Case studies can be used in any academic discipline. The purpose of a case study is to provide a more thorough analysis of a situation or "case" which might reveal interesting information about that classification of things. For the business student, a case study could be done on a particular company; for the political science student a case study might concern a particular country or government/administration. Case studies could be written about individuals, such as how kids learn to read, for example, about organizations and their management practices, or the results of applying a computer science program or process to a problem. You might be trying to figure out how to solve the problem of illiteracy or environmental degradation. The sky is the limit. The key is to take your large problem and bring it down to the level of the individual or single unit.
A case study is an analytical piece. It involves heavy research and application of theories, concepts, and knowledge commonly discussed in the field of study. It highlights common problems in the field and will illuminate those problems through the in-depth study of its application to one individual, one company, one government, or one of whatever you are studying. Most case studies are an attempt to solve one of these problems that are known in the field.
Steps to Writing the Case Study
1) Determine what your case study will be about. Think about the problems you have discussed in class or you have come across in your reading in this field. Begin by researching at the library and on the internet in order to hone in on a specific problem. Once you have identified a problem, read as much as you can about it in books, journals, magazines, newspapers, etc. Take notes and remember to keep track of your sources for later citations in your case study.
2) Choose a case site. Think of a location, an organization, company, or individuals who are dealing with that problem. Plan and set up interviews with these people. Your interviewees should all be involved at the same company or organization (your case "site"). They can be workers, volunteers, customers, or other stakeholders with an interest in solving the problem you have identified.
3) Begin your interviewing process. Talk to individuals at your case site about the issue. Ask what they have tried to do to solve the problem, their feelings about the situation, and what they might do differently. Ask open-ended questions that will provide you with information about what is working, how the situation developed, which parties are involved, and what a typical day is like. Stay away from yes or no questions, or you may not get the information you are seeking.
4) Analyze your information. You will need to take the information you gathered in your library and internet research along with your "case" information from the interview and determine which items pertain most to the problem. Organize all of your information in the same place.
(5) Write the case study. The case study should have the following sections:
- Introduction to the problem: This is from your library and internet research and describes the problem in a greater sense.
- Background on the case: Information about your case study site, where or who it is, what makes it a good sample of the larger group, what makes it special?
- The next several sections should be about the problem as it pertains to the case. Describe for the reader what you learned in your interviews about the problem at this site, how it developed, what solutions have already been proposed and/or tried, and feelings and thoughts of those working or visiting there.
- The concluding paragraph should wrap it up with possible solutions, without solving the case per se. It might make some final references to the interviewees and their thoughts about possible solutions, while leaving it open to the reader to come up with a different answer.