A case study is the study of an object, person or situation. When a management graduate undertakes his course; he will frequently come across with various case studies during his academic curriculum.
There is no management course without referring to case studies. Students may read 800 case studies during a two-year MBA program. This indicates the importance and significance attached to case studies. Apart from Management, the medicine and other courses also club case studies as the part of the academic curriculum. In this context, it is essential to explain the meaning and definition of a case study.
Definition: What is a Case Study?
A case study looks at a particular situation, case, or problem in a given scenario.
- It weights the pros and cons, taking a practically feasible decision in the best interests for effective implementation.
- Case studies are essential for MBAs so that the students can step into the shoes of the given case study, understand the implications and the complications involved and can have the feeling that of a trouble shooter.
- Case study is a simulation of a management situation that helps the management graduates to react in a real situation and helps them by providing right direction towards right decision making and problem solving.
Engineering graduates have both theory and laboratory activities. The faculty teaches the theory in the class room and then takes them to laboratory to try and test what was taught in the class. The students will be in a position to correlate the theoretical concepts and aspects with that of the practical experiments in the laboratory. As a result, the gap between learning and doing is minimized and also students can grasp, understand and memorize quickly.
Importance: Case Studies
People love to listen stories, examples, and anecdotes. No teaching will be complete without these. And teaching for management graduates is no exception.
- Case studies arouse the interest amongst the students.
- Every class should have at least one case study to make the teaching process interesting and entertaining.
- Students get into the shoes of the key player in the case study and think and act like him.
There are institutions which are specializing in case studies alone and they have acquired prominence globally. ICFAI has number of case studies under its reservoir and its case studies are accepted and adopted all over the world especially USA, Canada, UK and other European countries.
Essential elements in a Case Study
Certain characteristics and qualifications are essential for preparing case studies.
- The writer should have a passion to become the creator of case studies.
- He needs to involve and immerse himself in the case scenario thoroughly so as to have the feel of the real situation. Then only the best can be expected.
- The writer should have a flair for writing case studies. He/she should be a voracious reader of various books from the discipline in which he is preparing.
- Imagination works out to some extent but having worked in the same field will bring out the best as the author knows the practical problems.
- Ability to analyze the problems and prospects of the case and logical correlation of various activities in a given situation will prove to be highly beneficial.
How to Prepare a case study?
The case study describes a solution involving a decision to be made or a problem to be solved. It can be a real situation that happened as described, or portions have been disguised for reasons of privacy.
The case study can be brief or extensive running from 2 to 30 pages. As such there is no specific rule that the content should be limited or extended up to certain levels. Read the entire text thoroughly once and jot down the key points and concepts and also the important issues involved in it in a separate sheet.
Look for 4 Ws in the case such as
- What is the problem?
- Where is the problem?
- When the problem started?
- Why the problem occurred?
Relate and correlate all the factors and forces together to have better quick grasp about the case. Also read between the lines keenly. Apply your common sense and make comparative study of the situation.
Observe closely if any statistical data is given.
- Look at the cause and effect relation with in the case study. At times the causes are hidden and it requires extraordinary ability to unearth the hidden causes. It needs probing temperament and correlate the same with the effects. This will help to get at the root of the problem for generating bags of solutions.
- During this process, the visualization technique is highly useful in order to correlate various things mentally. If time permits read and reread the text more times for getting at the crux of the case.
- Repeat the process till you get perfection.
- Create number of multiple solutions to a given problem. Choose the best that suits the present position and adopt. It requires intuition and gut feeling to shortlist the best logical, analytical and appropriate decision. Do not repeat what is already stated in the case.
- During the case study analysis and preparation the academician with industrial exposure can deliver better results than mere academician without any industrial experience.
- The academicians always look at the case purely from their vast theoretical perspective as they are not exposed to industry. Of course, they honed their skills based on reading plenty of case studies. But that will not be sufficient to create effective case studies.
- On the other hand, the academician who hailed from industrial or from corporate background look at the case from multiple perspectives. They might have faced the same scenario as stated in the case study in their practical life. Therefore, they have ready made and tailor made answers and more solutions to each problem.
- Case study analysis requires critical and creative thinking. It also requires empathy i.e. stepping into the shoes of a situation and generating multiple solutions.
The case study is the heart of the management curriculum. Writing a case study is a skill not a talent. If the case study writer has creative mind, passion, nose for writing, eye for detail, analytical bent of mind, problem solving skills, decision making skills and the ability to see the big picture and the capability to think out of the box, the best and the most memorable case studies can be crafted.
Prof. M. S. Rao, is an Academic Guide in ICFAI University, India. His blog is at: http://profmsr.blogspot.com