Tips: What is a Case Study?

Essay writing is the primary writing assignment students receive early in their academic careers.  At some point almost all students will find themselves facing a case study assignment.  Some academic disciplines, such as business finance and economics, make more use of case studies than others.  To the novice, the first questions that come to mind are just what is a case study and how does a case study differ from an essay.

What is a Case Study?

Answering this question is more difficult than you might imagine.  Here are some popular definitions you can easily find with an Internet search of standard dictionary sites and general information sites like wisegeek.com:

  • A process or record of research in which detailed consideration is given to the development of a particular matter over a period of time.
  • A detailed intensive study of a unit, such as a corporation or a corporate division that stresses factors contributing to its success or failure.
  • The study of a person, a small group, a single situation, or a specific “case,” is called a case study. It involves extensive research, including documented evidence of a particular issue or situation — symptoms, reactions, effects of certain stimuli, and the conclusion reached following the study. A case study may show a correlation between two factors, whether or not a causal relationship can also be proven.

The first definition is perhaps the easiest to understand.  You are assigned a topic, and then you write the case of how the topic has evolved over the time period specified in the case instructions.  A finance case study might call for the origins and evolution of credit.  Some students with no experience in case study writing can become confused when they see the term case study method.  What does that mean?

What is Case Study Method?

Developed at Harvard University Business School, the case study method is simply an approach to teaching subject matter that relies on real-life case studies instead of textbooks.  Rather than teach principles of marketing from a text source, the case study method uses a series of case studies, each illustrating the marketing principles to be learned.

More controversial is the use of case study method as a research tool.  When a case study is used to prove causality, critics point out the limited number of cases in the study – sometimes a single case – is too narrow to be able to make any valid generalizations.

The Answer You Need to Know

An academic discussion of various definitions and uses of case studies is for most students irrelevant.  The truth is the real answer to the question what is a case study is a case study is whatever your professor says it is.  The only opinion about which you should be concerned is that of your professor.  You need to follow the specifications and instructions for the assignment he or she provides.  You can get help with case study assignments from high quality professional writing services like ours that only hire writers with advanced academic degrees and practical research and writing experience.

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