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How to Write a Case Study in 5 Steps

Five simple steps designed to take you from your pre-writing preparation all the way through to submitting your case study

By
Varsity Tutors, as read by Mignon Fogarty,
November 30, 2017

illustration of computer, research papers, and book reflecting case study research

Writing a case study for a college course can be a challenge. Although there are different types of case studies, you can count on two things to remain the same—they require analytical thinking skills and a great deal of research.

When composing a case study, you’ll likely be asked to explain a problem or situation and to then illustrate a potential or implemented solution. You should generally include these basic elements:

  • An explanation of the problem or situation being analyzed.
  • A description of the solution (or proposed solution) and its implementation.
  • A summary of the results and an analysis of the effectiveness of the solution.

The five steps that appear below are designed to take you from your pre-writing preparation all the way through to submitting your case study.

How Do You Write a Case Study?

  1. Conduct Research
  2. Begin By Summarizing the Situation and Why It Is Important
  3. Detail the Solution That Was Implemented
  4. Analyze the Results of the Solution
  5. Cite Any Source Material

1. Conduct Research

A case study is analytical in nature and can require plenty of research. This means that a large portion of the work is done before you start writing your study. Your case study should tell the story of your case from beginning to end, so you will need a thorough understanding of the different factors at play.

Say you plan to write about a city that was successful in reducing excess waste, specifically through recycling. Your first step will be to gather relevant information about the situation. For example, you may investigate the following topics:

  • What are the laws or policies related to this scenario, and when were they put in place? Have they affected the situation positively or negatively?
  • What are the important data points in both current and historical terms?
  • What have city officials and other influential figures said about the situation?

Depending on how in-depth your assignment is, you might rely on articles, other case studies, or even interviews with people. Gathering as much information as you can will help you analyze why the solution worked or did not work.

2. Begin Your Case Study By Summarizing the Situation and Why It Is Important

What are the conflicts or risks in the given scenario? Ensure you clearly lay out the basic facts of the problem or situation being addressed so the reader will understand why the solution was needed. This is where the statistics you gathered will help supplement your explanation, and you can describe the context of the situation either historically or in comparison to other similar situations.

3. Detail the Solution That Was Implemented

Describe changes in strategy or the laws of the city or state that aimed to reduce the problem. Include context for when and how the changes occurred: what was the process, and who were the main players?

Also make sure to include information on the time or cost involved in implementing the solution. And, if there were complicating factors, don’t leave those out. Explaining how unexpected complications were handled can also be important.

4. Analyze the Results of the Solution

Did it have the intended effect on the situation? If the solution could be a model for similar cases, explain the wider usefulness of understanding its impact. If the results were mixed or created results different from what was expected, what were the factors affecting that outcome? How could a more effective solution be found?

5. Cite Any Source Material

In a reference list at the end of your case study, it is vital to cite any source material you used in your writing. This includes articles, books, other case studies referenced, or any people you may have interviewed to gather information. Keep track throughout the research and writing process of all resources used—you will thank yourself later.

Lora Wegman is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

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