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The case studies are stories which demonstrates realistic and contextually rich situations which comprises of a problem, conflict, or issue which should be sorted out (Elberly Center Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation, 2015).

Professor Paul Lawrence states that a good case study is “the vehicle by which a chunk of reality is brought into the classroom to be worked over by the class and the instructor. A good case keeps the class discussion grounded upon some of the stubborn facts that must be faced in real life situations.” (Quoted in Christensen, 1981).

They are used widely in the teaching of medicine, law and business. They are effective teaching tool in any discipline. They usually bridge the gap between theory and practice and between the academy and the workplace (Barkley, Cross, and Major 2005, p.182).

They allow students to identify key issues and their problems, analyze the external environment of the company in question and then evaluate the alternative courses of action (Elberly Center Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation, 2015).

Case Studies differ in length and detail. They are utilized in different ways depending on the case and the instructor’s objectives. They can be short comprising of few paragraphs and even long upto 20 pages. They are utilized in lecture bases and discussion based classes. They may provide all the relevant and students may be required to discuss and resolve the main issue. Students may examine multiple aspects of a problem. Finally, Students are required to propose a solution to the given problem (Elberly Center Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation, 2015).

Descriptive Case Studies


According to a research, the cases are beneficial for exploratory and preliminary research while survey and histories are beneficial for a descriptive phase. These case studies are useful for exploratory research. Yin (1984) held the belief that a more beneficial view is a pluralistic one. A research study can be of three types which comprise of Exploratory, descriptive and Explanatory (Schell, 1992).

Descriptive case studies may be exploratory if sufficient research has not been conducted in the given area. They may also be illustrative. Catharine Hakim (1987) categorized descriptive case studies as typical and selective. The selective case study focuses on a particular issue with the aim to increase the knowledge level in a particular area. These types of case studies focus on questions such as ‘how’ and ‘why’ issues (Schell, 1992).

Explanatory Case Studies


An explanatory case study may take out selected social factors or processes. In order to test the “how” and “why” questions, there are critical cases and deviant cases. In the former, the researcher finds the evidence for a conclusion by considering the most favourable illustration of a particular issue. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1989) uses several strategic cases from American enterprise in her research to describe the new role of management (Schell, 1992).

On the other hand, there is deviant case. This case negates that the exception proves the rule by demonstrating that the general rule can be re-defined. Moreover, if the rule is correct, then it hold true in limited circumstances. Hakim demonstrates this by the case of Union democracy which shows that a high democratic union exists defying the Michel ‘iron law of oligarchy’ (Schell, 1992).

Overall, the design of case-study and its application differ widely. They can be either exploratory, descriptive or explanatory. They may take typical, critical or deviant approaches. There are many ways to collect data and develop a case study (Schell, 1992).

Usefulness of Case Studies


Yin says that the case studies can be utilized to explain and explore events when they occur. It allows one to understand and explain links and pathways that result from a new event or a policy. The case study approach tends to focus on questions of ‘how’, ’why’ and ‘what’ allowing one to obtain in-depth insight into the event or any case. The approach can also provide more insights into what gaps exist in delivery or why one implementation strategy should be chosen over another. The advantage is that it enables a theory to be refined and developed (Sarah Crowe, 2011).

There are number of questions one should consider whenever the most appropriate design is selected. The questions is whether it is useful as well as possible to undertake a formal experimental investigation. In these cases, individuals are appointed to an intervention or a control arm. Another question is the desire to obtain a more naturalistic understanding of the issue. The former is ideally studied using a controlled experimental design, whereas the latter is more appropriately studied using a case study design (Sarah Crowe, 2011).

Case studies can provide very extensive details about a particular matter which cannot be provided by other methods. For instance, Sigmund Freud (1909) analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy, consisted of qualitative notes on Little Hans’ discussions, behavior and dreams collected over a four year period. Thus, allowing for a greater in depth analysis of Hans behavior (The importance of case studies in research, 2011).

This method allows research to be carried in out in unusual cases where it would not be ethical to carry out in any other way. For instance, in a case of multiple personality, Thigpen and Cleckley (1954). It would have not been possible to compare people with multiple personality disorder and those without it. Nevertheless, Thigpen and Cleckley were able to spend over 100 hours with Eve White to document her behavior and gaining information about the disorder (The importance of case studies in research, 2011).

The use of the case study method in building and testing theory

This section assesses the problems and challenges of case study approach for building and testing theory. It also describes ways to assess the quality of research findings. Case study research is complex and unique challenges are faced by researchers. This method is mostly qualitative and the individual contribution as well as the choices of researcher are crucial for this method. One may collect data on many variables, however, the problem is to identify variables of significance for the phenomenon under investigation. The key decisions for the researchers include the range and type of data to be collected, the number of case sites and the type of analysis to be carried out (Jessica Claudia Iacono, 2011).

Theories rely on theoretical sampling for its development. As limited number of cases can be studied, it is important to select important cases. An element of subjectivity is found in non-random sampling. A multiple-case design is appropriate when the objective of investigation is the investigation of theory. The factors which determine the choice of the research design are considered for the choice of site (Jessica Claudia Iacono, 2011).

The case study is dependent on multiple sources of evidence and many data collection methods. Each source of information has its benefits and drawbacks. Therefore, it is recommended that multiple sources of evidence should be used. It enhances the viability and the reliability of the data. The reliability confirms that the procedure would achieve same results if it is applied repetitively. This allows that the process can be audited (Jessica Claudia Iacono, 2011).

The analysis of the data depends heavily on the ability of the researcher and it is necessary upon the researcher to present the evidence, establish cause and effect and argue convincingly. It should allow the researcher to derive any evidence from the initial research question to the conclusion of the study (Jessica Claudia Iacono, 2011).

Usefulness of Normative Case Studies


Normative case studies are different from casual and interpretive case studies. It does not contribute to explanatory theory in ways the casual and interpretive theories do. These case studies only considers normative theory such as the ideals and the obligations one should accept.

Normative case studies contributes to the understanding of the important public values. For instance, it discusses the qualities of good neighborhoods, the responsibilities of organizational leaders and the events whenever the military intervention is required. These case studies by demonstrating new situations that had not been envisioned before. These case studies also merge the empirical observation with normative assessment and enable one to analyze ethical concepts. However, the use of normative case studies is still not respected and even recognized on many platforms (Thacher, 2006).

The understanding of normative case study affect one views about the relationship between social science and ethics. Social scientists admit that value inform their research. For instance, it is normative considerations which allow them to identify important topics than others. It also assists them to define social science concepts (Thacher, 2006).

The Normative case study also other important implications. It asks one to reconsider their mechanical possibilities, the relationship of social science with ethics and the implications of the philosophy of science.


Use of Case Study Methods in Human Resource Management, Development, and Training


The case studies are an effective method to enable students and faculty to understand the complexities and structures of organizations and leadership styles. Business cases are considered to be the most effective method to share a variety of experiences. It is a useful way to involve students actively in analyses and decision making. Teachers who use case study methods keep them updated about the current business environment (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

These cases act as a substitute for on the job experience. They provide one with the exposure to variety of industries and organizations. It also one to assume a managerial role and act as a test to apply the tools and techniques of human resource management and training. It also forces one to provide appropriate action plan for the purpose (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

The group discussion over a case study helps one to understand the viewpoint of others regarding the issue. Cases also allow students to apply classroom learnings to real situations. It can also allow students to develop skills to analyze the more complex problems one may encounter in future. It also enables one to understand the strategies to sort issues and organize them to understand the problem. Speaking and writing English of a student improves whenever group discussion takes place and students begin to write analysis (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

It also allows students to understand that in real-life scenarios, the data is often ambiguous and not clearly defined. In decision making process, students are usually forced to consider view points from multiple sources and analyze the reasons behind the fact that every individual has different recommendation to the case (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

Students may face difficulties using case analyses. They may be uncomfortable with open-ended assignments. There are students who consider education as a collection of well-explained facts that have same outcomes and assignments which always have single solution. Most of the students often lack experience with an open-ended problem-solving format in the classroom (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

The complex case study can frustrate students and demotivate them. The disadvantage of complex case studies is that the aim of the case study method will not be achieved as the thinking skills of the students are not developed. Team work is crucial if the assignment given is a team assignment. Students should know the dynamics of the team work to solve the case effectively. Finally, a very controversial case could lead to extreme emotional reactions (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

It is useful to prioritize cases by their level of difficulty. Early cases used should be easy and interesting that can generate a good level of student interest and enthusiasm. The use of quantitative data is kept to a minimum. In the mid-point, the cases should have quantitative data and bit complicated (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

In the final stage, the cases are generally complicated and difficult to analyze. They usually comprises a lot of quantitative analyses. There is no right and wrong solution to any case. The aim of these cases is to enable students to identify the key issues, analyze the context, apply the frameworks and come up with an appropriate solution (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

A real life situation is affected by extensive number of variables which are beyond the control of any person. Therefore, students not rely on the actions of the company in consideration. They should analyze and provide direction on the basis of their critical thinking (James R. Maxwell, 2006).

Importance of Case Study in Marketing


Case Studies are considered to be a marketing staple. Business utilize them to show the success of their products. It also allows businesses to show the ways their product can be used. If case studies are not presented, customers may not know the benefits of a particular product to them (Angus, 2013).

The case studies should focus on customer. Businesses should not talk about themselves, especially on their websites. Case studies can also be used to demonstrate that the success of their products. They prove that businesses are able to achieve their targets based on real stories and real results. These case studies increase the credibility of the company. They show that the product is successful amongst consumers (Angus, 2013).

Case studies are usually cheap method of conveying the objectives of the business. It only takes time to develop a good case study based on real stories. Businesses should invest in these case studies. Whenever, businesses undertake research to develop a case study, they come to know about the benefits and drawbacks of the product the company has been using (Angus, 2013).

Collection of data for case studies


The preparation of a case study requires special methods to research and collect data for the purpose. These ways should be clearly understood to develop an effective case-study. There are two research methodologies to develop case studies. They are usually based on the multiple sources of data and can be based on the review of multiple case studies (Schell, 1992).

Majority of the case-studies utilize at least two sources of data. Multiple sources, websites and multiple researchers can be used to develop case studies. Many investigators may be involved in the collection of interview, observation, administrative documents and structured surveys. These cases can be studied over a longer period of time. Another approach is to start writing at a single point in time and update them in future through follow up case studies. Holistic cases are the one which have only single source of information while embedded cases are those which have multiple sources of information. These terminologies are given by Yin in 1984. He also warns that embedded cases may be mistakenly classified as holistic cases (Schell, 1992).

The focus of the case study may be on a single case or a number of cases. The basis of research on typical, critical or deviant cases may be a single case. On the other hand, multiple cases may be useful in comparing or contrast different cases. Multiple-subject case studies are beneficial if the areas considered are too complex. The reason behind the single case is that it demonstrates a critical case in testing a well formulated strategy (Schell, 1992).

Pitfalls of Case Studies and Mitigating factors


The case study approach also has limitations. Sometimes, case studies lack scientific rigour and provide little basis for generalizations. Moreover, adequate times is needed for the purpose and it is usually difficult to interpret complex equations (Sarah Crowe, 2011).

However, there are many actions which can be taken to mitigate these factors. Researchers should have extensive knowledge of theoretical and empirical literature. The focus of research should be on the research questions while allowing different areas to be explored in detail. It is also very important to consider the scope of the case and the data should be collected of the areas which comes under the scope (Sarah Crowe, 2011).

The problem of lack of rigour can be solved through triangulation, respondent validation, the use of theoretical sampling, and transparency throughout the research process. Researchers should also bear in mind that unexpected issues can emerge and needed to be resolved. The problem of transparency can be solved by explaining the steps of case selection, data collection, the reasons for the particular methods chosen, and the researcher’s background and level of involvement in detail to every member of the research team (Sarah Crowe, 2011).

The findings of case studies cannot be generalized to the wider population until the theories have been tested in controlled conditions. Another problem is that the research may lack objectivity making the research non-scientific.



Case Studies are generally very complex and developed by multiple sources of data. It produces large amount of data for analysis. Researchers from different fields use case study method to challenge other investigations, to produce and challenge theory and have a basis to apply solutions to problems. Case Studies are usually applicable to real life, human situations and anyone can access them through written reports.

The case study approach allows new developments and events to be analyzed in detail in a real life situation. Therefore, it should be considered that whether an experimental design is either inappropriate to answer the research questions. However, if the case studies are undertaken carefully, it can yield powerful insights into many important aspects of different areas (Sarah Crowe, 2011).


Angus, A. (2013, February 28). Why Case Studies Are So Important. Retrieved from

Elberly Center Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation. (2015). Case Studies. Retrieved from

James R. Maxwell, A. F. (2006). Use of Case Study Methods in Human Resource Management, Development, and Training . 626-631.

Jessica Claudia Iacono, A. B. (2011). The use of the Case Study Method in Theory Testing. 57-65.

Sarah Crowe, K. C. (2011). The case study approach. 1-9.

Schell, C. (1992). The Value of the Case Study as a Research Strategy. 5.

Thacher, D. (2006). The Normative Case Study. 1631-1676.

The importance of case studies in research. (2011, Dec 1). Retrieved from



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