During my exploration of a thesis topic, it has come down to treating my topic like a case study. Therefore, I researched different methods on how to write a case study and came across an interesting article.
A case study is a puzzle that has to be solved. The first thing to remember about writing a case study is that the case should have a problem for the readers to solve. The case should have enough information in it that readers can understand what the problem is and, after thinking about it and analyzing the information, the readers should be able to come up with a proposed solution. Writing an interesting case study is a bit like writing a detective story. You want to keep your readers very interested in the situation.
A good case is more than just a description. It is information arranged in such a way that the reader is put in the same position as the case writer was at the beginning when he or she was faced with a new situation and asked to figure out what was going on. A description, on the other hand, arranges all the information, comes to conclusions, tells the reader everything, and the reader really doesn’t have to work very hard.
When you write a case, here are some hints on how to do it so that your readers will be challenged, will “experience” the same things you did when you started your investigation, and will have enough information to come to some answers.
There are three basic steps in case writing: research, analysis, and the actual writing. You start with research, but even when you reach the writing stage you may find you need to go back and research even more information.
The Research Phase:
1. Library and Internet research. Find out what has been written before, and read the important articles about your case site. When you do this, you may find there is an existing problem that needs solving, or you may find that you have to come up an interesting idea that might or might not work at your case site. For example, your case study might be on a national park where there have been so many visitors that the park’s eco-system is in danger. Then the case problem would be to figure out how to solve this so the park is protected, but tourists can still come. Or, you might find that your selected site doesn’t have many tourists, and one reason is that there are no facilities. Then the case problem might be how to attract the right kind of businesses to come and build a restaurant or even a hotel — all without ruining the park.
Or your case study might be on historic sites that would interest tourists –IF the tourists knew where the sites were or how to get to them. Or maybe your case study is about how to interest people in coming to your country so they can trace their family’s historic roots (origins).
Once you have decided on the situation or issue you would like to cover in your case study (and you might have several issues, not just one), then you need to go to the site and talk to experts.
2. Interview people who know the place or the situation. Find knowledgeable people to interview — they may be at the site itself or they work in a government office or company that deals with the historic preservation. In addition to people who work in the site, talk to visitors.
When you are interviewing people, , ask them questions that will help you understand their opinions, questions like the following:
“What is your impression of the site (maybe it’s an old fort, or a burial site, or an excavation of historic interest)?”
“How do you feel about the situation?”
“What can you tell me about how the site (or the situation) developed?” “What do you think should be different, if anything?
You also need to ask questions that will give you facts that might not be available from an article, questions like:
“Would you tell me what happens here in a typical day?”
“What kind of statistics do you keep? May I have a copy?
“How many businesses are involved here?”
When you ask a question that doesn’t let someone answer with a “yes” or a “no” you usually get more information. What you are trying to do is get the person to tell you whatever it is that he or she knows and thinks — even though you don’t always know just what that is going to be before you ask the question. Then you can add these facts to your case. Remember, your readers can’t go to your site, so you have to “bring it to them.”
The Analysis Phase:
- Put all the information in one place. Now you have collected a lot of information from people, from articles and books. You can’t include it all. So, you need to think about how to sort through it, take out the excess, and arrange it so that the situation at the case site will be understandable to your readers. Before you can do this, you have to put all the information together where you can see it and analyze what is going on.
- Assign sections of material to different people. Each person or group should try to figure out what is really important, what is happening, and what a case reader would need to know in order to understand the situation. It may be useful, for example, to put all the information about visitors on one chart, or on a chart that shows visitors to two different sites throughout a year.
3. Try to formulate the case problem in a few sentences. When you do this, you may find that you need more information. Once you are satisfied with the way you have defined the problem you want your readers to think about, break the problem down into all its parts. Each one represents a piece of the puzzle that needs to be understood before the problem can be solved. Then spend some time discussing these with the others in your group.
For example, suppose:
- Your heritage site doesn’t have many visitors, but many people say
they would like to visit if it had services
- There is unemployment in the village around the site,
- The town is big enough to be able to accommodate many more
- The surrounding environment (animals, trees and plants) need to be
protected from too many visitors
- The government owns the location, but the government does not
want to own and operate either a restaurant or a hotel
Ask yourselves: “How much information do people who will read your case
study need to have in order to be able to discuss items a through f?
One answer to “a.” is that they need to know data about past numbers of visitors, and they need to know what evidence exists that more people want to visit but are discouraged from going there. Your evidence will come from the articles and statistics you have gathered, and from the interviews you have completed.
Once you have broken down the problem into pieces, you can analyze the information you now have and see if you can think about possible answers to each of the pieces. If you have enough information, then you can think about how to write the case study itself.