Generally, a case study requires you to integrate practice and theory, so that you can relate theoretical concepts to real-life practical/professional situations.
A case can be an event, a happening, a person or group of people, an object, a text, an idea or an institution etc. You are analysing the case by mapping it against a theoretical explanation, in order to understand and see the big picture – What has happened? Why has it happened?
It can be in the form of an essay or a report (check the assignment question and check with your lecturer/tutor).
You may be asked to identify:
- the major problems in the case and why these have arisen
- the potential solutions to the problems, and
- recommendations and justifications.
Identification of problems:
- Provide an overview of the case study.
- Summarise the problems (including the evidence and causes), from major to minor, in your own words.
- Relate the identified problems to theory.
Solutions to identified problems:
- Provide rational and reasonable solutions to the problems you have identified in the case.
- Evaluate each solution in terms of its advantages and disadvantages, costs involved, levels of expertise/ resources needed to implement them etc.
- You might want to consider the following when evaluating the solutions: costs /time /resources /levels of expertise.
- Outline your recommendations based on the solutions for each of the identified problems.
- Your recommendations should be realistic, practical and achievable, and be supported by relevant theories.
Common errors in case study writing
- not fully understanding the case and 'what's going on'
- oversimplfying the problems and not engaging with the deeper issues
- making unrealistic recommendations which are not feasible nor affordable
- not engaging at a deeper level and being able to 'interpret the facts' of what is going on' behind the scenes
Morley-Warner, T. 2009, Academic writing is… A guide to writing in a university context, Association for Academic Language and Learning, Sydney.
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology 2009, Study & Learning Centre, accessed 15 June 2009, <http://www.dlsweb.rmit.edu.au/lsu/>.
More information and examples are available in Writing a case study report in Engineering, The Learning Centre, UNSW (opens external site)