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How To Write A Case Study – A Step-by-Step Guide

Case studies! Now, if you are of the impression that case studies are used only by scholars and psychologists, I’m sorry to say, nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m sure all of you must have come across case studies in your day-to-day life. 

As a student, you will find case studies in your textbooks that help you to understand a concept better. Case studies are most beneficial for students as they can transfer academic knowledge into real world context. It also develops higher order thinking and analysis skills in students, thus preparing them for the corporate world. But, that’s not all. 

If you engage in online shopping, you would most likely go through case studies or reviews of other customers before actually purchasing a product. Businesses use case studies to increase their sales. 

Case studies are also used in the field of medicine. Doctors and medical practitioners usually prepare a case file for each of their patients. Doctors, when faced by tricky cases, refer to past case studies for guidance. 

Case studies are also extensively used in the field of law. Lawyers and judges refer to previous case laws to plan legal strategies and make important decisions. 

Similar to medical case history, counselling is one such field where case studies are crucial. Since counselling is highly behavioural in nature and isn’t a perfect science, counsellors depend heavily on previous case studies to guide them with their clients. 

So now that we are more familiar with the scope of case studies in our daily lives, let’s move on to decode what case studies actually are. 

 

What is a case study?

In my opinion, the simplest way to decipher the meaning of a word is to break it down. So let’s do the same with case studies. Let’s start by establishing the meaning of a case first.  

A case can be a single person or several people. It could also be an event, problem, process, activity or program. Study can be defined as a detailed investigation and analysis of a subject or situation. So in a literal sense, a case study is the study of a case. Usually, a case study follows a bounded system with boundaries such as space or time. They rely on multiple sources of data such as interviews, observations, reports, etc. to have an in-depth understanding of the case at hand. 

 

Typically, there are three types of case studies :

 

  • Illustrative case studies

These types of case studies are primarily descriptive studies. Illustrative case studies utilise one or two instances of an event to describe what a situation is like. The primary motive of such case studies is to make the unfamiliar familiar and to give the readers an understanding of the topic. A company writing a descriptive review of its new product line can be a perfect example of an illustrative case study.

  • Exploratory case studies

Exploratory case studies are condensed case studies that are performed before implementing a large scale investigation. Their primary role is to help identify questions and to select types of measurement before the main investigation. However, their main drawback is that the initial findings may seem to be convincing enough to be released prematurely as conclusions. All your favourite investigation TV series and shows such as Sherlock, CID, Crime Patrol, etc are examples of exploratory case studies as these typically showcase a case that needs to be investigated. 

 

  • Cumulative Case studies

Cumulative case studies, as the name suggests, serve to aggregate information from various sources collected at different times. The logic behind these studies is that the collection of past studies will allow for greater standardisation without additional cost or time being spent on new and repetitive studies. A case study of a company prepared by taking data from several years or from various segments could be an example of a cumulative case study.

Steps to create a good case study:

Sometimes, creating a good case study can prove to be a challenging task, making them dull and forgettable. If you want to learn how to write a case study that will leave your readers wanting for more, you have come to the right place. Here are the steps that you should follow to write an effective case study –

 

  • Determine the objective of the case study

The first step to creating an effective case study is to determine the objectives of the case study or what will the reader or customer achieve by reading this study. The objective can range anywhere between the generation of revenue to closing on more customers to lowering business costs. 

  • Establish the medium of the case study

Case studies can be published in any medium ranging from writing to video case studies to infographic case studies. The medium in which you will create the case study must be established. 

 

  • Selecting the right case study candidate

It is very important to select the right candidate or business as the case to be studied. In the case of selecting a business, a brand that is well known must be the optimum choice. In the case of selection of previous clients for review and case study, it helps to select a customer who is reasonably aware of the product or service. 

  • Seek permission from the chosen candidate to write about them

Once the candidate has been chosen, it is important to seek their permission before using their information to create the case study. It is important to get their thumbs-up before moving ahead. 

 

  • Identify the problems, solutions and establish the outcome

The next step is to identify the problem or challenge faced by the candidate. Once the challenges have been identified, it is important to identify the solutions taken or possible solutions and the outcome or result of the steps taken. 

  • Start writing the case study

Now the last step is to actually start writing the case study. Once the ideation and formalities are done, it is important to start with the case study. The format and template of the case study are discussed in the coming section. 

Template of a case study

When you have all the information you need, it can sometimes become a little overwhelming. You may seem confused as to where to start and what structure you must follow. Before we begin with the template of a case study, it is important to understand how to structure your case studies:

 

  • Title – the title of the case study must be catchy so as to attract the attention of the readers. Remember to keep it short and crisp. 
  • Summary – include a 3-4 line summary of the case study for the convenience of the readers so that they get an idea of what the case study is actually about before reading the case. 
  • Facts of the case this part is to do with familiarising readers with the company or brand or the case at hand. 
  • Challenges or problems – this section of the case study must specify the problem or challenge faced by the company. If it is a client, then this part must include the challenges faced by the client or customer before using your product or service. 
  • Solution – this section of the case study must highlight the solutions to the problem faced by the company or customer. The solutions must be specific and not vague. 
  • Results – the results or outcome is the most crucial part of the case study. It is a testimonial of whether or not the solutions provided were effective enough to solve the problems. Include numbers and statistics to quantify your results. 
  • Call to action – the last and final part of a case study is a call to action or CTA. Not every case study needs a call to action, but doing so will encourage your readers to take steps. It will also increase responsiveness and interaction with customers or readers. 

 

How to write an impactful case study?

Now that you know how to write a case study, let’s talk about making it impactful. Here are some tips that you can follow to make your case study unforgettable –

  • A good heading and story

An impactful case study must have a catchy headline that attracts the attention of the readers. Heading draws the attention of the readers, but they choose to read on only based on the content in the case study. Hence the content must be of good quality. It should tell compelling stories that connect problems to solutions and solutions to the outcome. 

  • A recognizable company/ brand

Case studies about established brands that have a high market value and goodwill establish trust and authority among the customers. Hence, when choosing the case, it is advisable to select a familiar brand or company which can be recognized by the readers. Case studies about clients with established brand names will always be more effective than unknown brands with better results. 

 

  • A relatable dilemma

Case studies are most effective when they are relatable. The audience must be able to relate to the problems of the case at hand. When designing case studies, keep in mind to connect with your readers by making it more relevant and relatable. 

 

  • An adequate solution

How was the problem solved once it was identified? Many of the case studies out there provide very vague and broad solutions that may not really be of much use to the readers. The solutions taken up must be stated in a crisp and clear way so that it is easily comprehensible. 

 

  • Effective results

There is no point in taking up any course of action if it doesn’t provide concrete results. The results produced by the steps taken must be specified in the case study. Case studies are supposed to produce impressive outcomes that pique the reader’s interest. But the results mentioned must also be reasonable enough for new customers. An in-depth case study should highlight why the results were justified in that circumstance. 

Examples of some good case studies

Now that we are clear on how to create a case study, let’s review some of the most popular case studies and decode what makes these case studies so memorable and unique.

  1. The Little Albert case study

The little Albert case study is one of the most popular case studies in psychology. The Little Albert experiment was a famous psychology experiment performed by John B. Watson and Rosalie. They were interested in taking Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov’s research further to show that emotional responses can be classically conditioned in men.

In his experiments, Mr Watson deliberately tried to instil certain fears in an 11-month-old baby through a process of conditioning. This experiment soon became notoriously popular for being highly cruel and unethical. Such harsh experiments would never have been approved in today’s times. However, this experiment is one of psychology’s most important and famous case studies and has been included in almost each and every introductory psychology course. 

2.App Annie’s case study of Coca-Cola

App Annie’s case study of Coca-Cola is one of my personal favourites when it comes to case studies. It uses the perfect amalgamation of text, graphics and videos to keep people engaged. It follows the template of a case study that we discussed earlier on in this article. It begins with a brief summary of Coca-Cola followed by challenges, solutions and results. 

What makes this case study unique is that it not only uses videos but also uses drawings and text to highlight what the director of Coca-Cola is talking on screen. The video also occasionally diverts away from the director Greg Chambers’ face to display full-screen text and numbers. By including graphics with text, this case study by App Annie has found the perfect balance to keep the readers engaged. 

3.The Gifted Day by Digitas

The Gifted Day by Digitas is one of the most thought-provoking and emotional case studies on the internet. It was a case study page created for LVNG With, a community created by AstraZeneca to support cancer patients. This case study page begins with a heart-melting video of different people celebrating “the gifted day- a day that was never meant to happen”. 

The video showcases how various people spent the 29th of February, as per their social media posts. It amplifies the immense gift that we all have and how a single day can be a gift to people suffering from terminal cases of cancer. The page also includes a summary of AstraZeneca with its initiatives and includes links to contribute to their funds. By using real people as its focal point, the video received over 440,000 views in 24 hours and Digitas was able to increase the followers of AstraZeneca by 94%. 

Feeling inspired? You can simply follow the steps mentioned in this article to write your own case study about a brand/topic you’re interested in. 

 

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