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Business case studies are teaching tools that are used by many business schools, colleges, universities, and corporate training programs. This method of teaching is known as the case method. Most business case studies are written by educators, executives or heavily educated business consultants. However, there are times when students are asked to conduct and write their own business case studies. For example, students may be asked to create a case study as a final assignment or group project. Student-created case studies may even be used as a teaching tool or a basis for class discussion.
Writing a Business Case Study
When you write a case study, you must write with the reader in mind. The case study should be set up so that the reader is forced to analyze situations, draw conclusions, and make recommendations based on their predictions. If you aren't overly familiar with case studies, you may be wondering how to best organize your writing. To help you get started, let's take a look at the most common ways to structure and format a business case study.
Case Study Structure and Format
Although every business case study is a little different, there are a few elements that every case study has in common. Every case study has an original title. Titles vary but usually include the name of the company as well as a little info about the case scenario in ten words or less. Examples of real case study titles include Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple and Starbucks: Delivering Customer Service.
All cases are written with a learning objective in mind. The objective might be designed to impart knowledge, build a skill, challenge the learner, or develop an ability. After reading and analyzing the case, the student should know about something or be able to do something. An example objective might look like this:
After analyzing the case study, the student will be able to demonstrate knowledge of approaches to marketing segmentation, differentiate between potential core customer bases and recommend a brand positioning strategy for XYZ's newest product.
Most case studies assume a story-like format. They often have a protagonist with an important goal or decision to make. The narrative is usually weaved throughout the study, which also includes sufficient background information about the company, situation, and essential people or elements. There should be enough detail to allow the reader to form an educated assumption and make an informed decision about the questions (usually two to five questions) presented in the case.
The Case Study Protagonist
Case studies should have a protagonist that needs to make a decision. This forces the case reader to assume the role of the protagonist and make choices from a particular perspective. An example of a case study protagonist is a branding manager who has two months to decide on a positioning strategy for a new product that could financially make or break the company. When writing the case, it is important to ensure that your protagonist is developed and compelling enough to engage the reader.
The Case Study Narrative/Situation
The narrative of a case study starts with an introduction to the protagonist, her role and responsibilities, and the situation/scenario that she is facing. Information is provided on the decisions the protagonist needs to make. Details include challenges and constraints related to the decision (such as a deadline) as well as any biases the protagonist might have.
The next section offers up background information on the company and its business model, industry and competitors. The case study then covers challenges and issues faced by the protagonist as well as the consequences associated with the decision that the protagonist needs to make. Exhibits and extra documents, like financial statements, might be included in the case study to help students reach a decision about the best course of action.
The Deciding Point
The conclusion of a case study returns to the main question or problem that must be analyzed and solved by the protagonist. Case study readers are expected to step into the role of the protagonist and answer the question or questions presented in the case studies. In most cases, there are multiple ways to answer the case question, which allows for classroom discussion and debate.