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How to Write A Case Study
One major way college differs from high school is the type of project professors assign. If in high school it’s rare that a professor assigns a project with a topic that hasn’t yet been discussed, in college, this happens all the time. Tasking students with such projects allows professors to challenge students. It also helps students develop initiative and self-studying habits. One such project is the case study.
You might be wondering, “what is a case study?” And more importantly, “how to write a case study?” Well, for one, it’s not easy. It requires a lot of time and attention. If you are tasked to complete this project, expect that it will take at least a month to complete. Why? Because the data-gathering process doesn’t occur overnight. This assignment requires a strict timeline that features a number of steps you need to follow in order to do the paper right. This post provides a short guide for writing a case study.
What is a Case Study?
A case study is a type of academic coursework that utilizes a specific research design that thoroughly examines a given subject in a real-world context. This may be a person, a group, a place, an event, a phenomenon, or any other subject. The design is called a case study because most of the time it focuses on a single case or in some instances just a few cases. The approach can also be comparative in that two or more subjects closely related to each other are observed to determine the relationship between them. Note that this method is a type of primary research, which means firsthand data is gathered directly from the subject as opposed to collecting it from published sources (Creswell & Creswell, 2018).
Remember that a case study is primarily a research method, and thus other papers can be case studies as well. For example, a simple project such as a research paper or an extended work such as a thesis or dissertation can be a case study in itself.
A case study serves many different purposes. For one, it allows a researcher to collect a lot of information. For another, it offers the opportunity to juxtapose theoretical concepts alongside a real-life case. And still, this approach enables a researcher to explore extraordinary cases in depth (Tight, 2017). Note that the methodology of a case study can be a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method investigative paradigm. It depends on the subject and the method the researcher chooses to employ (Tan, 2017).
Case studies vary widely and almost every field may feature this project. Here are some examples of common case studies featured in some fields.
- Clinical case study: Case studies are very common in the health sciences. For instance, a patient presenting with an extremely rare disease can serve as the subject of a case study in order for researchers to gather as much information about the condition as possible. This may involve gathering a comprehensive family and health history, performing numerous tests, and observing the disease process.
- Business case study: Business courses are also a prominent feature of this project. For instance, a company that has exceptionally effective ways of doing business can become the subject of a case study in order to shed light on new practices. Some aspects that the analysis may explore are marketing, organizational culture, and value delivery.
- Sociological case study: The social sciences also often feature this approach. For example, an urban subculture can be the subject of a project. The researcher may spend time observing and interacting with the group in order to understand their characteristics including their values, beliefs, and practices.
Steps to Writing a Case Study
As mentioned earlier, a case study requires a significant amount of time to complete. Thankfully, there’s a general process that you can follow. Of course, completing your project will not be identical to this process due to the specific requirements of your paper and your personal preferences. But expect the entire experience to be more or less the same as the steps outlined below.
Step 1: Choose a Subject
The first step in producing this work is determining the subject. There are a few considerations when determining a suitable subject:
- Opportunity: First, the subject should present an opportunity to generate new knowledge. For example, there may be little value in studying a subject that has already been studied many times over and is already fully understood. Choose a subject that requires more attention.
- Availability: Second, the long-term availability of the subject should also be considered. Note that this matters because this project involves primary research. You need to be able to follow the subject for the whole duration of the project. The quality of the findings will be affected if the subject becomes unavailable early on in the process.
- Literature: Third, there should also be adequate literature on the subject. Unless your project is a pioneer study, there should be some literature already available that will help you situate your project within the broader body of knowledge. For instance, available literature will help you identify a gap that your paper can fill.
Choosing a subject is far from easy, which is why it is best to consult with your adviser or professor before finalizing the subject. Remember that your adviser or professor is just there to guide you; the choice of subject will still ultimately depend on you. Also, note that it is not uncommon for a researcher to change the subject or the approach to studying the subject even if the project has already been started. If a development requires you to make changes, it’s best to modify and go down the right path than stick to the current and end up with a problematic output.
Step 2: Collect Sources
Once you have a subject, you can proceed to collate information for your literature review . As mentioned earlier, the availability of literature is a crucial consideration. Access previously published studies or articles to gather a better understanding of your subject. Make sure you thoroughly evaluate your sources in order to determine if they are suitable or not. Having enough knowledge and information about your subject will make the research and writing process easier as you go further. Also, the literature review can help you narrow down the project’s focus, since getting acquainted with the body of knowledge lets you identify a gap that your project can fill.
Step 3: Gather Data
Whether your paper is quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of quantitative and qualitative , you will have to devote time to this crucial step. This is because the data you collect will be the basis of your analysis. The method by which you gather data depends on the research design. For example, a business paper focusing on the financial aspects of the case will certainly require quantitative methods. On the other hand, a sociological paper studying a social group will require qualitative methods.
Take your time and be thorough in this part of the process. Data collection will shape and form the entirety of your project. As previously mentioned, you will have to allot most of your time to this step because you want to ensure the final work offers accurate and substantial knowledge. Ensure that you document every possible stage of data collection along with the information necessary to the scope and limitations of your case study.
Step 4: Create an Outline
You can’t start any writing project without creating an effective outline to guide the content. The outline will help you determine which parts will need the most attention or where your ideas fit best. A case study is an academic project and so normally it will have the following components:
- Introduction. The introduction presents the information that contextualizes your paper. For instance, it may discuss the reasons behind the case study such as to fill a gap in the body of knowledge or to present findings on a subject about which little is known. This part of the paper often features the purpose and significance of the project, the hypothesis if there is one, the scope, an overview of the methods, and the limitations.
- Background of the study and literature review. This section provides a comprehensive overview of what is known about the topic. This should feature the synthesis of knowledge gathered from relevant sources and not merely be a summary of their contents. This section should also identify the gap that the paper seeks to fill. There may be a lack of information sometimes, especially when the project is a pioneering one. If this is the case, then the paper should communicate this matter, and this in itself will serve as the impetus for the study.
- Methodology. This section explains why you chose your subject and what data-gathering strategy you will use to document your subject. The strategy will vary according to the subject, so you have to justify why the strategy you applied is the appropriate strategy for your project. A vital part of this component is discussing the validity and reliability of the methods chosen.
- Findings. Findings refer to the raw data you have gathered. Remember that by raw, it means that the data should be presented free of analysis. For instance, if the paper uses quantitative methods, then the figures collected should be presented plainly. There shouldn’t be any interpretation included.
- Discussion. At this point, the data has already been gathered and presented. The task in this section now involves interpreting the data. That is, the meaning or significance of the data should now be inferred. What does the data suggest about your subject? Do they support or contradict the hypothesis (if there is one)? Analyze the data and discuss what they tell you. Note that it is not uncommon for the discussion section to be included with the findings in one chapter.
- Conclusion. This part wraps up your paper. Reiterate the most important points of the entire paper including what the paper ultimately accomplishes. Summarize your conclusion in a clear and understandable language, and synthesize your findings and how it differs from other research. Explain the necessity of your case study, and how it helps fill the gaps of past research. You can also recommend further action in relation to the subject for other researchers who would like to pursue a similar study.
Step 5: Write, Edit, and Proofread
The first complete product of the writing process should be considered the rough draft. However, it should never be considered the final copy. A rough draft will invariably contain errors, unclear statements, and a lot of room for improvement. Hence, it needs to be edited and proofread before the process is considered finished.
Take some time off from writing. Then return to your paper after a few hours or, if possible, after a few days. As you edit the paper, consider putting yourself in your reader’s position. Ask yourself questions. Is this clear? Does this feel complete? Are there parts that will benefit from further elaboration, trimming down, or rearrangement? Edit the paper to improve various aspects, from the organization of the paper to the quality of reasoning behind interpretations.
Once you’re done editing, you can proceed to proofread your output. Avoid editing your content in this part because this is solely for correcting any technical mistakes such as misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, and awkwardly constructed sentences.
Both editing and proofreading are essential to securing quality before submission. If you’re still unsure about whether the output is in the best condition, then you can ask colleagues or classmates to proofread it for you. A second pair of eyes will help identify errors that you may have missed.
Get Writing Assistance
The length, depth, and complexity of a case study can easily make you feel tired and confused. Luckily, progress in technology means you can consult quick how-tos and guides including consultations with professional writers. CustomEssayMeister has expert writers capable of completing any case study. Our company takes pride in helping our clients from around the world. Whether you need a case study or another project like essays, term papers, and theses, you can expect us to be there for you.
Creswell, J. W. & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Research design: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches . SAGE Publications, Inc.
Tan, W. C. K. (2017). Research methods: A practical guide for researchers and students. World Scientific Publishing Company.
Tight, M. (2017). Understanding case study research: Small-scale research with meaning. SAGE.