Case StudyCase Study

Case Study Kung Fu

The history of academic research is one big argument about everything. A case study is useful as the part of the argument where you give an example to prove your point.

We think of it as an "argument" but that does not mean scholars are always arguing with each other. It means any article worth writing is going to express an idea that some might not agree with. If it's something about which everyone already agrees, it's not really worth writing.

It's easy to find "how to" articles about writing a case study, but they limit you. The truth is that no one can tell you "how to" write a case study, because there are many different approaches and you might even innovate a new technique. All that really matters is what your professor thinks the case study should include, so refer to your assignment instructions!

If you think of case study research as a skill -- like basketball, or kung fu, or sewing -- you can learn it by seeing how other people do it. After you become a case study expert, if you want to try out your skill at writing a case study you'll also need to be an expert about your research topic.

Spend a few hours to "become an expert" about case study research and ALSO about your research topic.

Become an Expert About Case Study Research

1. Search your school library database for these keywords: "case study", "literature review".

2. Look at an article and see if it catches your interest. If not, look at a different article. It can be about any topic as long as it says "case study" in the title. This is your time for reading some case studies that interest you and seeing all the ways that the authors write their case studies.

3. You will learn how to write a case study the way a kung fu student learns to move like a snake. She watches the teacher demonstrate snake kung fu, and she copies his movements.

4. Every one of these researchers who has written a case study is giving you a Case Study Kung Fu demonstration.

5. Choose your favorite article, and use it as a model case study that you'll follow when you write your own. Just make sure it is about the same "type" of case. If you are going to study a group of people, the model should be a case study about people. If you are going to study an event, the model should be about an event, and so on.

Become an Expert About Your Topic

1. Read a lot of recent articles about your topic (or at least their introductions, so you get the main idea).

2. Every time you read an article, write a few sentences about it for your literature review.

3. Make sure you use articles that are recent (written in the past few years). If you read a few articles every night, you won't accidentally plan a case study to answer a question that has already been answered many times by someone else. It's just like opening your mouth and saying something at the dinner table. If you haven't been paying attention, you might repeat someone somebody else just said, and they go, "I JUST said that!"

Write a Review of Literature and Research Question

The easy way to write a literature review is to start by writing one sentence about one article. Write a sentence to explain the main idea of the article. Then, explain the research method that was used. Information about the main idea, the methods, and the results can all be found in the introduction or abstract of an article, so you really don't even need to read a whole article in order to discuss it in your literature review.

1. Write a paragraph about the main idea and research method of every article you review.

2. Write a few paragraphs about some of the ideas that seem most important.

3. Write a few paragraphs that explain which articles have main ideas that support or challenge the main ideas of other articles.

4. Come up with your own research question by looking for questions that are raised by a recent research study.

This last step is the tough part. It determines the basis for your whole research study. The truth is that you are supposed to do a research study when you suddenly feel compelled to research a topic -- not just because you are required to do one as part of a degree program. An artist paints a picture when she feels inspired, but if she tries to paint when she is not inspired her work will not be very good. You must read enough to get inspired, and then you will find your research question naturally, effortlessly.

Complete Your Case Study by Using Your Favorite Article as a Model

When you were reading case studies written by other people, you found one that was perfect to use as a model for guiding you through your own. You'll know if it's a good one to use if it fulfills a lot of the requirements in your case study assignment instructions. It also has to be about the same "type" of case (i.e. if you are going to do a case study about a business, follow the example of another case study about a business).

If you rewrite someone else's case study substituting information from your own case, you'll have all the same elements and it will be a great paper. All you need to do is spend plenty of time to:

- Become an expert about case study research by reading a lot of interesting case studies about different topics,

- Become an expert about your topic by reviewing articles about it, and

- Find the perfect model to follow -- and you'll have a great case study in no time.