Case Study Analysis Guidelines
The case study method is a form of stimulation aimed at providing students with an understanding of the complexities relating to specific circumstances faced on the job. A case study should contain a complete description of an issue including all known events, people, and other impacting factors. It represents a situation/concern to be analyzed and resolved. Case studies should allow students to:
• Ask (or ask themselves) questions that help extract key information from a case
• Diagnose the case
• Define all the different issues involved in the case
• Make well thought out, fact-based decisions
• Formulate principles for handling future cases
In the field of public administration, the case study method is “an action plan” for resolving community issues. It provides clarity of purpose for what needs to be accomplished to effectively connect citizens to governance.
“Few public administrators expect ever to find a ‘one size fits all’ issue resolving approach for the vast range of circumstances/concerns that they are likely to encounter” (Public Administration – The Profession and the Practice).
Principles for Creating a Case Study Analysis
Each case should focus on a single issue/situation clearly delineated in one or two sentences, at most, and separated from paragraphs so as to easily determine what it is we are about to address.
A case study analysis must contain all the data necessary to arrive at a recommendation for resolution:
• Facts and events of the case
• Feelings, habits, attitudes, and expectations of the key stakeholders
• A clear description of the setting (time, place, and physical and social environment)
Steps in Creating a Case Study
1. Identify the Issue
o Must illustrate one or several specific principles.
o Will constitute the heart of the case study and thus influence all parts including how it is represented.
o Case studies are stories; they teach what stories teach – which happens to be what administrators most need to learn.
o Create an Outline of the Case Study
Select facts and incidents that will be easily recognized and understood by participants.
Organize these in a logical sequence. Remove any inflated or exaggerated components that might diminish the authenticity of the case.
2. Identify the Stakeholders
o Clearly identify each stakeholder in terms of his/her position.
o Write up the case study.
o Whether the case study is short or long, present a clear, concise, and coherent portrait of the stakeholders, events, and information.
o Use a writing style that is simple and direct – no long winded dissertations – one that speaks right to the reader.
o Occasionally include brief dialogues to create interest and allow readers to hear what the stakeholders in the case study have to say for themselves.
o In the case introduction, present your key stakeholders and provide information that clearly identifies him/her/them. Establish the relationship between the stakeholders and the issue under study. Include the organizational context.
o Recount events or incidents in chronological order.
o Occasionally use “flashbacks” to fill in gaps or heighten the sense of realism in the case. In certain case studies, you may have events overlap, occur simultaneously, or repeat themselves.
o In the concluding sentence or paragraph of the case study, point out the need for some form of action: a decision, a recommendation for resolution, a weighing of alternatives, or a combination of these.
o End with a bridge of some sort that leads from your case study presentation to participant discussion. Three types of conclusion are frequently used: 1) open-ended conclusion: the participants define the facts and problems, 2) directed conclusions: specific questions, tasks, or even a quiz following a case study, 3) closed conclusions: a textbook solution is provided at the end of the case study.
3. Identify Stakeholder Perspectives
o Understand that public administration is politics – not the “obvious politics” of high stakes electioneering and policy making, but the “other politics” of small-scale, behind the scenes problems solving: the nature of administrative casework follows accordingly.
o Stories don’t come ready-made but must be formed through selection and shaping from the flow of events: “Case synthesis precedes case analysis.”
o Keep your eye on the entire set of interacting decision-makers and interlocking policies: it’s there you are most likely to find any lurking problems of under-determination.
o It’s usually helpful to break out the goals being pursued, the variables that must be modified to move toward the goals, and the criteria to be borne in mind when pursuing the goals; it’s in those criteria that problems of over-determinationare likely to originate.
o Remember Mile’s Law: “Where one stands depends on where one sits.”
o Search for the paradigm of the case, but expect departures from the underlying pattern; explore the progression of circumstances.
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