Writing Case Studies – a How To Guide
December 31, 2020
What is a Case Study?
A case study is a descriptive, exploratory or explanatory document that analyzes a person, object, event, situation, or idea. People may find themselves writing case studies in different industries for different purposes. Some examples include:
- Marketing or sales case study to highlight a product or service and its benefits
- Educational or learning case study that highlights a situation and a resolution
- Life or social science case study that explores causation and principles
- Medical case study to record clinical interactions with patients
Marketing or Sales Case Study
Marketing and sales case studies are success stories of a product or service used with a customer. The case study explains how the product or service was used and its return on investment. Most marketing and sales case studies have the following three sections:
- Challenge or problem (introduction and description of the business or customer’s problem)
- Solution (how was the solution selected and implemented)
- Results and benefits (benefits and return on investment for the customer, use data)
Determine the Goal
One of the first steps in creating a case study is determining the purpose and goal. The following questions can help you determine the goals you want to accomplish:
- Who is the audience?
- What product or service are you featuring?
- What is it that you want the reader to know?
- What do you want the reader to learn or do after reading this document?
Capture the Information
A marketing and sales case study is usually a story of success. Once you determine the purpose, you will decide the topic or subject area you want to highlight. Be sure to stick to one topic, as addressing multiple topics in one case study can be confusing. For the chosen topic, you will need the following information:
- Rationale for the case study and information about the customer
- Background information, data and description about the challenge or problem experienced by the customer. Any data, stats, or numbers that relate to the problem.
- The service or product you used to solve the problem. This can include why it was chosen, the process and methodology used for implementation.
- Details and data about the results and benefits. Data with measurable results is essential for this section.
Next, you will need to determine if you have all the information. In many cases, you may have to interview the customer and/or others to get all the pertinent information and data to support the case study. When interviewing others, make sure you are prepared with a list of specific questions to ask the customer and others. You want to be sure that you are getting the specific data you need to write the case.
Depending on the case study, in general it can vary from 1 – 3 pages long with 1 – 3 paragraphs for each section. Often, each page has a graphic or picture for visual interest. The font and colors should be easy for printing the case study. A white background with a standard font is best, especially if potential customers and others are downloading the case study.
Sample Marketing or Sales Case Study
Educational or Learning Case Study
Writing Case Studies for Educational or Learning purposes often involves a type of problem-based teaching where a situation or challenge is presented along with a resolution or various resolution options. The document will include information about the situation, background information, challenges highlighted, data presented, and solutions evaluated. Sections may include:
- Project or situation summary
- Challenges/Key Issues
- Team/Individual Activity
Determine the Learning Goal
One of the first steps in writing this type of case study is determining the objective or learning goals. The following questions can help you determine the learning goals:
- Who is the audience?
- What do you want the reader to know or do after reading this document?
- Do you want the reader to learn about multiple aspects of a problem or solution or just a single solution?
- Do you want to present all of the data or do you want the learner to determine what additional data or information is needed?
- How will the case study be presented? Will it be part of a learning classroom with group discussion and team exercises? Will it be part of a team meeting and discussion? Will it be a stand-alone document that an individual can read without an instructor?
Capture the Information
The information for the case study can be ascertained from your own professional experience, from current or historical events, from books or other resources. In writing an educational or learning case study, you will need the following:
- A structured and engaging story that tells an interesting situation or challenge.
- Understanding of the key issues or challenges. In many cases there are no clear solutions or may have more than one solution.
- Data and background information about the people, location, situation, actions, etc.
- A scenario that provokes questions and encourages the reader to analyze the situation and solutions.
- Information about the key decision makers and stakeholders in the case and their roles and perspective.
Determine if you have all the necessary information or if you will need to conduct research or interviews. When interviewing others, make sure you are prepared with a list of specific questions to be sure you are getting the specific data you need to write the case.
The case study can vary in depth from one to 20 pages or more. The font and colors should be easy for printing the case study. A white background with a standard font is best, especially if the case study is downloaded and printed numerous times.
Sample Learning Case Study
Project or Situation Summary
Consultant met with a client who was struggling to determine the proper path to move their business due to some key factors and issues. The Client Company is 17 years old with 51 employees, 10 of which are sales, 24 are in operations, and the rest in administration. The company has been struggling to determine the best method to manage all aspects of its human resource, accounting, operations, and sales systems.
The Client Company worked with an IT firm over a 2-year period with little success in integrating all key solutions.
Challenges and Key Issues
- Already invested nearly $100k into current infrastructure
- Losing productivity because systems are not well integrated
- Poor internal selection processes of solutions
- Staff is not trained on the current applications and their cross functionality
- Accounting and Operations applications are not communicating which leaves staff double entering data
- Cross-over of duplicated functionality in various systems which makes determination of where to enter data challenging
Consultant met with his key team members to determine which solutions were most reliable to create integration of software solutions, reduction in IT overhead, improvement in system processing and better training for The Client Company personnel.
The solution offered by Consultant cost $150k, plus the total cost of year-over-year ownership of $35k in recurring software licensing fees. The solution could be implemented within 6-months from a signed statement of work.
In addition, the Consultant offered a phased implementation approach to help reduce the initial financial start-up burden.
The solution virtually reduces the client’s software applications from 7 internal and external facing applications to 5. Of the five applications, four exist in the infrastructure and one is a new application to eliminate the gaps in the Accounting and Operations department.
The new application is expected to reduce wasted employee hours by 25% through the elimination of double entry, improved synchronicity, and better notifications when tasks are complete. This reduction in wasted time equals nearly workforce cost savings of $200k per year.
Client Company decided to stay with the existing infrastructure because they had invested so much money over a two-year period that they felt an additional $150k outlay of capital was cost prohibitive. While there was a real ROI for the Accounting and Operations system, they felt it was important to preserve existing jobs and would consider a more reliable solution in 18-months.
- What additional challenges should have been uncovered during the business analysis phase?
- Determine which challenges were the most significant impact to their current pain points?
- Discuss how those challenges could have been used to sell the consultant’s solution with more persuasion.
- What other solution could you have offered that may have been successful in off-setting more of the cost?
- What different approach may have been taken to create a different outcome (e.g. working with their existing applications and improving process?)
General Tips for Writing Case Studies
- Grab the reader’s attention with a catchy and descriptive title
- Write the case study in first person (“I”) or third person (“he/she”).
- Make the case study easy to read and scan. Use bulleted lists, short paragraphs, and highlight your point.
- Consider the reader’s point of view and what information is important to them.
- Write out acronyms and consider your audience when using industry-specific terms and jargon.
- Always include the author or your business contact information.
- If you gathered data or information from others in helping you write the case study, send them a copy to review. They should be checking to make sure the information is correct.
- Use professional-looking photographs, graphics, layouts, etc.
- Have someone proofread and edit the case study.
- Decide how you will use and share the case study once it is complete.
When writing case studies, they should be customized to your needs. It could include additional sections such as background or evaluation sections. It can contain graphics and pictures related to the specific topic. It should also reflect your company’s branding.
If you have additional questions or need support, contact us at:
Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions