Case studies

  • A case study is used to explore a problem or issue in a specific real world context. You are usually asked to apply wider reading or theory to analyse what is happening in the case. They are often used in subjects such as business or healthcare.

    There are two main ways you might encounter case studies in your assignments:

    1. You are given a case study and you are asked to analyse it.
    2. You decide to use case studies as a method for your research, and you gather information on a specific situation to produce a case study as your findings. 

    Our top tips

    Structure

    Answering a case study assignment usually involves analysing the case, researching and linking to theories, and then making recommendations. This useful resource takes you through these steps with example cases from Management and Nursing: 

    Case study report (e.g. Nursing)

    In Healthcare professions you may be asked to write a case study report on a specific client or patient. This resource shows you how to keep your writing relevant and focused on the patient:

    Research method

    If you are conducting your own research, you need to understand whether a case study is the most suitable method for answering your research question(s). Look at this introduction to case studies in research and their strengths and weaknesses: 

    Time to think about theory

    Case studies often take time to analyse carefully. What is presented on the surface may have deeper, or less obvious, causes underneath. This is where your wider reading and theory may help, as it can provide frameworks or models for explaining complex and unclear behaviour. For example theories on group dynamics might help us understand why a specific project team is failing to meet its targets.

    Problem-solving

    Case studies are a way of exploring a real world problem. You are usually asked to propose recommendations or solutions to the issue presented in the case. Don’t just stop at analysing what is happening and why it is happening, remember to also consider ‘so what can we do about this?’