University Case Study Layout

This section provides some advice on the process of writing up your report.

Plan the report 

Before you begin to write the report, it is essential to have a plan of its structure. You can begin to plan the report while you are investigating the case.

Fist, prepare an outline (in list or mind-map format) of the main headings and subheadings you will have in the report. Then add notes and ideas to the outline which remind you of what you want to achieve in each section and subsection. Use the outline to help you consider what information to include, where it should go and in what sequence. Be prepared to change your outline as your ideas develop. Finally, the outline headings and subheadings can be converted into the contents page of your report. 

Schedule your writing time

Prepare a schedule for writing and editing the sections of the report. Allow some extra time just in case you find some sections difficult to write. Begin by writing the sections you feel most confident about. Preliminary sections (executive summary, introduction) and supplementary sections (conclusions, reference list and appendices) are usually prepared last. Some writers like to begin with their conclusions (where the writer's thoughts are at that moment) or the methodology (it's easier to write about your own work). 

Analyse your audience 

In writing a case study report in your course, the report is often intended for an imaginary person so you need to make sure that your language and style suites that person. For example, a report for senior management will be different in content and style and language to a technical report. A report to a community group would also be different again in content, style and language. Audience definition helps you decide what to include in the report based on what readers need to know to perform their jobs better or what the readers need to know to increase their knowledge about your subject. These notes on audience analysis are adapted from Huckin and Olsen (p1991)

 

 

*After: Huckin & Olsen ,1991.1.

  • Who will read the report? Think about all the uses of the report and where and when it would be read. Reports written within an organisation may be read by different people and different departments; for example, technical and design specialists, supervisors, senior managers, lawyers, marketing and finance specialists.
  • What are the readers' needs and goals? Each department or unit in an organisation has its own needs and goals. Understanding the different perspectives can help you decide how to communicate persuasively to these groups. For example while design engineers may prefer to develop new or alternative design to show progress in their field, the marketing specialist may prefer that the organisation imitate a known successful design to save time.
  • How do I make communication clear for managers? Communication must be accessible and useful to busy managers as they will primarily seek important generalisations. This has implications for the report's structure, the amount of orientation or background information provided and the level of technical language used. An executive summary, introductions to new sections and concluding summaries for major sections should be included in the report.
  • What might be the readers' preferences or objections to the report? You may need to address the significance and benefits/limitations of your recommendations from a number of readers' perspectives in the report. You may also need to consider compromises as a way to acknowledge potential conflicts or criticisms of your recommendations or solutions.

Prepare a draft report 

Writers rarely produce a perfect piece of text in their first attempt so a number of drafts are usually produced. Careful planning and editing will ensure a consistent professional standard in the report. You will need to do the following:

  • Revise the task often 

Do this by keeping both the reader's needs and the report's objectives in mind as you gather information, take notes and write sections of the report.

Do this by taking clear notes, which include the information gathered and your thoughts about the usefulness and the implications of this information. Review your notes to decide what is essential information to include in the report.

  • Create a logical structure 

Use your contents page outline to decide where information will go. Within each section, plan the subheadings and then decide on the sequence of information within these.

Check that your writing flows and that your ideas are supported and plausible. If you are not sure what to look for, here are links to advice and activities on report organisation, cohesion and evidence.

Ensure that all your figures and tables communicate a clear message. Show a colleague your visuals to check how they will be interpreted or 'read'.

For first drafts, a word processor's spell checker and grammar checker can be useful however, do not rely solely on these tools in your final edit as they are not perfect. Errors will be overlooked or even created by these programs! The best ways to edit are to read a printed copy and where possible get a colleague to read and give feedback.

Here is a report checklist that you can print out: CHECKLIST

What is a case study ?

A case study is a description of a real life problem or situation which requires you to analyse the main issues involved.  These issues need to be discussed and related to the academic literature and/or research findings on the topic and conclusions then drawn about why the situation  occurred and how  best to respond to it.

Why do we write case study responses?

A case study is a way to apply the theoretical knowledge gained from the academic literature to real life situations that you may encounter in your work. 

Writing a case study response enables you to

  • analyse the issues in a real life situation,
  • apply the knowledge gained from your academic reading and research and
  • draw conclusions about how to respond as a professional to that situation. 

How to write a case study response

Before you start writing, you need to carefully read the case study and make a note of the main issues and problems involved as well as the main stakeholders (persons or groups of persons who have an interest in the case).                                                  

A case study response would include the following elements:

Introduction

Introduce the main purpose of the case study and briefly outline the overall problem to be solved. 

Description

Write a brief description of the case under discussion giving an outline of the main issues involved.  Always assume that your reader knows nothing of the assignment task and provide  enough information to give a context for your discussion of the issues. 

Discussion

Discuss the issues raised one by one, using information gained from your research of the academic literature. 

Your discussion may include:

  • an outline of the issue and its implications for or relationship to different  stakeholders
  • how that issue links to theories or research in the academic literature
  • suggested solutions or ideas
  • evaluation of the solutions or ideas for this particular case

Conclusion / Recommendations

Finally, sum up the conclusions that you have come to and give recommendations to resolve the case.  Give reasons for your recommendations. 

Checklist for a case study response

Have I:

  • Carefully read the case and noted the main issues and stakeholders in the case?
  • Written a brief description of the case to give your readers a context for the main issues?
  • Discussed each issue with reference to the academic literature?
  • Evaluated the solutions or ideas for each issue to find the ones most suitable?
  • Made final recommendations of how to resolve the case?
  • Used a well structured introduction, body and conclusion?
  • Cited and referenced all of the work by other people?
  • Used correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, clear presentation and appropriate reference style?

Further information

Monash University – How to write the case study

University of New South Wales – Writing a Case Study Report in Engineering

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