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Case Study Icon Case Study Report
Prepared by University of Guelph

Section A: Overview

This section will provide you with an overview of case study reports and what components you should include when writing them.

What Will I Learn?

By successfully completing this section, you should be able to:

  • describe what a case study report is and how it is used,
  • identify the components of a case study and how they fit together, and
  • explain why case studies are popular in business education.

In general, a case study is a historical or fictional description of a business situation. Case studies are stories that contain a particular management problem or decision that needs to be made. They are usually very detailed and contain information about key stakeholders, organizational processes, products, markets, financials, and so on.

The case study method of teaching plays an important role in management education (e.g., Banning, 2003) and is commonly used in management education programs (e.g., Conger & Xin, 2000). Case studies present vivid and engaging examples of realistic business situations that allow students to apply theoretical concepts (Barkley, Cross, & Major, 2005).

A Case Study Is:

a partial, historical, clinical study of a situation which has confronted a practising administrator or managerial group. Presented in a narrative form to encourage student involvement, it provides data—substantive and process—essential to analysis of a specific situation, for the framing of alternative action programs, and for their implementation, recognising the complexity and ambiguity of the practical world.

(Barnes, Christensen, and Hansen, 1994, p. 44)

As Barnes et al. (1994) explain in the definition above, an engaging case study will provide a managerial dilemma that models the complexity of real world business decisions. Moreover, these decisions need to be made considering the analysis of data, assessment of viable alternatives, proposed recommendations, and associated implementation plan.

The components of a case study report will vary depending on the preferences of your institution and instructor. Be sure to refer to your assignment instructions to find out what will be required in your context.

Most case study reports will include the following major sections and components:

  1. Cover page including basic student and class information
  2. Table of contents showing where key parts of the report can be found
  3. Executive summary of the key recommendations and points of the report
  4. Introduction to the report and identification of the focal problem being faced
  5. Analysis of the problem and application of course/program content
  6. Decision criteria and possible alternatives for solving the problem
  7. Recommendation for solving the problem
  8. Implementation plan for executing the recommendation and ensuring its success
  9. Exhibits that help to elaborate upon the content included in the report
  10. Reference list of any sources that were used at any point in the case study project

There are many possible subsections within these components. The following information provides a more detailed explanation of each component as well as specific strategies to help with writing.

The components of a case study presentation will likely also vary depending on the preferences of your institution and instructor; however, most case study presentations will likely include an oral as well as a visual (e.g., PowerPoint) summary of the 10 major sections and components. The case study report template provided will give you with a method for presenting your case study project as well as specific strategies to help with presenting the various sections.

Case Study Report Outline Template

This outline sample of a Case Study Report should serve as a useful guide to help you get started.

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Preview: PDF Worksheet
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Why do business courses use case studies?

This short video introduces business case study reports by highlighting why case studies are popular in business education and what you can expect as a learner completing a case study report.

Business Case Studies

Video: Four awesome things about business case studies.

Four awesome things about business case studies. Number one; case studies give you a chance to examine business problems you might actually encounter in real life. Cases are based on real situations or realistic scenarios simulating complex and ambiguous problems from the business world. Number two; case studies can help you strengthen your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You'll get practice analyzing stakeholders, organizational processes, and financial constraints. And you'll learn how to make decisions and solve problems in a safe and transparent environment. Number three; case studies are not lectures [snoring]. Enough said. Number four; case study assignments combine writing, research and oral presentation sells. All stuff you want to get better, right?

Self Assessment

  1. Which of the following was part of the definition of a case study as presented in this section?
  2. Which of the following was not one of the major sections and components mentioned in this section?
  3. Case studies were first developed as:
  4. The components of a case study report will likely be exactly the same across institutions and instructors.

Key Takeaways

  • Case studies are rich, vivid situational exercises that can be used to make decisions and solve problems in a safe and transparent environment.
  • Most case study reports follow an established pattern of core components with some variations depending on the context of the report.
  • Case study reports allow business students an opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills for the complex and ambiguous situations that they are likely to encounter at work.

References

Banning, K. (2003). The effect of the case method on tolerance for ambiguity. Journal of Management Education, 27, 556–568.

Barkley, E. F, Cross, K. P. & Major, C. H. (2005). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Barnes, L. B., Christensen, C. R., & Hansen, A. B. (1994). Teaching and the case method (3rd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Conger, J. A., & Xin, K. (2000). Executive education in the 21st century. Journal of Management Education, 24, 73–101.

Redpath, L. (2012). Confronting the bias against on-line learning in management education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11, 125–140.

Young, S. (2006). Student views of effective online teaching in higher education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 20, 65–77.

University of Guelph. (2015). Four awesome things about business case studies [WriteOnline_GUELPHIntro.mp4]. Published with GoAnimate: http://goanimate.com.

Next Section Overview

In Section B: Planning and Researching, we will explore how to analyze your case study report assignment and create a writing plan.

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