Tips for Developing Case Studies

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Case studies can take different forms depending on their intended use. The Harvard Business School model is a well-known model for teaching. Their cases are set up so students can practice real-world decision making. That means students don't get to read the actual outcome to the case before class! If you want to be more explicit about lessons learned from an experience, you would write those in.

Here are some resources that introduce the Harvard Business approach:

"Developing a Teaching Case" (Abridged)
Publication Date: Jun 28, 2001
Author(s): Michael J. Roberts
Product Number: 9-901-055
Length: 21p
Available from Harvard Business Online

A template can be useful, but I shy away from becoming too formulaic in casewriting so as to maintain interest. For me the questions one asks are the important thing, and the outline of the case itself can vary depending on the project or experience described. I'm attaching some questions I use to guide cases for my organization, CIPE. Feel free to look at some of our cases

There is an art in providing the right amount of detail in a case. Detail should provide context; it should not distract from the general themes. Once you've selected a few themes to organize your thinking, just tell the story. Keep it easy to understand and don't make it too long!

- Posted to the KM4Dev list by Kim Bettcher on Feb 8, 2007

You might find useful to take a look to the methodology "capitalizacion de experiencias" that some organizations in LAC like Centro Internacional de la Papa and Escuela para el Desarrollo (write to Rosa Mendoza, had being applying. I also found this link interesting, [[1]]

Beside this, the guide of the methodology "Most Significant Change" includes some orientation for writing good stories that could be adapted for writing case studies.

- Posted to the KM4Dev list by Brenda Bucheil on Feb 11, 2007

Other Links

  • Case Studies in Science. This site, by Clyde Freeman Herreid, includes a series of articles on how to write case studies.

--Bfillip 15:59, 8 February 2008 (EST)

Case Study Guidelines (Center for International Private Enterprise)

(also posted to the KM4Dev list by Kim Bettcher on Feb 8, 2007)

Case studies should address the following questions:

  • What problem (“democratic deficit”) does the project attempt to solve? Why does it matter?
  • Who is the partner or reform organization leading the project?
  • What is distinctive about the project’s approach to the problem?
  • What are the essential steps/features of the approach?
  • Why does the approach work? What is required for it to work?
  • What changed as a result? Laws? Policies? Processes? Attitudes?
  • What were the major challenges?
  • What was the impact on democracy? (institutional change, policymaking, participation, dialogue, etc.)
  • What was the impact on the economy? (market institutions, private sector development)

Case studies should be written with consideration for the following points:

  • Reader: An educated person with an interest in political or economic reform; someone contemplating designing a reform project.
  • Style: Not like a report; clear, to the point; should tell a story.
  • Section headings: These are helpful and should add interest.
  • Tense: Generally simple past tense.
  • Include quotations where they add interest or credibility.
  • Sources: Careful use of sources is important. List all sources used. Material from CIPE reports can be used without additional attribution. Material from outside authors (even if published by CIPE) must be placed in quotation marks or, if not a direct quotation, appropriately referenced.