WRITING A CASE STUDY ANALYSIS
Often, as part of your course requirements, you will need to present your instructor with a written case analysis.This may be an individual or a group report. Whatever the situation, there are certain guidelines to follow in writing a case analysis that will improve the evaluation your work will receive from your instructor. Before we discuss these guidelines and before you use them, make sure that they do not conflict with any directions your instructor has given you.
The structure of your written report is critical. Generally, if you follow the steps for analysis discussed in the previous section, you already will have a good structure for your written discussion. All reports begin with an introduction to the case. In it you outline briefly what the company does, how it developed historically, what problems it is experiencing, and how you are going to approach the issues in the case write-up. Do this sequentially by writing, for example, "First, we discuss the environment of Company X...Third, we discuss Company X’s business-level strategy... Last, we provide recommendations for turning around Company X’s business."
In the second part of the case write-up, the strategic-analysis section, do the SWOT analysis, analyze and discuss the nature and problems of the company’s business-level and corporate strategy, and then analyze its structure and control systems. Make sure you use plenty of headings and subheadings to structure your analysis. For example, have separate sections on any important conceptual tool you use. Thus, you might have a section on Porter’s five forces model as part of your analysis of the environment. You might offer a separate section on portfolio techniques when analyzing a company’s corporate strategy. Tailor the sections and subsections to the specific issues of importance in the case.
In the third part of the case write-up, present your solutions and recommendations. Be comprehensive, and make sure they are in line with the previous analysis so that the recommendations fit together and move logically from one to the next. The recommedations section is very revealing because, as mentioned earlier, your instructor will have a good idea of how much work you put into the case from the quality of your recommendations.
Following this framework will provide a good structure for most written reports, though obviously it must be shaped to fit the individual case being considered. Some cases are about excellent companies experiencing no problems. In such instances, it is hard to write recommendations. Instead, you can focus on analyzing why the company is doing so well, using that analysis to structure the discussion. Following are some minor suggestions that can help make a good analysis even better.
1. Do not repeat in summary form large pieces of factual information from the case. The instructor has read the case and knows what is going on. Rather, use the information in the case to illustrate your statements, to defend your arguments, or to make salient points. Beyond the brief introduction to the company, you must avoid being descriptive; instead, you must be analytical.
2. Make sure the sections and subsections of your discussion flow logically and smoothly from one to the next. That is, try to build on what has gone before so that the analysis of the case study moves toward a climax. This is particularly important for group analysis, because there is a tendency for people in a group to split up the work and say, "I’ll do the beginning, you take the middle, and I’ll do the end." The result is a choppy, stilted analysis because the parts do not flow from one to the next, and it is obvious to the instructor that no real group work has been done.
3. Avoid grammatical and spelling errors. They make the paper sloppy.
4. In some instances, cases dealing with well-known companies don’t include up-to-date research because it was not available at the time the case was written. If possible, do a search for more information on what has happened to the company in subsequent years. Following are sources of information for performing this search:
The World Wide Web is the place to start your research. Very often you can download copies of a company’s annual report from its Web site, and many companies also keep lists of press releases and articles that have been written about them. Thoroughly search the company’s Web site for information such as the company’s history and performance, and download all relevant information at the beginning of your project.
Compact disk sources such as Lotus One Source and InfoTrac provide an amazing amount of good information, including summaries of recent articles written on specific companies that you can then access in the library.
F&S Predicasts provide a listing on a yearly basis of all the articles written about a particular company. Simply reading the titles gives an indication of what has been happening in the company.
Annual reports on a Form 10-K often provide an organization chart.
Companies themselves provide information if you write and ask for it.
Fortune, BusinessWeek, and Forbes have many articles on companies featured in most cases.
Standard & Poor's industry reports provide detailed information about the competitive conditions facing the company's industry. Be sure to look at this journal.
5. Sometimes instructors hand out questions for each case to help you in your analysis. Use these as a guide for writing the case analysis. They often illuminate the important issues that have to be covered in the discussion.
If you follow the guidelines in this section, you should be able to write a thorough and effective evaluation.