Written by Jarin Eisenberg

Case studies are among the most common assignments you will encounter in your undergraduate or graduate business degree program. They provide students with the opportunity to read about real-world examples, and demonstrate their understanding of the topic at hand by using deductive reasoning and decision-making skills in complex situations.

While at first glance the questions you encounter about the case appear to be simple agree-or-disagree, opinion-based queries, your instructors are looking for much more than surface-level analysis. Here are some tips for producing well-rounded case study responses:

  • Do some research: Almost all of the cases you will be assigned have been widely cited and documented. By doing a little research, you will likely find numerous newspaper and trade journal articles that provide more information on the case and give you a broader perspective on the issue at hand.
  • Think about the picture as a whole: Many of the issues in the case will be reflective of broader social, political and economic issues. What social or economic policies might have influenced the outcome of the case? How did the political and social climate of the time impact the situation at hand? Don’t be afraid to consider outside influences.
  • Don’t forget to tie in concepts: Whether the case is at the beginning or end of the chapter, it relates in some way to the concepts and theories being covered. Demonstrate your understanding of the week’s theories and concepts by applying them to the case. This not only illustrates your ability to see the connection between the two, but it also allows you to support your reasoning.

In a national survey of faculty members who use case studies, more than 90% of instructors reported that students were better able to view an issue from multiple perspectives when case-study teaching was incorporated in the classroom. A majority of respondents also said students were more engaged when using case studies and extended their “case-related research efforts beyond class requirements.”

The faculty members “believed that students’ critical thinking increased and their understanding deepened when learning via case-based instruction,” according to the survey findings, which were published in The Journal of College Science Teaching.

Whether students attend online or on campus, they have to take the knowledge they learned in class and the concepts in their text and use critical thinking to produce a realistic, well-rounded response to a real-world situation.

The problems they read about in their cases are real – they can think of it as learning from someone else’s experience and use the knowledge they gained to not make the same mistake in their line of work. Or, more simply, to use the information to inform how they think and practice business.

Case studies are a great way for students to practice writing and research for other courses. Perhaps they have learned about inequality in a sociology course or a different perspective in their humanities courses that informs the way they see the problem in the case.

Successfully completing a case study is a task that calls for students to provide in-depth analysis and use multiple sources in order to form a comprehensive and informed response. Remember, do a little digging, think broadly and tie it all back to the week’s topics and theories.

Jarin Eisenberg is Project Manager at the Women’s Business Center at Florida Institute of Technology. To learn more about Eisenberg and her work at Florida Tech, read our interview here.

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