yours).
- Introduce your opinion, analysis, and solutions of the problem. Explain what makes your solution of the case effective, and provide strong evidence in order to defend your opinion.
- In the end of the case study paper, you should present your conclusion on the topic. Briefly restate the essence of the problem, the major approaches to understanding and researching it, as well as the common solutions to it. Then, re-introduce your approach and solution in a concise manner, and provide recommendations on avoiding/solving the same problems in the future.
- Proofread and edit your case study paper until you can no longer notice grammar, punctuation, and other mistakes. Double-check all the factual information you use, as well as the credibility of sources you refer to.
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