Learning how to write a case study paper is invaluable in both business and academic settings. This writing guide will help.
A case study is a particular type of paper that involves researching a problem, often using an experiment or survey, and providing potential solutions from that research. It is an in-depth look at one particular research problem, looking at it from different angles and aspects.
Case studies are appropriate in several settings. These include:
- Business analytics
- Educational settings
- Clinical settings
- Social research
In a case study, you will use quantitative data and qualitative research methods to conclude a particular problem. You will describe, compare, evaluate and understand the problem, then present your findings to the reader. Above all, you will study and research a real-world subject or problem.
- Materials Needed
- Step 1: Choose Your Case
- Step 2: Know the Format
- Step 3: Set up Your Research
- Step 4: Write the Introduction
- Step 5: State the Background
- Step 6: Perform Case Study Analysis
- Step 7: Present Your Arguments
- Step 8: Conclude the Case Study
- Step 9: Include Headings
- Step 10: Cite Your References
- Step 11: Draft a Title Page and Abstract
- Step 12: Check for Serious Problems
- Step 13: Look at Case Study Examples
- Step 14: Include Graphs, Appendices, and Additional Information
- Step 15: Edit Your Case Study
- FAQs About How to Write a Case Study Paper
- A problem to research
- Research material
- Survey participants
- Pencil or Pen
Step 1: Choose Your Case
Before writing a case study, you must choose a case to study. You will want to choose a problem with several features. First, you want something to which you can contribute new or unexpected insights. If a topic or case has been researched extensively, it may not be a good candidate. There may not be anything new you can bring to the discussion. You can also select a case that you can challenge the long-standing view.
For example, if society has accepted that something is normal and healthy, but you have new research that indicates it may not be, then you can use that for your case study. Finally, a good case study candidate is a topic that could potentially open new lines of research in the future. By contributing new information, you can be part of that research. Above all, choose a topic that has a problem that can be resolved through your research.
Step 2: Know the Format
A typical case study paper is made up of eight parts. These are:
- Executive summary or introduction
- Case evaluation
- Proposed solutions
Each of these must be included for the case study to be complete.
Step 3: Set up Your Research
You must first do research when writing a case study paper. You will need to read sources and analyze data on the case you are writing about. This can take a lot of time. Therefore, be sure to follow the correct research process, which involves:
- Know your objective: This is the reason why you are studying this particular case.
- Choose candidates: If your case involves people or interviewing people, choose your candidates and get their permission.
- Gather credible sources: Get a list of credible sources, whether they are printed resources or people you can interview. You will want to tap into these as you start the writing process.
- Choose some key issues: You may find that your case has more than one potential problem. Focus on a few key issues that you can study in your case study paper.
- Research those issues: This will take the majority of your time. Case study papers require a lot of background information to write well. Therefore, it would be best if you devoted much time to research.
As you research, take meticulous notes. These will be invaluable when the time comes to write.
Step 4: Write the Introduction
Now that you have done some preliminary research, you are ready to write your introduction. This has a specific case study format to follow:
- State the issue: Social media has a directly negative effect on young teenagers.
- Present the problem: Using social media more than three times a day predicts poor mental health and well-being in teenagers between 13 and 16, increasing the risk of depression and anxiety.
- Explain your terms: Social media involves social websites, including Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, and many others.
- State your hypothesis or thesis statement: Decreasing social media use can help teens reduce their mental health concerns.
- Reiterate the importance: In this case study, we will look at social media use data and how reducing it improves teen mental health.
The introduction sets the pace for the case study report. It can include a quote from an interview or a particularly startling statistic. You will also indicate the aim of your case study in this section of the paper. Sometimes an introduction is called an executive summary. This does not change the information it contains. It just changes the name.
Step 5: State the Background
Now you are ready to start the body of the paper. The first body paragraph will include background information. Why did you choose to do a case study on this topic? What is its impact on the reader? For example, for a study of social media and teens, the background information section could discuss both the benefits and drawbacks of social media use. Then, tap into real-life examples and statistics showing how social media can positively and negatively impact.
For example, discuss increasing rates of depression in teens and how they mirror increasing social media use statistics. Along with your background information, you will want to tell the reader why you chose to do the case study. For example, what is the problem you hope to solve or the information you hope to glean from your work? You might also be interested in learning how to check similarity between two texts.
Step 6: Perform Case Study Analysis
A significant part of the body of your case study is the analysis of your research and the survey or other experimentation you did. Some things to include in this section may be:
- Selection criteria for survey or group of people who serve as participants
- Research criteria if you are researching a historical event
- Structure of any interviews or tests performed
- Outcomes or results
- Your analysis of those outcomes and results
In this section, carefully describe your research process. The reader needs to know how you found the data you are presenting. If there are real-world implications to the problem you are researching, then you need to discuss this.
Step 7: Present Your Arguments
Now you are ready to present your argument based on the background information and the data you have given. You need three strong arguments. These must be backed by statistical proof or proof from your survey and research.
In the example of the social media and teens question, you would look at your survey results. Your key points and arguments may be:
- Teens that spent three hours or more a day on social media were 3x as likely to report depression symptoms.
- Teens that had limited social media had minimal incidents of anxiety.
- Teens with a balanced approach to social media or no social media access only reported depression and anxiety symptoms 20% of the time.
These points must b backed by data. If you do not use data, they will be weak. For example:
- Teens that spent three hours or more a day on social media were 3x as likely to report depression symptoms (with data)
- Teens that spend a lot of time on social media daily suffer from depression. (without data)
The more sources, either from research or your work, to back up your points, the stronger your overall case study paper will be. If there is a similar case study already out there, weave it into your body paragraphs. Show similar research findings that help support your conclusion. You might also find our explainer on how to write a hypothesis useful.
Step 8: Conclude the Case Study
The conclusion is an essential part of the case study as well. You will need to make a concluding statement that wraps up the study. It might read like this:
- I have researched social media use in young teenagers and found that too much social media, especially three or more hours a day, increases the risk of depression and anxiety.
Then you will need to list some recommendations people can take with this information. For example:
- Parents and teachers must encourage teenagers to find other ways to spend their time. Open discussions about social media and its effect on mental health are also important. Parents can help their teens by modeling balanced social media use for themselves.
Make the conclusion practical, and show why your case study helps land on possible solutions to the problem. For example, if your research and work came up with one best-case scenario, present it as the best solution.
Step 9: Include Headings
A case study often includes headings to break up the data and help the reader find the necessary information. In the social media and teens case study, you may have headings that read:
- Benefits of Social Media
- Drawbacks of Social Media
- Survey and Research Methods
- Survey Analysis
If you feel there is future research that your case study would warrant, then include a section on Directions for Future Research. If you felt there were any specific limitations on your research and a section on Limitations.
Step 10: Cite Your References
References are essential in any case study template. Here, you will need to cite them according to the style guide assigned to the paper. Whether you use MLA, Chicago style, or APA format, structure your references accordingly. Reference any research that you did not perform yourself. Use in-text citations and a references page at the end to give proper credit to past researchers and avoid any risk of plagiarism.
Step 11: Draft a Title Page and Abstract
Most of the time, a case study paper will have a title page. It may also have an abstract. The title page will share the title of the case study and list the names of all researchers involved. The title should have the words “case study” and be five to nine words long. Include your contact information on this page. You may also include submission or publication dates. Follow the style guide for your writing assignment. The abstract will identify the purpose of the case study, summarize the research methods, and provide a summary of the results and the conclusions drawn. Think of it as a preview of the paper.
Step 12: Check for Serious Problems
There are specific problems that can come up in a case study. If you are going to publish your case study, make sure you did not fall victim to any of these:
- Overgeneralization: Do not make generalized assumptions about the problem that do not tie directly to your research. Stick to the facts and the problem defined in your thesis statement.
- Ignoring limitations: All research has limitations. In case study writing, you must include these.
- Not looking at all implications: While you don’t want to overgeneralize, you also don’t want to ignore important case study findings to your audience. Carefully analyze your case study research and pull out all possible implications.
- Writing the wrong length: Most case studies will be between 500 and 1,500 words long.
Step 13: Look at Case Study Examples
The best way to ensure you are writing a good case study is to look at some examples. Here are some published case studies you can compare yours to:
- Business case study: AdEspresso GlobeIn Case Study
- Business case study: CoSchedule UofSC Alumni Highlight
- Historical Case Study: Methods of Analysis from University of British Columbia
Study these examples and learn how the researchers present information in the case study format.
Step 14: Include Graphs, Appendices, and Additional Information
Finally, consider if your case study needs any additional information. For example, would a graph or infographic of your data help the reader? Would an appendix that outlines your research in more detail add value? You can add these features to your case study to help make your main points stick with the reader. Then, weave them in where appropriate to the writing.
Step 15: Edit Your Case Study
Before publishing your case study, take some time to edit it. But, first, go through this checklist for a thorough edit:
- Check the format: Make sure you follow the format for a case study with the four main parts.
- Check for consistency: Is your work consistent in wording, referencing, and citation? Does it follow the assigned style guide?
- Grammar and spelling: Check the grammar and spelling for your case study. You want it to be free from these errors.
- Editing the big picture: When you finish reading the case study, does your intended message ring true? Does the reader understand the research and your analysis of it? Is anything left as a question you do not cover in the conclusion or limitations sections?
Consider asking someone else to review and proofread your case study on your behalf. Ask them if the report was clear and if you need to re-address any areas. This will give you confidence that you are ready for publication.
FAQs About How to Write a Case Study Paper
What is a case study paper?
A case study paper involves a detailed study of one specific subject. This subject might be an event, group, place, organization, company, phenomenon, or person. Typically, case studies investigate a problem involving that subject and find solutions.
What is the difference between a case study and a research paper?
A case study works to provide an in-depth analysis of a particular situation or event, usually over a long period of time. It could also analyze a person, company, or product. However, the focus remains on the company or person, not other companies or people in similar situations.
Case studies use a lot of stories and real-world data to come to conclusions. A research paper involves research on a subject but allows the writer to develop their ideas and opinions. It delves into research already done rather than analyzing the subject or case. In this type of paper, the focus can be more general and delve into other companies, industries, or people.
What are the different types of case studies?
Case studies can be a few different types. These include:
1. Problem-oriented case studies: These focus on solving a particular problem. The problems may be theoretical, but they require you to examine them and find a solution.
2. Cumulative case studies: These case studies gather information and comparisons. Businesses use these to tell people how a product or service may benefit them.
3. Historical case studies: These look at historical events from different perspectives, applying modern ideas to something that happened in the past.
4. Critical case studies: These look at the cause and effect of a particular case.
5. Illustrative case studies: These describe events and investigate the event’s outcome and any particular lessons learned from it.
When editing for grammar, we also recommend taking the time to improve the readability score of a piece of writing before publishing or submitting