Best Practices for Writing Case Studies

Best Practices for Writing Case Studies

Justyna Starostka (Kozminski University, Poland) and Bartłomiej Kurzyk (University of Lodz, Poland)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0770-3.ch012


The main aim of this chapter is to provide the reader with knowledge about best practices in writing case studies. Case studies are now widely used in many areas of education. Our special focus of this chapter is on business case studies, specifically developed for business school students. Such cases were popularized by Harvard Business School, where this is the main form of teaching. However popular in the teaching process, writing case studies can post significant challenges, especially to first-time case writers. This chapter aims to address those challenges that may occur while developing a case study and to provide the reader knowledge about the best practices in writing case studies. The authors believe that this material can be useful for both experienced case study writers and those with no practice or prior experience. This chapter contains three sections. The first part is focused on the case study development process, covering four stages: strategic decisions, research, writing, testing and refining. The second section aims to present practical aspects of writing a good case study and best practices for case study content and the main elements of case study structure. The third section is focused on a teaching note in the case study development process. In the appendinx the authors present the checklist for developing a good case study that can be helpful tool in the development process.
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What Is A Case Study?

A business case imitates or simulates a real situation. According to Ellet, “cases are verbal representations of reality that put the reader in the role of a participant of the situation” (Ellet, 2007a, p. 13). As stated by Vega (2013), the simplest definition of a case is a story that describes a factual series of actions that occurred in the past (Vega, 2013, p. 3). Abell (1997) points out, however, that cases differ from stories in the sense that participants can put themselves in the shoes of one or more managers portrayed in the situation (Abell, 1997, p. 2). With case study as a teaching tool, the reader is expected to make a decision or recommendation to the protagonist for a course of action to pursue, or perform an analysis of an action that has already taken place (Vega, 2013, p. 3). By focusing on the real problems, the case study method not only provides students with knowledge, but primarily helps to develop their managerial skills. Banning (2003) suggests that since the cases provide limited data and allow students different approaches for addressing case problems, students are able to practice solving complex problems in the relative safety of the classroom. This increases their tolerance for ambiguity—an important skill in a rapidly changing and information-driven business environment (Banning, 2003). In line with Ellet (2007a), good case studies provide business students with the equivalent of laboratories used for educating scientists and doctors (Ellet, 2007a). To fulfil this mission, a case must have three characteristics (Ellet, 2007a, p. 3):

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