Writing a case study analysis essay is one of the most common academic assignments that are required in higher education. A case study is a special type of paper that requires critical thinking and analysis to understand specific problem(s) with potentially multiple solutions. A case study may come from any subject area but it has the same goal, which is to provide an in-depth analysis of a current societal issue or trend and recommend solutions. Most case studies focus on the events, issues and possible solutions within a certain time frame and they require extensive research to understand all perspectives of the problem.
Wondering how to write a case study paper, case study analysis, or even how to write a case study assignment in nursing or psychology? Then look no further, because in this guide, we will discuss the process of writing a case study and explore professional paper writing tips.
Let us first define what a case study is before we proceed further.
What Is a Case Study?
A case study is a research approach involving the collection of in-depth information on an individual, group, event or community to uncover how social factors influence behavior. A case study method is often confused with case management due to their similar characteristics. A case manager provides services for clients who have specific needs while a case study focuses on furthering knowledge for educational purposes.
What Is the Difference Between a Research Paper and a Case Study?
A research paper and a case study share some commonalities. The purpose of both is to explore and describe an issue, problem or situation; make comparisons; and develop conclusions.
While the purpose of a research paper is to illustrate what has been learned through observation and analysis, a case study reports on how individuals or groups behave depending on specific conditions such as cultural, social or educational factors.
What Are the Benefits of a Case Study?
There are numerous benefits to using a case study as a research method because it allows for real-life situations to be explored and captured in detail. A case study provides insights into phenomena that cannot be observed through other means such as surveys, interviews and observation. In addition to exploring a specific situation, case studies allow for in-depth analysis of the environment and its influence on behavior.
Types of Case Studies
There are various types of case studies. They range from formal studies such as an in-depth analysis of a certain topic, or to informal studies like reporting situations you’ve witnessed.
The types of case studies include:
- Descriptive case studies
- Exploratory case studies
- Expository case studies
- Diagnostic case studies
- Prognostic case studies
- Historical case studies
Descriptive case studies are similar to survey research because they involve collecting information about a specific group of people or entity, but unlike surveys, descriptive case studies also include information about the environment surrounding the subject being studied.
Exploratory case studies are often used to determine what constitutes a problem and how it should be analyzed before moving on to more formal methods. This type of case study is not as rigorous as other methods because they are used to explore a situation or problem before moving on to more formal methods.
Expository case studies are similar to descriptive and exploratory types because they also use observation and interviews, but the main objective of an expository case study is to explain why something happened rather than mere description. The process of developing an expository case study involves identifying key characteristics and/or an event, selecting a specific situation to analyze and then determining if any causal relationships exist in the given scenario.
Diagnostic case studies involve using observations and interviews in order to uncover why something happened. The main purpose of this research is to understand the cause of a specific event.
Prognostic case studies are similar to diagnostic cases in that they include observation and interviews, but the main difference is the goal of a prognostic case study is to predict what might happen in the future. There are four phases involved in this type of research: predicting the present, exploring different possibilities for the future, determining which course of action would be best or worst, and creating a plan to achieve the desired result.
Historical case studies examines events that have already taken place. These studies are often used to prevent similar events from occurring in the future or to confirm existing knowledge.
What Are Some Key Features of Case Studies?
Because case studies rely on observation and interviews for data collection, there are some commonalities in the types of information found within this type of research. This includes:
- Types of participants or subjects
- Conditions under which participants were studied
- Purpose for studying participants
- Key features that distinguish certain participants from others
- Methods used to collect information about each participant
- Other relevant information, such as results and conclusions reached by researchers using the case study method.
Case Study Format: Eight sections of a case study
The basic case study format has 8 parts namely:
- Executive Summary
These 8 parts of a case study that makes the case study structure are discussed below:
The executive summary provides an introduction to the case study. This is where you present your key findings, the scope of the investigation, and ongoing debate about issues related to the topic. It answers these questions concisely: What are the main problems? What are the possible causes of those problems? How has this issue been tackled in other contexts or organizations?
This section provides a detailed account of what was found during research into the problem. Here, you should develop your descriptions beyond simple facts by including both quantifiable data (e.g., sales figures) and non-quantifiable data (e.g., employee perceptions). By doing so, you will offer readers a full understanding of your analysis throughout your case study.
To generate a good discussion, you must first answer the basic questions: What has been done? What could be done? Why was each option chosen or rejected? If an alternative solution is proposed, it should not disregard existing recommendations and should offer a thorough examination of its pros and cons. It is also crucial to examine all sides to the debate and highlight weaknesses in your own analysis as well as those of others (without denigrating their work).
The conclusion section summarizes what you have written about. By focusing on who benefits from this issue and how it can impact future behavior, you can provide readers with a clear understanding of why this topic matters to them, now and into the future.
The recommendations section provides your thoughts on correcting the issues discussed in this case study. Keep in mind that your recommendations should not be restricted to solutions already mentioned or explored, but can also include new suggestions for discussion. Moreover, make sure that they are directly related to the findings of your analysis and supported by relevant information from other sources. Your recommendation should assist decision makers in tackling the issue at hand without disregarding any of its aspects. For example, you may recommend that management changes its scheduling policy because it is responsible for many problems associated with employees’ work-life balance. You could then go on to offer some options for improving the situation. One of these could be a flexible working schedule so workers have more autonomy and control over their time and activities.
Provide your thoughts on how your recommendation can actually be put into practice. Ensure that any implementation is addressed as part of the recommendations, not after it. If you are suggesting a new policy or system, for example, you may want to present some preliminary guidelines on its implementation before providing more general advice on what it should cover. You could also use this section to discuss who needs to implement the policy or take action in order for the recommendations to be successful, and why they might find this difficult. It might help if you include an action plan with milestones along the way to show progress toward actualizing your recommendations.
As noted above, all sources used throughout your case study should be cited in this section.
Case study appendices may include reports, questionnaires, interview transcripts, and so on. They usually follow citations in the References section at the end of your case study.
Case Study Outline – Example
A good case study outline example is the one given by the Harvard Business School and includes four major components:
- The Situation: This outlines what prompted you to do the case study. For example, if you are doing a case study on Starbucks, this could be information about what the coffee industry is like currently or about Starbucks’ performance over the previous year.
- The Challenge: Here you would outline what is happening in the case study that requires analysis to determine how it should be resolved. For example, if you are doing a case study on PepsiCo, this could include information about falling profits or increasing competition in their industry sector.
- Your Conclusions and Recommendations: This outlines your thoughts on how the situation should be resolved based on your research of the case study topic. For example, if you are doing a case study on Microsoft, this part might include recommendations for improving product development or changing business practices within the company as a means to increase revenue and improve profitability.
- An Assessment of Your Analysis: This one simply recaps your analysis and includes a brief summary of any of the “so what” questions raised by the case study.
How to Write a Case Study Analysis
The process of writing a case study paper includes writing a perfect analysis of the case. The following will show you how to write a case study paper, what to include in your case study analysis and where to find research material for your case study analysis.
The process can be divided into 3 steps:
Step 1: Preparing the Case Study
The first step in writing a case study paper is to prepare yourself for the analysis. This means having access to all relevant case study materials, such as reports, statements and transcripts. If you do not have access to these materials, try finding them online or asking someone who does have access if you can use them.
The preparation process can be broken down into 4 parts:
- Read and Examine the Case Thoroughly: In order to write a high quality analysis of a case study, you need to read and examine it thoroughly. You need to make notes of all the facts, details and issues mentioned in the case study paper. Take your time going over the case – do not skim through it or rush.
- Focus Your Analysis: Once you have finished reading the case, it is time to summarise what you have read and assess its significance. This can be done in a short paragraph at the beginning of your paper.
- Uncover Possible Solutions Needed: The next step is to uncover issues and problems that need to be solved as a result of the case study. This can also be done in a short paragraph.
- Select the Best Solution: Finally, you need to select the best solution(s) for the case study. This may be a single solution or a combination of several different solutions. You can also refer back to your notes on possible solutions from step 2 above.
Step 2: Drafting the Case
After sufficient preparation, it is time to write the case study first draft. This should include all the facts, details and issues mentioned in the case study paper.
- Introduction: Write a short introduction to the case study which mentions what the paper is about.
- Background: Provide a background about the case study. This should include who, what, when and where.
- Evaluation of the Case: The next part of the first draft writing is to evaluate the case critically to identify great solutions to the problems.
- Proposed Solutions: Finally, the paper should have proposed solutions. These may include but are not limited to: additional research, modification of existing procedures, addition of new procedures, increased efficiency of existing procedures, increased effectiveness of existing procedures, etc.
- Recommendations: Once all of the above has been done, it is time to make some recommendations. You can recommend a few solutions in detail or provide several different options of what can be done.
After all of this, you will have a draft version of the case study paper.
Step 3: Writing the final draft
To transform the case study draft that you have written to a final paper, you will need to edit and proofread the paper carefully. Ensure that you have not missed anything important or included anything irrelevant, as it can affect how the case study is judged. If you do not feel confident in editing and proofreading, try sharing your paper with a few friends or asking your teacher to proofread it for you.
After you have successfully completed the 3 steps outlined above, you now have a case study analysis paper that you can submit for grading.
Case Study Writing Checklist
Here is the checklist to use when writing a case study. Using this checklist is a great way to ensure that you include all of the necessary information.
- State the nature and extent of the problem (including relevant background information), as clearly and concisely as possible.
- Identify the problem that needs to be solved.
- Identify the root cause of the problem. What are all possible reasons for this happening? How can you tell which is the main reason/s?
- What evidence supports your decision?
- What are the potential consequences of this solution?
- Are there any negative personal consequences for employees or others involved?
- What are the benefits of this solution?
- State what your chosen solution entails.
Follow this checklist to write a good case studies for school.
Case Study Examples
Here are a few case study assignment examples to get you started.
A) “Case Study of a Small Town’s Struggle With Its Identity”
The Hamlet, North Carolina is the definition of small-town USA. It has a population of just more than three thousand people, and its landscape is decorated with large churches, farmlands, and small businesses. Though The Hamlet continues to grow in size each year due to an influx of interstate commuters looking for affordable housing, it still remains rooted in its traditional values. For years, The Hamlet has been dubbed as ‘the most patriotic town in America’ because every morning at 6:30 am sharp the American flag waves across Main Street. This is all thanks to one man- Jess Miller; who has remained passionate about waving the flag since his father passed away in 2003.
Today, Jess Miller is 82 years old and looks forward to waking up early everyday to perform his duty as The Hamlet’s morning flag waver. However, since his wife of fifty years passed away three years ago, his health has declined rapidly due to depression. He spends most days staring at the flag that waves across Main Street instead of participating in community events or visiting with friends and family members who live nearby. Nowhere does it say how this man will be saved from the clutches of depression nor if he feels fulfilled by waving the American flag every single day.
B) “Case Study on How Breastfeeding Can Improve Health Outcomes”
Human breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition, and breastfeeding is strongly encouraged by pediatricians. Clinical research has shown that babies who are breastfed have lower rates of asthma, obesity, Type II diabetes, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), urinary tract infection (UTI) and late-onset sepsis than babies who are fed formula exclusively.
C) “Case Study on the Dangers of Distracted Driving”
The National Safety Council reports that 1.6 million auto crashes occur each year due to distracted driving. Cell phone usage while operating a motor vehicle is among the top distractions leading to these accidents – it’s estimated that 660,000 drivers use their cell phones at least once per day while driving. Excessive multitasking while behind the wheel can lead to delayed reaction times and poor judgment, which increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident.
Here are pdf case analysis examples:
- Business Case Study Analysis Example (pdf)
- Case study analysis sample (pdf)
- Example of case study analysis (pdf)
How to Create a Title Page and Cite a Case Study
A title page is displayed at the beginning of every research paper, so it’s important to get it right. The following are some guidelines on how to write one yourself: Include your last name, first name, middle initial (if needed), degree/program, department or affiliation, institution/university city and state or country address information on top. Leave two spaces directly below this header for running headings later in the document.
The title should be descriptive and include: the topic, a colon, and the hypothesis. It is okay to use abbreviations and acronyms in titles if they are commonly used. For instance, DNA or RNA could be included in the title of a research paper that discusses genetics. It is also acceptable to leave one space instead of two between your title and your running headings when you write them later in the document.
How to Cite a Case Study
Citations provide readers with background information about where you found your information so they can find out more if they want. These references also prevent plagiarism, a major offense in academic writing.
Below are example template for the APA and MLA case study analysis format title page:
Click on the files links above to download the sample case study essay cover page.