What is a case study?
In simple words, a case study is a particular instance of something being used or analysed in order to illustrate a thesis or principle. A smaller version of case study (usually of two- three paragraphs) is also called a caselet. Formal research is usually used to collect and compile data for a case study.
According to Thomas, case studies can be analyses of persons, events, decisions, periods, projects, policies, institutions, or other systems that are studied holistically (over a period of time) by one or more method. Case study has been a popular teaching tool in most reputed management institutes like Harvard Business School, IIM-Ahmedabad and so on.
When case study is used as a teaching tool, additional relevant documentation (such as financial statements, graphs & charts and short biographies, (also called “exhibits”), multimedia supplements (such as audio or video interviews with the case protagonist), and a teaching note often accompany the case studies.
Is Case Study a Story?
Since a story is fundamentally a narrative of a sequence of events, a case study can also be considered a story. Cases are usually developed or written based on true incidents, though fictional cases can also be developed to illustrate a principle.
In some situations a true incident can be converted into a case study and subsequently modified or adapted to satisfy pedagogical needs.
Types of Case Study
Case Studies are primarily of two types:-
Success Story- The purpose is to share the reasons behind the success so that others can also apply the same principles with or without modification. It is important to understand the market, consumers and other conditions under which the organisation, product or service became successful to check whether the same principles can be applied in a different industry or similar market and so on.
Problem Story-The purpose is to present a problem and the readers / participants are expected to suggest possible solutions (and their feasibility) and present the best alternative or recommended solution. Usually a rationale is also given why the alternative solution is considered best and the advantages of the suggested solution vis-à-vis others.
Applications of Case Study
Case study is a very powerful tool for teaching management, in-house training and as a sales tool for knowledge professionals.
Principles of success- A success story case study can explain the principles and techniques of getting success for an organisation, launch of new product and so on. Mentors and trainers can use them for coaching start ups, and junior and middle executives. When the protagonist succeeds in spite of heavy odds, a case study also becomes an inspiring story.
Explain procedure and steps to success- A case study can be used by a trainer or coach to demonstrate how specific techniques were used in a situation to solve the problem. The complete procedure can also be explained to demonstrate the steps to success. This approach is quite popular among knowledge professionals, be it entrepreneurs or employees.
Create a problem scenario for brainstorming- A case study can create a problem scenario and then the readers and participants in case discussion can be encouraged to brainstorm possible solutions and the feasibility / likelihood of success of each alternative.
Digital Formats for presentation
Two most suitable formats for presenting a case study are text (blog) and powerpoint presentation. In case of an exceptionally lengthy case or compilation of case studies, eBook can also be used. In fact a power point case study can be much easier to read and understand. Powerpoint format is also suitable to add exhibits such as graphs, charts, pictures and even videos.