- About Case Study Reports
- Section A: Overview
Section B: Planning and Researching
- Section C: Parts of a Case Study
Section D: Reviewing and Presenting
- Section E: Revising Your Work
Section F: Resources
- Your Workspace
- Guided Writing Tools
- About Lab Reports
- Section C: Critical Features
- Section D: Parts of a Lab Report
- About Literature Review
- Section C: Parts of a Literature Review
- Section D: Critical Writing Skills
- About Reflective Writing
- Section B: How Can I Reflect?
- Section C: How Do I Get Started?
- Section D: Writing a Reflection
Case Study Report Prepared by University of Guelph
On this page, you will find a comprehensive list of resources provided within this guide. These resources include examples, printable handouts, and additional links.
Summary of Resources
Within this section, we have provided you with
- our sample case study report,
- typical structure of a case study report,
- all of the handouts found within this guide,
- external links and resources, and
- activities and exercises.
Case Study Report Template
Case study report outline template.
This outline sample of a Case Study Report should serve as a useful guide to help you get started.
Download the Case Study Report Outline Template .
Preview: PDF Worksheet
Structure of A Case Study Report
Structure of a case study report.
The components of a case study report will vary depending on your institution and your instructor’s preferences. Be sure to refer to your assignment instructions to find out what will be required.
Most case study reports will include the following major sections and components:
- Cover page including basic student and class information
- Table of contents showing where key parts of the report can be found
- Executive summary of the key recommendations and points of the report
- Introduction to the report and identification of the focal problem being faced
- Analysis of the problem and application of course/program content
- Decision criteria and possible alternatives for solving the problem
- Recommendation for solving the problem
- Implementation plan for executing the recommendation and ensuring its success
- Exhibits that help to elaborate upon the content included in the report
- Reference list of any sources that were used at any point in the case study project
Worksheet: Project Schedule Worksheet
Use this helpful worksheet for your Case Study Report .
Download the Project Schedule Worksheet worksheet, or take a look at an Example of a filled out worksheet .
Worksheet: Group Work Contract
Download the Group Work Contract worksheet.
Worksheet: Checklist For Case Study Reports
Download the Checklist For Case Study Reports worksheet.
Worksheet: Planning for the Presentation
Download the Planning for the Presentation worksheet, or take a look at an example of a filled out worksheet .
Annotated Case Study Report
Section c: reviewing and presenting, example: annotated case study report.
Learn more about writing strategies for Annotated Case Study Report .
Launch the Case Study Report annotated example that you can review in your browser.
Preview: Interactive Version
Download the Case Study Report annotated example that you can review and print.
Preview: PDF Version
Alley, M. (1998). The craft of scientific writing. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.
Cook, C. K. (1986). Line by line: How to edit your own writing. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Graff, G., Berkenstein, C. & Durst, R. (2008). They say, I say: The moves that matter in academic writing. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
Hacker, D. & Summers, N. (2001). A Canadian writer’s reference. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martins.
Hofmann, A. H. (2010). Scientific writing and communication: Papers, proposals, and presentations. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.
Lunsford, A. A. (2005). The everyday writer. (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.
Rubens, P. (Ed.). (2001). Science and technical writing: A manual of style. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
University of Guelph. (2015). Case Study Report Outline Template . (Interactive Activity).
University of Guelph. (2015). Worksheet: Project Schedule Worksheet . (PDF).
University of Guelph. (2015). Worksheet: Group Work Contract . (PDF).
University of Guelph. (2015). Worksheet: Checklist for Case Study Reports . (PDF).
University of Guelph. (2015). Worksheet: Planning for the Presentation .
University of Guelph. (2015). Example: Annotated Case Study Report . (Interactive Activity).
University of Guelph. (2015). Example: Annotated Case Study Report . (PDF).
Williams, J. & Nadel, I. B. (2004). Style: Ten lessons in clarity and grace. Toronto, ON: Pearson Canada.
Wyrick, J. (2008). Steps to writing well. (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Zinsser, W. (2006). On writing well. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
Gopen, G. & Swan, J. (1990, Nov./Dec.). The science of scientific writing. American Scientist. Retrieved June 6, 2015 from http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/id.877,y.0,no., content.true,page.1,css.print/issue.aspx
Purdue University. (2015). Online writing lab. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/08/
Next: Review and Practice
Now that you have reviewed this guide, you can try our interactive Guided Writing Tools to work on sections of your own Case Study Report.
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Writing a case study
What is a case study.
A case study requires you to analyse a specific situation and discuss how its different elements relate to theory. The case can refer to a real-life or hypothetical event, organisation, individual or group of people and/or issue. Depending upon your assignment, you will be asked to develop solutions to problems or recommendations for future action.
Generally, a case study is either formatted as an essay or a report. If it is the latter, your assignment is often divided into sections with headings and subheadings to ensure easy access to key points of interest.
There are different approaches to case studies, so always check the specific instructions you have been given. There are two main types of case studies: descriptive and problem-solving .
Case study types accordion
Descriptive case studies.
- ask you to explore a specific event or issue to identify the key facts, what happened and who was/is involved.
- can be used to compare two instances of an event to illustrate how one is similar to the other.
- generally does not include solutions or recommendations as its main purpose is to help the reader or stakeholder to gain greater insight into the different dimensions of the event, etc. and/or to make an informed decision about the event, etc.
- In Nursing, you could be asked to select a medical clinic or hospital as your case study and then apply what you have studied in class about wound care approaches. You would then identify and apply the relevant theories of wound care management discussed in class to your case.
Problem-solving case studies
- ask you to critically examine an issue related to a specific individual or group, and then recommend and justify solutions to the issue, integrating theory and practice.
- In Business and Economics, you could be asked to describe a critical incident in the workplace. Your role as the manager is to apply your knowledge and skills of key intercultural communication concepts and theories in management to determine the causes of the conflict and propose relevant communication strategies to avoid and/or resolve it.
Tips for undertaking a problem-based case study View
Writing to your audience.
Your language expression should be persuasive and user-centred communication. To do this, you need to carefully research your audience, or your stakeholders . Your stakeholders are not only those people who will read your writing, but also people who will be impacted by any decisions or recommendations you choose to include. In other words, your audience may be varied with different needs and perspectives. This applies to both your case study as an assessment task and a report in your workplace.
Understanding your audience will help you to edit how you express your information, including tailoring your language expression, tone and style to meet the expectations of your stakeholders. For example, if your case study is written for the Minister of Health, then your tone will need to be formal, ensuring that any technical terms are clearly and concisely explained with concrete examples.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Who will read my case study and why?
- What are the stakeholders’ needs, preferences, expectations and goals?
- How can I write clearly and concisely for this particular audience?
- How will the stakeholders use my case study in their work?
- What are the relevant technical terms and have I explained them in clear and concise language?
Writing up your case study
If your case study is in the form of a report, you can divide it into 8 main sections, as outlined below. However, these vary depending on discipline-specific requirements and assessment criteria.
1. Executive Summary/Synopsis
- Introduce the topic area of the report.
- Outline the purpose of the case study.
- Outline the key issue(s) and finding(s) without the specific details.
- Identify the theory used.
- Summarise recommendations.
- Summarise the your task
- Briefly outline the case to identify its significance.
- State the report's aim(s).
- Provide the organisation of the main ideas in the report.
- Briefly describe the key problem and its significance (You usually do not need to provide details of findings or recommendations. However, it is best to first check your assessment task instructions.)
- presenting the central issue(s) under analysis,
- providing your reasoning for your choices such as supporting your findings with facts given in the case, the relevant theory and course concepts
- highlighting any underlying problems.
- Identify and justify your methodology and analytical tools.This might not be applicable to your assessment, so you will need to check your assessment instructions.
This section is often divided into sub-sections. Your headings and subheadings need to be informative and concise as they act as a guide for the reader to the contents of that section.
- Summarise the major problem(s).
- Identify alternative solutions to these major problem(s).
- Briefly outline each alternative solution where necessary and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages.
- Depending on your assessment criteria, you might need to refer to theory or professional practice here.
Note that as a case study is based on a specific situation, it is difficult to generalise your findings to other situations. Make sure that your discussion focuses on your case and what can be learnt from your specific case analysis for your stakeholders.
- Restate the purpose of the report
- Sum up the main points from the findings, discussion and recommendations.
- Restate the limitations if required.
- Choose which of the alternative solutions should be adopted.
- Briefly justify your choice, explaining how it will solve the major problem/s.
- Remember to integrate theory and practice as discussed in your unit with respect to the case.
- If needed, suggest an action plan, including who should take action, when and what steps, and how to assess the action taken.
- If appropriate include a rough estimate of costs (both financial and time).
This section is sometimes divided into Recommendations and Implementation with details of the action plan placed in the Implementation section.
Recommendations should be written in a persuasive, audience-centred style that communicates your suggestions clearly, concisely and precisely .
- List in alphabetical order all the references cited in the report.
- Make sure to accurately format your references according to the specified referencing style for your unit.
8. Appendices (if any)
- Attach any original data that relates to your analysis and the case but which would have interrupted the flow of the main body.
Ivančević-Otanjac, M., & Milojević, I. (2015). Writing a case report in English. Srpski arhiv za celokupno lekarstvo , 143 (1-2), 116-118.
Take it further
Buseco: report writing.
This resource is designed to assist you in completing a business report. It provides a guide to approaching and structuring your report and includes annotated examples with written feedback.
Engineering: Lab report
This resource expands on the general report structure and provides useful tips and examples on how to turn practical work and lab experiments into a written lab report.
Engineering: Technical report
This resource expands on the general report structure and provides useful tips and examples on how to write a report for key stakeholders, using experimental and practical data.
This resource provides information about what reports look like in IT, and how you might consider structuring your IT report. It includes student samples for each possible section of an IT report, along with video and written feedback.
MNHS: Health sciences case report
This resource provides a guide to approaching and structuring a patient-based case report. It includes an annotated example with written feedback.
MNHS: Comparative report
This resource is designed to assist you in completing your Comparative Report [CR] for Integrating Science and Practice [iSAP] assessment tasks. It provides a guide to approaching and structuring your report and includes an annotated example with written feedback.
MNHS: Psychology case report
This resource provides detailed guidance on the structure and content of the psychology case report, with numerous examples from the recommended reading.
Science: Lab report
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All You Wanted to Know About How to Write a Case Study
What do you study in your college? If you are a psychology, sociology, or anthropology student, we bet you might be familiar with what a case study is. This research method is used to study a certain person, group, or situation. In this guide from our dissertation writing service , you will learn how to write a case study professionally, from researching to citing sources properly. Also, we will explore different types of case studies and show you examples — so that you won’t have any other questions left.
What Is a Case Study?
A case study is a subcategory of research design which investigates problems and offers solutions. Case studies can range from academic research studies to corporate promotional tools trying to sell an idea—their scope is quite vast.
What Is the Difference Between a Research Paper and a Case Study?
While research papers turn the reader’s attention to a certain problem, case studies go even further. Case study guidelines require students to pay attention to details, examining issues closely and in-depth using different research methods. For example, case studies may be used to examine court cases if you study Law, or a patient's health history if you study Medicine. Case studies are also used in Marketing, which are thorough, empirically supported analysis of a good or service's performance. Well-designed case studies can be valuable for prospective customers as they can identify and solve the potential customers pain point.
Case studies involve a lot of storytelling – they usually examine particular cases for a person or a group of people. This method of research is very helpful, as it is very practical and can give a lot of hands-on information. Most commonly, the length of the case study is about 500-900 words, which is much less than the length of an average research paper.
The structure of a case study is very similar to storytelling. It has a protagonist or main character, which in your case is actually a problem you are trying to solve. You can use the system of 3 Acts to make it a compelling story. It should have an introduction, rising action, a climax where transformation occurs, falling action, and a solution.
Here is a rough formula for you to use in your case study:
Problem (Act I): > Solution (Act II) > Result (Act III) > Conclusion.
Types of Case Studies
The purpose of a case study is to provide detailed reports on an event, an institution, a place, future customers, or pretty much anything. There are a few common types of case study, but the type depends on the topic. The following are the most common domains where case studies are needed:
- Historical case studies are great to learn from. Historical events have a multitude of source info offering different perspectives. There are always modern parallels where these perspectives can be applied, compared, and thoroughly analyzed.
- Problem-oriented case studies are usually used for solving problems. These are often assigned as theoretical situations where you need to immerse yourself in the situation to examine it. Imagine you’re working for a startup and you’ve just noticed a significant flaw in your product’s design. Before taking it to the senior manager, you want to do a comprehensive study on the issue and provide solutions. On a greater scale, problem-oriented case studies are a vital part of relevant socio-economic discussions.
- Cumulative case studies collect information and offer comparisons. In business, case studies are often used to tell people about the value of a product.
- Critical case studies explore the causes and effects of a certain case.
- Illustrative case studies describe certain events, investigating outcomes and lessons learned.
Case Study Format
The case study format is typically made up of eight parts:
- Executive Summary. Explain what you will examine in the case study. Write an overview of the field you’re researching. Make a thesis statement and sum up the results of your observation in a maximum of 2 sentences.
- Background. Provide background information and the most relevant facts. Isolate the issues.
- Case Evaluation. Isolate the sections of the study you want to focus on. In it, explain why something is working or is not working.
- Proposed Solutions. Offer realistic ways to solve what isn’t working or how to improve its current condition. Explain why these solutions work by offering testable evidence.
- Conclusion. Summarize the main points from the case evaluations and proposed solutions. 6. Recommendations. Talk about the strategy that you should choose. Explain why this choice is the most appropriate.
- Implementation. Explain how to put the specific strategies into action.
- References. Provide all the citations.
How to Write a Case Study
Let's discover how to write a case study.
Setting Up the Research
When writing a case study, remember that research should always come first. Reading many different sources and analyzing other points of view will help you come up with more creative solutions. You can also conduct an actual interview to thoroughly investigate the customer story that you'll need for your case study. Including all of the necessary research, writing a case study may take some time. The research process involves doing the following:
- Define your objective. Explain the reason why you’re presenting your subject. Figure out where you will feature your case study; whether it is written, on video, shown as an infographic, streamed as a podcast, etc.
- Determine who will be the right candidate for your case study. Get permission, quotes, and other features that will make your case study effective. Get in touch with your candidate to see if they approve of being part of your work. Study that candidate’s situation and note down what caused it.
- Identify which various consequences could result from the situation. Follow these guidelines on how to start a case study: surf the net to find some general information you might find useful.
- Make a list of credible sources and examine them. Seek out important facts and highlight problems. Always write down your ideas and make sure to brainstorm.
- Focus on several key issues – why they exist, and how they impact your research subject. Think of several unique solutions. Draw from class discussions, readings, and personal experience. When writing a case study, focus on the best solution and explore it in depth. After having all your research in place, writing a case study will be easy. You may first want to check the rubric and criteria of your assignment for the correct case study structure.
Read Also: 'CREDIBLE SOURCES: WHAT ARE THEY?'
Although your instructor might be looking at slightly different criteria, every case study rubric essentially has the same standards. Your professor will want you to exhibit 8 different outcomes:
- Correctly identify the concepts, theories, and practices in the discipline.
- Identify the relevant theories and principles associated with the particular study.
- Evaluate legal and ethical principles and apply them to your decision-making.
- Recognize the global importance and contribution of your case.
- Construct a coherent summary and explanation of the study.
- Demonstrate analytical and critical-thinking skills.
- Explain the interrelationships between the environment and nature.
- Integrate theory and practice of the discipline within the analysis.
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Case Study Outline
Let's look at the structure of an outline based on the issue of the alcoholic addiction of 30 people.
- Statement of the issue: Alcoholism is a disease rather than a weakness of character.
- Presentation of the problem: Alcoholism is affecting more than 14 million people in the USA, which makes it the third most common mental illness there.
- Explanation of the terms: In the past, alcoholism was commonly referred to as alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction. Alcoholism is now the more severe stage of this addiction in the disorder spectrum.
- Hypotheses: Drinking in excess can lead to the use of other drugs.
- Importance of your story: How the information you present can help people with their addictions.
- Background of the story: Include an explanation of why you chose this topic.
- Presentation of analysis and data: Describe the criteria for choosing 30 candidates, the structure of the interview, and the outcomes.
- Strong argument 1: ex. X% of candidates dealing with anxiety and depression...
- Strong argument 2: ex. X amount of people started drinking by their mid-teens.
- Strong argument 3: ex. X% of respondents’ parents had issues with alcohol.
- Concluding statement: I have researched if alcoholism is a disease and found out that…
- Recommendations: Ways and actions for preventing alcohol use.
Writing a Case Study Draft
After you’ve done your case study research and written the outline, it’s time to focus on the draft. In a draft, you have to develop and write your case study by using: the data which you collected throughout the research, interviews, and the analysis processes that were undertaken. Follow these rules for the draft:
- Your draft should contain at least 4 sections: an introduction; a body where you should include background information, an explanation of why you decided to do this case study, and a presentation of your main findings; a conclusion where you present data; and references.
- In the introduction, you should set the pace very clearly. You can even raise a question or quote someone you interviewed in the research phase. It must provide adequate background information on the topic. The background may include analyses of previous studies on your topic. Include the aim of your case here as well. Think of it as a thesis statement. The aim must describe the purpose of your work—presenting the issues that you want to tackle. Include background information, such as photos or videos you used when doing the research.
- Describe your unique research process, whether it was through interviews, observations, academic journals, etc. The next point includes providing the results of your research. Tell the audience what you found out. Why is this important, and what could be learned from it? Discuss the real implications of the problem and its significance in the world.
- Include quotes and data (such as findings, percentages, and awards). This will add a personal touch and better credibility to the case you present. Explain what results you find during your interviews in regards to the problem and how it developed. Also, write about solutions which have already been proposed by other people who have already written about this case.
- At the end of your case study, you should offer possible solutions, but don’t worry about solving them yourself.
Use Data to Illustrate Key Points in Your Case Study
Even though your case study is a story, it should be based on evidence. Use as much data as possible to illustrate your point. Without the right data, your case study may appear weak and the readers may not be able to relate to your issue as much as they should. Let's see the examples from essay writing service :
With data: Alcoholism is affecting more than 14 million people in the USA, which makes it the third most common mental illness there. Without data: A lot of people suffer from alcoholism in the United States.
Try to include as many credible sources as possible. You may have terms or sources that could be hard for other cultures to understand. If this is the case, you should include them in the appendix or Notes for the Instructor or Professor.
Finalizing the Draft: Checklist
After you finish drafting your case study, polish it up by answering these ‘ask yourself’ questions and think about how to end your case study:
- Check that you follow the correct case study format, also in regards to text formatting.
- Check that your work is consistent with its referencing and citation style.
- Micro-editing — check for grammar and spelling issues.
- Macro-editing — does ‘the big picture’ come across to the reader? Is there enough raw data, such as real-life examples or personal experiences? Have you made your data collection process completely transparent? Does your analysis provide a clear conclusion, allowing for further research and practice?
Problems to avoid:
- Overgeneralization – Do not go into further research that deviates from the main problem.
- Failure to Document Limitations – Just as you have to clearly state the limitations of a general research study, you must describe the specific limitations inherent in the subject of analysis.
- Failure to Extrapolate All Possible Implications – Just as you don't want to over-generalize from your case study findings, you also have to be thorough in the consideration of all possible outcomes or recommendations derived from your findings.
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How to Create a Title Page and Cite a Case Study
Let's see how to create an awesome title page.
Your title page depends on the prescribed citation format. The title page should include:
- A title that attracts some attention and describes your study
- The title should have the words “case study” in it
- The title should range between 5-9 words in length
- Your name and contact information
- Your finished paper should be only 500 to 1,500 words in length. With this type of assignment, write effectively and avoid fluff.
Here is a template for the APA and MLA format title page:
There are some cases when you need to cite someone else's study in your own one – therefore, you need to master how to cite a case study. A case study is like a research paper when it comes to citations. You can cite it like you cite a book, depending on what style you need.
Citation Example in MLA Hill, Linda, Tarun Khanna, and Emily A. Stecker. HCL Technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Publishing, 2008. Print.
Citation Example in APA Hill, L., Khanna, T., & Stecker, E. A. (2008). HCL Technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Publishing.
Citation Example in Chicago Hill, Linda, Tarun Khanna, and Emily A. Stecker. HCL Technologies.
Case Study Examples
To give you an idea of a professional case study example, we gathered and linked some below.
Eastman Kodak Case Study
Case Study Example: Audi Trains Mexican Autoworkers in Germany
To conclude, a case study is one of the best methods of getting an overview of what happened to a person, a group, or a situation in practice. It allows you to have an in-depth glance at the real-life problems that businesses, healthcare industry, criminal justice, etc. may face. This insight helps us look at such situations in a different light. This is because we see scenarios that we otherwise would not, without necessarily being there. If you need custom essays , try our research paper writing services .
Get Help Form Qualified Writers
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Writing the Case Study
How should i approach it.
Investigating and writing up a report will require the completion of specific stages. You will need to timetable sufficient time to complete each stage, but also be aware that some stages are revisited while you are analysing the case and writing the report. Thinking and writing becomes a cyclical process.
Stages essential for analysing and writing a case study report may include:
1. Define the task
Your first step is to read the case and all the instructions for the assignment.
Use the checklist as a guide. You can print out this checklist to record your definition of the task. You may find it helpful to compare and discuss your understanding of the task with other students or colleagues. Try to visualise all the elements of the problem by using mind-maps to chart the main issues on a large piece of paper.
Checklist for defining the task
2. consider which theories and analysis tools may apply to the situation.
Your course notes, text books and readings should indicate the appropriate methodology for your case study analysis
Identify the problems
In your initial analysis you should identify the problems (issues/risks etc.) inherent in the case. Read to uncover the organisation's history of success and failure in relation to the case, the communication processes that are occurring, and relevant current strengths and weaknesses of the organisation or its activities that relate to the case.
A useful technique here is to create a mind-map of the situation, the processes and problems or issues. Use the mind-map to separate the problem elements and to note the most important and their relationships.
In your notes, document the causes and consequences of the problems highlighted in the case and also your preliminary ideas for solutions. Be prepared to discover more problems and solutions as you continue your analysis of the case!
Apply analysis tools
There are many tools available for analysis in the management and engineering fields but you need to evaluate which tools would best apply to your assessment of the issues/problems / risks etc. If you are unsure about which tool to use, read the rationale and purpose of each tool and discuss the options with your colleagues and course facilitator.
Document your results and ideas
It is important to create a complete set of notes that will be useful to refer to when writing up the case study report. For this reason record your findings and your own thoughts on the case. Also clearly document any testing, calculations or specifications that relate to your investigation of solutions as well.
3. Make recommendations and form conclusions
Recommendations are a clear statement (in text and/or table format) of what action should be taken to minimise, solve or remove the problems being investigated. Recommendations usually require a detailed action plan for implementation of a solution or a range of solutions depending on future events/scenarios.
According to Jarvis (2002), "for each part of your solution ask:
- Will it work - why - what could possibly go wrong?
- Who will do it, are they capable, who else might be, who might be block?
- When- timing-sequence?
- How and how much –cost it out- where are the pay offs/savings?"
Conclusions are drawn from your analysis and assessment of the situation. You usually consider must and desirable objectives. Also consider the limitations of your recommendations based on your testing of solutions and original assumptions that had to be made in the case.
4. Write the report
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.
- Be selective
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'.
- Edit, edit, edit
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
5. Prepare the reference list
The reference list is a list of all the sources you refer to in the report. If you do not reference sources of information, your assignment could be failed. As you read and take notes remember to collect the following information so that you can easily and quickly assemble your reference list.
Further advice on the conventions for formatting reference lists and 'in text' references can be found in the Academic Skills toolkit .
6. Prepare cover/title page
Check your course requirements on the content and layout of the title page. As a general rule include the following:
- Institution the authors are affiliated with: eg UNSW School of Safety Science
- Title of the report
Eg "BHP Billiton Risk Assessment: Strategic Political Risks to BHP's Operations In Angola".
- Author/s names (+ student numbers)
- Course name and code
- Date document was submitted
7. Final edit
At this stage it is best if you can leave the report for a day or so before conducting a final proof-read. This assists you to approach your report as a 'reader' rather than as the 'writer' so you will more easily see errors. You should expect to spend a couple of hours on this task.
- Reread the assignment guidelines so the task is fresh in your mind. Read the whole report to check that there is a logical structure to the whole report.
- Check each section of the report (including your executive summary, introduction and conclusion) for content and structure. Note changes to make in the sequence of sections.
- Note (highlight) changes you wish to make within sections (delete, simplify, expand, reorganise). In particular look closely at transition sections, figures and tables, sentences, referencing conventions and document formatting.
- Read through the report and make changes as required.
Here are some editing activities for you to try!
How is a case study organised?
Engineering & science
- Report writing
- Technical writing
- Writing lab reports
- Honours thesis writing
- Editing Activities
- Report Writing Checklist
- How a case study is organised
- What is the marker looking for?
- How can I improve my writing?
- ^ More support
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- J Can Chiropr Assoc
- v.52(4); 2008 Dec
Guidelines to the writing of case studies
Dr. brian budgell.
* Département chiropratique, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, 3351, boul des Forges, Trois-Rivières, Qc, Canada G9A 5H7
Dr. Brian Budgell, DC, PhD, JCCA Editorial Board
Case studies are an invaluable record of the clinical practices of a profession. While case studies cannot provide specific guidance for the management of successive patients, they are a record of clinical interactions which help us to frame questions for more rigorously designed clinical studies. Case studies also provide valuable teaching material, demonstrating both classical and unusual presentations which may confront the practitioner. Quite obviously, since the overwhelming majority of clinical interactions occur in the field, not in teaching or research facilities, it falls to the field practitioner to record and pass on their experiences. However, field practitioners generally are not well-practised in writing for publication, and so may hesitate to embark on the task of carrying a case study to publication. These guidelines are intended to assist the relatively novice writer – practitioner or student – in efficiently navigating the relatively easy course to publication of a quality case study. Guidelines are not intended to be proscriptive, and so throughout this document we advise what authors “may” or “should” do, rather than what they “must” do. Authors may decide that the particular circumstances of their case study justify digression from our recommendations.
Additional and useful resources for chiropractic case studies include:
- Waalen JK. Single subject research designs. J Can Chirop Assoc 1991; 35(2):95–97.
- Gleberzon BJ. A peer-reviewer’s plea. J Can Chirop Assoc 2006; 50(2):107.
- Merritt L. Case reports: an important contribution to chiropractic literature. J Can Chiropr Assoc 2007; 51(2):72–74.
Portions of these guidelines were derived from Budgell B. Writing a biomedical research paper. Tokyo: Springer Japan KK, 2008.
This set of guidelines provides both instructions and a template for the writing of case reports for publication. You might want to skip forward and take a quick look at the template now, as we will be using it as the basis for your own case study later on. While the guidelines and template contain much detail, your finished case study should be only 500 to 1,500 words in length. Therefore, you will need to write efficiently and avoid unnecessarily flowery language.
These guidelines for the writing of case studies are designed to be consistent with the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” referenced elsewhere in the JCCA instructions to authors.
After this brief introduction, the guidelines below will follow the headings of our template. Hence, it is possible to work section by section through the template to quickly produce a first draft of your study. To begin with, however, you must have a clear sense of the value of the study which you wish to describe. Therefore, before beginning to write the study itself, you should gather all of the materials relevant to the case – clinical notes, lab reports, x-rays etc. – and form a clear picture of the story that you wish to share with your profession. At the most superficial level, you may want to ask yourself “What is interesting about this case?” Keep your answer in mind as your write, because sometimes we become lost in our writing and forget the message that we want to convey.
Another important general rule for writing case studies is to stick to the facts. A case study should be a fairly modest description of what actually happened. Speculation about underlying mechanisms of the disease process or treatment should be restrained. Field practitioners and students are seldom well-prepared to discuss physiology or pathology. This is best left to experts in those fields. The thing of greatest value that you can provide to your colleagues is an honest record of clinical events.
Finally, remember that a case study is primarily a chronicle of a patient’s progress, not a story about chiropractic. Editorial or promotional remarks do not belong in a case study, no matter how great our enthusiasm. It is best to simply tell the story and let the outcome speak for itself. With these points in mind, let’s begin the process of writing the case study:
- Title: The title page will contain the full title of the article. Remember that many people may find our article by searching on the internet. They may have to decide, just by looking at the title, whether or not they want to access the full article. A title which is vague or non-specific may not attract their attention. Thus, our title should contain the phrase “case study,” “case report” or “case series” as is appropriate to the contents. The two most common formats of titles are nominal and compound. A nominal title is a single phrase, for example “A case study of hypertension which responded to spinal manipulation.” A compound title consists of two phrases in succession, for example “Response of hypertension to spinal manipulation: a case study.” Keep in mind that titles of articles in leading journals average between 8 and 9 words in length.
- Other contents for the title page should be as in the general JCCA instructions to authors. Remember that for a case study, we would not expect to have more than one or two authors. In order to be listed as an author, a person must have an intellectual stake in the writing – at the very least they must be able to explain and even defend the article. Someone who has only provided technical assistance, as valuable as that may be, may be acknowledged at the end of the article, but would not be listed as an author. Contact information – either home or institutional – should be provided for each author along with the authors’ academic qualifications. If there is more than one author, one author must be identified as the corresponding author – the person whom people should contact if they have questions or comments about the study.
- Key words: Provide key words under which the article will be listed. These are the words which would be used when searching for the article using a search engine such as Medline. When practical, we should choose key words from a standard list of keywords, such as MeSH (Medical subject headings). A copy of MeSH is available in most libraries. If we can’t access a copy and we want to make sure that our keywords are included in the MeSH library, we can visit this address: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/entrez/meshbrowser.cgi
A narrative abstract consists of a short version of the whole paper. There are no headings within the narrative abstract. The author simply tries to summarize the paper into a story which flows logically.
A structured abstract uses subheadings. Structured abstracts are becoming more popular for basic scientific and clinical studies, since they standardize the abstract and ensure that certain information is included. This is very useful for readers who search for articles on the internet. Often the abstract is displayed by a search engine, and on the basis of the abstract the reader will decide whether or not to download the full article (which may require payment of a fee). With a structured abstract, the reader is more likely to be given the information which they need to decide whether to go on to the full article, and so this style is encouraged. The JCCA recommends the use of structured abstracts for case studies.
Since they are summaries, both narrative and structured abstracts are easier to write once we have finished the rest of the article. We include a template for a structured abstract and encourage authors to make use of it. Our sub-headings will be:
- Introduction: This consists of one or two sentences to describe the context of the case and summarize the entire article.
- Case presentation: Several sentences describe the history and results of any examinations performed. The working diagnosis and management of the case are described.
- Management and Outcome: Simply describe the course of the patient’s complaint. Where possible, make reference to any outcome measures which you used to objectively demonstrate how the patient’s condition evolved through the course of management.
- Discussion: Synthesize the foregoing subsections and explain both correlations and apparent inconsistencies. If appropriate to the case, within one or two sentences describe the lessons to be learned.
- Introduction: At the beginning of these guidelines we suggested that we need to have a clear idea of what is particularly interesting about the case we want to describe. The introduction is where we convey this to the reader. It is useful to begin by placing the study in a historical or social context. If similar cases have been reported previously, we describe them briefly. If there is something especially challenging about the diagnosis or management of the condition that we are describing, now is our chance to bring that out. Each time we refer to a previous study, we cite the reference (usually at the end of the sentence). Our introduction doesn’t need to be more than a few paragraphs long, and our objective is to have the reader understand clearly, but in a general sense, why it is useful for them to be reading about this case.
The next step is to describe the results of our clinical examination. Again, we should write in an efficient narrative style, restricting ourselves to the relevant information. It is not necessary to include every detail in our clinical notes.
If we are using a named orthopedic or neurological test, it is best to both name and describe the test (since some people may know the test by a different name). Also, we should describe the actual results, since not all readers will have the same understanding of what constitutes a “positive” or “negative” result.
X-rays or other images are only helpful if they are clear enough to be easily reproduced and if they are accompanied by a legend. Be sure that any information that might identify a patient is removed before the image is submitted.
At this point, or at the beginning of the next section, we will want to present our working diagnosis or clinical impression of the patient.
It is useful for the reader to know how long the patient was under care and how many times they were treated. Additionally, we should be as specific as possible in describing the treatment that we used. It does not help the reader to simply say that the patient received “chiropractic care.” Exactly what treatment did we use? If we used spinal manipulation, it is best to name the technique, if a common name exists, and also to describe the manipulation. Remember that our case study may be read by people who are not familiar with spinal manipulation, and, even within chiropractic circles, nomenclature for technique is not well standardized.
We may want to include the patient’s own reports of improvement or worsening. However, whenever possible we should try to use a well-validated method of measuring their improvement. For case studies, it may be possible to use data from visual analogue scales (VAS) for pain, or a journal of medication usage.
It is useful to include in this section an indication of how and why treatment finished. Did we decide to terminate care, and if so, why? Did the patient withdraw from care or did we refer them to another practitioner?
- Discussion: In this section we may want to identify any questions that the case raises. It is not our duty to provide a complete physiological explanation for everything that we observed. This is usually impossible. Nor should we feel obligated to list or generate all of the possible hypotheses that might explain the course of the patient’s condition. If there is a well established item of physiology or pathology which illuminates the case, we certainly include it, but remember that we are writing what is primarily a clinical chronicle, not a basic scientific paper. Finally, we summarize the lessons learned from this case.
- Acknowledgments: If someone provided assistance with the preparation of the case study, we thank them briefly. It is neither necessary nor conventional to thank the patient (although we appreciate what they have taught us). It would generally be regarded as excessive and inappropriate to thank others, such as teachers or colleagues who did not directly participate in preparation of the paper.
A popular search engine for English-language references is Medline: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
- Legends: If we used any tables, figures or photographs, they should be accompanied by a succinct explanation. A good rule for graphs is that they should contain sufficient information to be generally decipherable without reference to a legend.
- Tables, figures and photographs should be included at the end of the manuscript.
- Permissions: If any tables, figures or photographs, or substantial quotations, have been borrowed from other publications, we must include a letter of permission from the publisher. Also, if we use any photographs which might identify a patient, we will need their written permission.
In addition, patient consent to publish the case report is also required.
- Name, academic degrees and affiliation
Name, address and telephone number of corresponding author
Statement that patient consent was obtained
Sources of financial support, if any
Key words: (limit of five)
Abstract: (maximum of 150 words)
- Case Presentation
- Management and Outcome
Provide a context for the case and describe any similar cases previously reported.
- Introductory sentence: e.g. This 25 year old female office worker presented for the treatment of recurrent headaches.
- Describe the essential nature of the complaint, including location, intensity and associated symptoms: e.g. Her headaches are primarily in the suboccipital region, bilaterally but worse on the right. Sometimes there is radiation towards the right temple. She describes the pain as having an intensity of up to 5 out of ten, accompanied by a feeling of tension in the back of the head. When the pain is particularly bad, she feels that her vision is blurred.
- Further development of history including details of time and circumstances of onset, and the evolution of the complaint: e.g. This problem began to develop three years ago when she commenced work as a data entry clerk. Her headaches have increased in frequency in the past year, now occurring three to four days per week.
- Describe relieving and aggravating factors, including responses to other treatment: e.g. The pain seems to be worse towards the end of the work day and is aggravated by stress. Aspirin provides some relieve. She has not sought any other treatment.
- Include other health history, if relevant: e.g. Otherwise the patient reports that she is in good health.
- Include family history, if relevant: e.g. There is no family history of headaches.
- Summarize the results of examination, which might include general observation and postural analysis, orthopedic exam, neurological exam and chiropractic examination (static and motion palpation): e.g. Examination revealed an otherwise fit-looking young woman with slight anterior carriage of the head. Cervical active ranges of motion were full and painless except for some slight restriction of left lateral bending and rotation of the head to the left. These motions were accompanied by discomfort in the right side of the neck. Cervical compression of the neck in the neutral position did not create discomfort. However, compression of the neck in right rotation and extension produced some right suboccipital pain. Cranial nerve examination was normal. Upper limb motor, sensory and reflex functions were normal. With the patient in the supine position, static palpation revealed tender trigger points bilaterally in the cervical musculature and right trapezius. Motion palpation revealed restrictions of right and left rotation in the upper cervical spine, and restriction of left lateral bending in the mid to lower cervical spine. Blood pressure was 110/70. Houle’s test (holding the neck in extension and rotation for 30 seconds) did not produce nystagmus or dizziness. There were no carotid bruits.
- The patient was diagnosed with cervicogenic headache due to chronic postural strain.
Management and Outcome:
- Describe as specifically as possible the treatment provided, including the nature of the treatment, and the frequency and duration of care: e.g. The patient undertook a course of treatment consisting of cervical and upper thoracic spinal manipulation three times per week for two weeks. Manipulation was accompanied by trigger point therapy to the paraspinal muscles and stretching of the upper trapezius. Additionally, advice was provided concerning maintenance of proper posture at work. The patient was also instructed in the use of a cervical pillow.
- If possible, refer to objective measures of the patient’s progress: e.g. The patient maintained a headache diary indicating that she had two headaches during the first week of care, and one headache the following week. Furthermore the intensity of her headaches declined throughout the course of treatment.
- Describe the resolution of care: e.g. Based on the patient’s reported progress during the first two weeks of care, she received an additional two treatments in each of the subsequent two weeks. During the last week of care she experienced no headaches and reported feeling generally more energetic than before commencing care. Following a total of four weeks of care (10 treatments) she was discharged.
Synthesize foregoing sections: e.g. The distinction between migraine and cervicogenic headache is not always clear. However, this case demonstrates several features …
Summarize the case and any lessons learned: e.g. This case demonstrates a classical presentation of cervicogenic headache which resolved quickly with a course of spinal manipulation, supportive soft-tissue therapy and postural advice.
References: (using Vancouver style) e.g.
1 Terret AGJ. Vertebrogenic hearing deficit, the spine and spinal manipulation therapy: a search to validate the DD Palmer/Harvey Lillard experience. Chiropr J Aust 2002; 32:14–26.
Legends: (tables, figures or images are numbered according to the order in which they appear in the text.) e.g.
Figure 1: Intensity of headaches as recorded on a visual analogue scale (vertical axis) versus time (horizontal axis) during the four weeks that the patient was under care. Treatment was given on days 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 22 and 25. Headache frequency and intensity is seen to fall over time.