How to write a case study
If you have been handed a case study assignment and you are freaking out wondering how to do it, don’t freak out! Read on to find out more about how to tackle case studies.
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Case studies are a very common part of academic requirements in the social sciences and sciences as well as in the medical and legal fields. They generally come under the category of qualitative research studies. Case studies come with certain expectations of students- they need to demonstrate high level research skills, organisational skills, and problem solving skills among other things.
The case study approach is widely used in academic settings as it is a way by which theoretical principles and its application to real life settings can be studied. They are usually complex situations with couple of interlinked factors involved and are challenging. They may involve taking decisions or strategies in situations which pose dilemmas or difficulties. Hence, they are a test of your strategic thinking and decision making skills. They are applications of theory in real life and hence are a great way of appreciating the differences between a theoretical situation and a real life situation.
What are the skills needed to be demonstrated in a case study?
• Application of knowledge
• Thinking skills
There are several ways in which case studies can be used. They can be created or existing case studies can be used. Creating a case study as part of an academic requirement can be more challenging as you have to come up with contexts, situations etc.
However, one way of doing that can be by using your own experiences in the background and building upon that. You can also search online and offline sources such as newspapers, journals, medical cases, legal cases to find out a case study, which to you, represents a case with interesting angles and issues which challenged and still challenge experts. More often, students are provided with case studies and have to analyse it. Regardless of whether you have to identify a topic for a case study, or you are provided with such a topic, you still need to know how to generate a effective case study from that.
Case studies are of two different kinds based on the kind of approach followed in tackling them. Both approaches have different outcomes. The analytical approach involves trying to understand what is happening or has happened in the situation being described. It does not ask the student to provide a solution; just to analyse a situation/issue and dissect it from various angles. The Problem-Oriented method involves a situation given, for which solutions have to be presented. In the latter, the theoretical concepts learnt, have to be applied to a practical situation. The problems have to be identified and solutions have to be determined; based on theory and context, the best possible solution has to be recommended. The case study, in this case, would involve the solution determination to an existing “real life” case. These kind of case studies are common in management courses.
Medical case studies
A different kind of case study assignment is common in medical studies. Medical studies are often provided case studies of clinical situations, and based on their knowledge and what they have learnt, they have to diagnose situations, and provide remedies or course of treatment, taking all factors into consideration. Case studies are valuable resources for medical students, as they provide a detailed record of all the kind of interactions that have taken place between doctors, nurses and patients during the management of a clinical situation.
The case study would highlight the difficulties and challenges experienced when translating theory into practice. A medical case study would include all data about a patient’s current condition, images such sa x-rays and mri scans, diagnosis test results, patient’s own descriptions, doctors and nurses’ assessments and reports etc. The medical case study has to be as factual as possible and should avoid needless discussion on probable hypotheses unless specifically asked for. The medical case study should be a detailed story of the patient- with as much real details as possible.
What are the requirements of a great case study?
A case study should demonstrate the following to achieve good ratings on the assessment scale:
• It should be as realistic as possible or based on real issues/stories/companies/people
• The issue and topic should be relevant to the subject of study. It should be thought provoking and capable of generating a multiple number of positions. It should have positions which can lead to disagreement.
• There should be scope for a number of solutions. Hence, it should be as open-ended as possible.
• The structure of the case study should be such that it forces the readers to take up particular positions.
• The instructor would often provide instructions on how to approach case studies and you can use those to determine your approach to handling the case study. It would help you to take an appropriate perspective, analyse the situation and imagine possible solutions.
Some examples of case studies include historical case studies where you explore the reasons and consequences of an event in history or the influence of a particular person on the course of events. Management case studies may involve situational analysis where you as the manager have to take decisions or develop strategies, based on standard management principles, in certain situations for the company. Medical case studies may relate to indepth understanding of a patient’s situation. Case study methods are also of great importance in psychology.
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