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Case Study Writing is Unique

Case studies are usually assigned to students in upper level undergraduate or graduate level courses.  They are particularly common in disciplines of the humanities, business, medicine, and political science.  The purpose of a case study is to provide validation or to point researchers in new directions, based upon a specific study of a single individual or an organization.  For example, a student of education might conduct a case study on a single student and his/her family, in order to “test” the current research on the impact of socioeconomic status on school performance.  A business student might conduct a case study on a single entrepreneurial organization to validate current statistics on the challenges of start-up businesses.

When students are required to produce a case study, very specific steps must be followed, as follows:

  1. Case study research is the first step.  Your case study relates to a body of related research which has been conducted and published.  A literature review will be a critical first step in the preparation of an academically-sound case study.  Only after the research is conducted can you begin to consider the specifics of the study and the choice of a subject for your study.
  2. Selection of the subject follows the literature review.  Carefully review the research before you select a subject, because your choice must relate very specifically to the research you have studied.  If, for example, you have researched educational progress of poverty-level children in rural areas, the subject of your case study must be within this population.  If your research relates to entrepreneurs with specific backgrounds, then your case study must also relate to those backgrounds.
  3. Establish your hypothesis or research question.  Your research should provide a number of possibilities, and a good analysis of this research, along with a specific topic of interest, should determine your question or thesis.
  4. Conduct your study.  This will involve questionnaires/interviews with the subject and those intimately related to the subject.  The development of these questionnaires/interviews will be paramount to the soundness of the case study and significant time will be required in their development.  The thrust of these endeavors should also relate directly to the results of previous research and studies that were a part of the case study research.
  5. Analyze the results of your case study and compare them to the research that you have studied.  Now you may begin the write-up.

The Case Study Write-Up

The introduction section of your case study should present the hypothesis or question and inform the reader of your goals for your study.  Are you attempting to validate earlier research or are you attempting to add to this research through a related case study?

A review of literature should follow your introduction.  If you have carefully organized your research this section should be relatively easy.

Introduce your case study subject and explain how this subject relates to your hypothesis or question.

Report on the study, including the interview/questionnaire specifics, and the result of each question or each activity you conducted in your study. 

Analyze the results of your study as they relate to your thesis or question.

Provide a conclusion that validates the importance of your study to the field of knowledge in general or that points future researchers in new directions.

Case study research and case study writing can be an exciting adventure for the serious student.  With an abiding interest in the subject matter and a strong desire to add to the current research and knowledge in the field, a case study is a worthwhile and highly rewarding project!

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