Three Steps to Writing Effective Case Studies
The first case studies I ever wrote were when I was earning a master’s degree in psychology. I loved writing these case studies because I could really get into the characters and situations described and provide potential solutions to fictional (but realistic) problems.
At ansrsource, where I work today, case study writing is similar. However, instead of focusing on individual characters, we usually create “stories” that revolve around companies, products, and situations. These case studies are then used by learners—typically within a course or training program—to help them better understand and contextualize specific concepts. Case studies give learners insight into realistic scenarios in their field of study or work and help them develop the skills to eventually deal with similar situations in the real world.
Writing case studies typically involves utilizing analytical skills and doing research. You have to:
- explain a problem or situation to be analysed
- describe a solution (or proposed solution) and how to implement it
- summarize the results and provide an analysis of the effectiveness of the solution.
When you’re ready to write a case study, you must first identify whether you are going to write a fictional or real-life story. Fictional stories are created from scratch while real-life stories are based on actual scenarios (that must be paraphrased to avoid plagiarism!).
Below are three important steps for creating fictional case studies.
- Conduct research: Because a case study is analytical in nature, it requires a fair amount of research—even if it is fictional. Your case study should tell a story from beginning to end, so you will need a thorough understanding of the different factors at play. This means that much of the work related to case study development is done before you do any actual writing. Say you plan to write about a technical startup that created an app to solve a specific consumer problem. Your first step is to gather relevant information about the problem. You may want to answer these questions:
- What information do you have that establishes this as a relevant problem?
- What are the benefits and challenges of the app that was created as a solution to the problem?
- How have similar solutions helped address this problem?
- Write your story: Now that you have the understanding you need, begin writing. Just like a story, good case studies have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- First, introduce the protagonist of the story—the client, the consumer, the learner—as well as the problem they are trying to solve.
- Then, introduce the solution. Perhaps talk about why the solution is the best one for the protagonist and if not, why. Sometimes, unexpected complications that affected the positive impact of your solution may need to be discussed. This section contains the real meat of the story.
- Finally, include data to support the solution you propose in your case study. Discuss how your protagonist overcame his or her problem using the solution mentioned. Occasionally, you might need to analyze the effects of the solution on the problem.
- Cite: You may be required to cite any source material that you used. When this is a requirement, make sure you cite resources accurately and completely.Tips and Tricks!
- Your audience should be able to relate to your case study. Understand your core demographic and target market, and provide problems that are most commonly experienced by your target audience. For instance, if your audience consists of new entrepreneurs, your case study could be based on an entrepreneur who developed a product and how the product affected customers.
- When writing a case study, remember that people are not interested in companies, products, or services just for the sake of them, but rather in the problem they will solve or the need they will fulfill.
- Don’t state the obvious in your case study. For example, if a company used a product that caused its sales to soar, it isn’t necessary to say, “Due to the product, the company’s sales soared.” Instead, you should establish this through a discussion of data and facts.
- Questions that follow case studies should require comprehension and analysis to answer correctly. The case need not explicitly state the answers.
About the author:
Aruna Vira started as a content author at ansrsource and now manages a practice of 20 authors creating learning experiences for universities. Aruna holds a master’s degree in psychology and has previous experience as a business development associate and trainer for an HR consulting company, content writer for a variety of industries, counselor, and teacher. In her spare time, Aruna loves to read, write, and paint. She also loves to spend time with her son.
This post was originally published on ATD’s blog page on 10th January, 2019.