We acknowledge that writing for publication may seem an unfamiliar task for many practitioners; that publication is not in the remit of your job description, and therefore may seem much less important than day-to-day responsibilities such as keeping up with your targets and the inevitable "firefighting". However, the very fact that you're reading this demonstrates not only a desire to go that extra mile in your job, but also the potential commitment to undertake the task of writing a paper for publication. Possible reasons motivating a practitioner to write a paper – some you might relate to – include:
From our own surveying of practitioner authors, we have been able to gauge an understanding of the importance of each motivation as a determinant towards writing a paper specifically for publication. For instance, in our survey of over 2,000 practitioner authors, we have found the following results to the question, "What best describes your motivation for writing and submitting papers?":
The question of what paper to write can be a difficult one, and often dependent on the scope and depth of the research being conducted. Academics will tend to write research papers, primarily because this format best fits their own objectives regarding depth of analysis. However, producing a lengthy research paper, including the research behind it and writing of it, is not a feasible option for a practitioner author who also has additional day-to-day requirements.
From a research survey of practitioner authors, where they were asked, "What type of papers are you/would you be most inclined to submit?", the following answers were given:
In addition to the survey of practitioner authors, we also took the opportunity to survey a large number of editors of Emerald-published journals, who gave the following responses to the question, "What type/format of papers are best received from the corporate and public sectors?":
Of those editors who responded, 82 per cent registered an interest in engineering greater network links with practitioner authors, while nearly all agreed that content written by practitioners is perceived as valuable to both current and prospective readers. Case studies, in particular, especially when written by practitioners working within the area of enquiry, were singled out as being of high demand by most editors.
A well written case study allows readers to investigate a contemporary phenomenon within a real life context. For instance the case study can be a valuable method of communicating the tangible benefits of a particular project or specific way of working. It is this focus on something real and particular that makes case studies an exciting alternative to the orthodox research paper written by academics. For this reason, case studies are often used in business education and fed into both academic and practitioner communities.
A case study involves an in-depth examination of a single instance or event. It is therefore important that the scope of a case study has a specific focus, and tries not to deviate too far away from its original agenda. However, to produce an interesting scope it is also necessary that the case study is produced with a clear idea of what the reader will take from its particular focus: will they understand its findings or key message? Is it accessible to those readers who are not subject experts in the particular area of focus? By answering these questions you can begin to understand the importance of identifying the needs of the reader. Other relevant questions worth assessing include:
This last point is very important for deciding on the focus of the case study because, as mentioned, case studies are now being predominantly integrated into business education: it must be practical research as an aid to gaining a sharpened understanding of a particular phenomenon. To help sharpen your readers' understanding a good structure is a key ingredient for any valuable case study.
The following advice should be read as a generalized overview of a case study's key features. For a more technical guide on how to write a case study, you may find the author guidelines on the Emerald website to be of good use, see:
As mentioned, with a substantial piece of writing it is important to identify a particular area or subject of focus before you begin, and how best to present this focus to the reader so that they can take the most from it.
Essential elements to include in a case study are:
Once these five key elements are included, it is then necessary to think about a structural design for the case study, including how the research will read or look. For example:
Once you have decided on the structure that will best present your particular investigative focus, the next important step is to consider how you will gather the data that not only form the core of your investigation, but also give it validity.
When attempting to gather data you will begin to notice many different sources of data, and what you choose to use will depend on your research design. No one source of data is complete, and it is important to give your research depth by having more than one source.
Two main examples of data types important to a case study include: