Case Study Analysis
A case study analysis is not merely a descriptive but, as the term itself suggests, a
critical exercise, typically an examination of a situation or institution with view towards
making recommendations. Case study analyses are included in many courses to give
students a sense of the constraints involved in decision making. Cases are usually based
on real situations, although for the sake of confidentiality the names of persons and
institutions may be disguised.
Many methods can be used to analyze case studies. The outline below, although it
provides a step-by-step procedure that can be applied in many situations, is not the only
feasible approach. Always consult your instructor for the particular requirements of a
1. Read the case study attentively at least two or three times. Become familiar with
the key points of the situation without adopting a position on the case. Read as
carefully and objectively as you can.
2. After becoming thoroughly familiar with the case, make notes regarding the main
issues as you see them. Typically, the instructor will provide prompts or questions
to help you focus on these.
3. Consider the question(s) assigned by your instructor. Record all information pertinent
to these in the form of case notes.
4. Decide which principles, theories, or models (usually part of the assignment) best
apply to the observed facts of the case to prepare your answers. Remember that
your analysis is likely to be founded on a specific theory, and avoid solutions based
mainly upon personal intuition.
5. Develop your solution in consideration of the principles, theories, or models that
you have selected. The assigned questions may require you to consider alternative
solutions. Remember the importance of showing not merely your judgement but
the basis for it.
Occasionally, case studies are assigned for analysis without specific questions. The
student must then devise a framework that will enable the analytical and/or synthetic
treatment of strategic issues. One general approach is as follows:
1. Follow steps one and two (above).
2. Identify the key problems and their root causes.
3. Develop solutions to the identified problems. Wherever possible, specify objective
or quantitative criteria to assess the solutions (qualitative indicators of success
may be too subjective).
4. Follow steps four and five above to identify and apply theoretical concepts. A list of
alternative solutions should emerge from this stage.
5. The final selection of a solution from alternatives is based upon how well it meets
the criteria you have established. In most cases you will select an optimal approach
and provide a realistic assessment of your solution’s strengths and weaknesses.
6. Present the chosen solution(s) in detail.
7. Use an appropriate format for your case study analysis. Use suitable headings and
subheadings. Do not forget the value of graphics; a chart or table can present information
more effectively than unsupported text.
Tricks and Traps
Most comprehensive case studies contain some information that is of marginal
importance to the main issues—or at least, to the issues you are directed to examine.
Remember to consider the implications of your theoretical framework(s):
unacknowledged assumptions can limit your thinking and your critique of alternative
solutions. When you begin to prepare your “recommendations” section, stop and review
the assignment yet again; many case study analyses fail to address the issues identified
by the instructor
1. Abstract/Executive Summary: single paragraph summary including recommendations
2. Problem Statement: Overview of key issues arising from case analysis
3. Case Analysis: Theory-driven analysis of case(s) identifying factors underlying key
4. Alternative Solutions: Pros and cons of possible solutions to problems
5. Recommendations: Detailed description of optimal solution with rationale
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