The term “case study” is often used in a business setting and conjures some vague marketing associations: company A did this and everything turned out great, while company B did that and everything was not so good. Yet case study is much more. It’s a way to do research, and as a student, you might be tasked with writing a case study analysis paper not only for your Business class, but for Social Studies, Education, Health Care, and other subjects.
Want to know how to organize your case study research paper and make sure you’ll impress everyone with your write up? Let’s take it one step at a time.
Case Study Definition
Before we start going into the particulars of how to write a case study analysis, let’s first figure out what a case study is.
A case study is a detailed analysis of a specific subject – an event, a person, a phenomenon, etc. Its purpose is to evaluate and understand a research problem through its particular manifestation. For example, you want to find out what are the advantages and disadvantages of using residential solar panels. This is your research problem. For your case study report, you must find one or two households relying on off-grid solar panels, describe them, and interview the residents.
Research methods used for case studies are predominantly qualitative, although some elements of quantitative may also apply.
List of Case Study Topics
Finding a promising topic for your research is as good a half work done, but it’s not that easy. Here are some examples of research problems that present a great opportunity for a case study:
Case studies in Psychology:
- Benefits and pitfalls of narrative therapy
- Memory and the Self: a case study on a person with dementia
Case studies in Social Work:
- Impact of financial instability on an adolescent delinquency
- Preventive counselling for reducing high‐risk behaviors
Topics for medical case study research:
- Impact of motivational interviewing on a patient obesity treatment outcomes
- Discrepancies between registered clinical protocols and trials publications
- Medicine vs Physiotherapy for pain relief while nursing
Case studies in Law:
- Rhetorical devices in marketing vs deception by implication
- Cyberbullying among minors
Case studies in Design:
- What aspects of UX design contribute to a gaming app success?
- Does web design of non-profit sites influence the likeliness of donations?
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Steps to Writing a Case Study Paper
If you plan to conduct the case study on your own, here is a quick guide on how to make it the proper way.
- Choose the case to study. You may have determined the problem and now should look for a case to provide you with insights. Alternatively, you have come across an interesting case and now you want to come up with a problem statement and research questions. Either way, you should have answers to both questions: what you are going to study and why.
- Identify key theories and concepts to guide your study. While the case study format is very practical and concentrates on details of a particular case, it still needs a theoretical framework to tie your fieldwork with the existing knowledge.
- Conduct your study. Use the methods you have chosen to collect data (interviews, observations, analysis of official records, articles, media, etc.)
- Analyze the data and draw your conclusion. Here you make your diagnosis based on the data you’ve collected.
- Present the findings. There is no one good way to present your findings. Some case studies resemble standard academic research papers, others might be done as a multimedia presentation or a narrative. Choose how you wish to present your case study beforehand.
We will further concentrate on how to write a case study assignment in an APA-structured manner, with separate chapters for aims, methods, results, etc. However, we would like to stress one more time that this is not the only possible way.
A Template for a Case Study Outline
A good case study report usually follows the standard structure of the research papers. For example, the outline can look like this:
- An introduction for a case study contains a short statement of your topic, the scope of your study and grounds for the study to be conducted. It should also explain why your research is relevant. Do not confuse an introduction with an executive summary for a case study: these are two completely different pieces of writing with different goals. An executive summary (in an academic setting more commonly known as an abstract) should briefly state the results of your study, while the introduction only sets the scene for the rest of the case study to follow.
- Aims of your case study: here you should provide a short overview of the available literature on the subject, tying your practical case study with theory. Identify any gaps in the knowledge that you plan to address, any assumptions you want to challenge, or problems you plan to tackle.
- The methods of your case study: list the quantitative and qualitative methods you plan to use, list your planned observations, interviews you will need to conduct, questionnaires to fill out, etc.
- Results of the case study: here you present what you have learned and how the data obtained correlates with the expected results.
- Discussion: this section contains the interpretation of your results, the analysis of your research (could it have been done some other way, more effectively?)
- Recommendations: your proposal for future research and any questions that were left unanswered.
Business Case Study Tips
For those of you who need to write a case study for a Business degree, here are some tips on how to write a business case study.
- This type of case study examines a business’ specific challenge overcome or goal
achieved. Business case studies vary greatly in volume and scope, but they all
have three basic ingredients:
- - Initial challenge/goal
- - Solution applied
- - Result of this solution
- Before you proceed with studying your candidate, make sure you have their permission to write about them (if you aren’t writing about your own company).
- For the business case study, you can be more creative with the format and medium – it can be a video, a presentation, a podcast, an infographic, even a comic strip. Be as creative as you want. However, make sure you’ve decided on the format before you start collecting data.
- Just as with the academic study, it is important to build a solid theoretical framework for your study. Make sure you are asking the right questions.
How to Write a Case Study in APA Format
Now when everything is ready all that’s left to do is to make sure the formatting adheres to the APA format. Your paper should include:
The title page with the following information:
- Running head preceded by the words “Running head” (on the title page only)
- The full title of your paper 12 words max
- Your name without prefix/suffix (Mr./Ms./Dr./Ph.D./BA/etc.)
- An abstract summarizing your paper in 150 to 200 words, followed by relevant keywords
- Running head (aka page heading) should be present on every page consisting of the page number on the right margin and a shortened title of your case study (50 characters max, ALL-CAPS)
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