What is a teaching Case Study?
A discussion-based case study is an education tool to facilitate learning about, and analysis of, a real-world situation.
A case study provides a well-researched and compelling narrative about an individual, or group of people, that need to make a decision in an organizational setting.
The case study narrative includes relevant information about the situation, and gives multiple perspectives on the problem or decision that needs to be taken, but does not provide analysis, conclusions, or a solution.
On this page...
- What is a teaching Case Study?
- How does a case study work in education?
- Top tips for writing a case study
- What is the difference between teaching cases and research focused cases?
- Writing the case study
- The Emerald Cases Hub
- Which publication would suit my case study?
Read about getting ready to publish and visit the Emerald Cases Hub for courses and guides on writing case studies and teaching notes.
How does a case study work in education?
Teaching cases expose students to real-world business dilemmas in different cultural contexts.
Students are expected to read the case study and prepare an argument about the most appropriate course of action or recommendation, which can be debated in a facilitated case study class session, or documented in a case study assignment or examination.
A case teaching note, containing recent and relevant theoretical and managerial frameworks will be published alongside the teaching case, and can be used to demonstrate the links between course content and the case situation to support teaching of the case method.
Top tips for writing a case study
Teaching case studies have a distinctive literary style, they are written in the third person, in the past tense and establish an objectivity of core dilemmas in the case.
We have gathered some top tips for you to think about as your write your case study.
Cases can be based on primary or secondary data, however where possible, carrying out interviews with the protagonist and others in the organisation often results in a better and more balanced case study. Make sure that you have all the materials you will need before you start the writing process. This will speed up the actual process. Most case studies have a mixture of primary and secondary sources to help capture the spirit of the protagonist.
Structure the narrative
Tell the story in chronological order and in the past tense. Identify and establish the central protagonist and their dilemma in the first paragraph and summarise the dilemma again at the end of the case.
Develop the protagonist
Ensure the protagonist is a well-developed character and that students can identify with their motivations throughout the case.
You must include signed permission when you submit your case study and teaching note from the relevant protagonist or company in the case, as well as permission for any material that you don’t own the copyright for.
Be clear on your teaching objective
The case method offers a variety of class participation methods such as discussion, role-play, presentation or examination. Decided which method best suits the case you want to write.
Identify case lead author
You might want to consider writing your case study in partnership with colleagues. However, if you are writing a case with other people you need to make sure that the case reads as one voice.
You do not have to share the work evenly. Instead, play to your individual strengths: one author might be better at data analysis, one a better writer. Agree and clarify the order of appearance of authors. This is very important since this cannot be changed after publication.
What is the difference between teaching cases and research focused cases?
Writing a teaching case requires a distinctive literary style written in the third person, in the past tense and establishing an objectivity of core dilemmas in the case.
To begin with, a case has to have a hook: an overriding issue that pulls various parts together, a managerial issue or decision that requires urgent attention.
The trick is to present the story so that the hook is not immediately apparent but ‘discovered’ by students putting the relevant pieces together. More importantly, the hook must be linked to a particular concept, theory, or methodology.
A teaching case reflects the ambiguity of the situation and need not have a single outcome, as the intent is to create a dialogue with students, encourage critical thinking and research, and evaluate recommendations.
Writing a case study
How to write & structure a case
- Write in the past tense
- Identify and establish an issue/problem which can be used to teach a concept or theory
The opening paragraph should make clear:
- Who the main protagonist is
- Who the key decision maker is
- What the nature of the problem or issue is
- When the case took place, including specific dates
- Why the issue or problem arose
The body of the case should:
- Tell the whole story – usually in a chronological order
- Typically contain general background on business environment, company background, and the details of the specific issue(s) faced by the company
- Tell more than one side of the story so that students can think of competing alternatives
The concluding paragraph should:
- Provide a short synthesis of the case to reiterate the main issues, or even to raise new questions
Final thoughts on writing
What makes a great teaching case?
- Written in the case teaching narrative style, not in the style of a research article
- Submitting a case that has been classroom tested and therefore is much more robust
- Objectivity and considering all sides of a dilemma
- Fit with the objectives of the publication it is included
- Allowing for relevant learning outcomes and enabling students to meet them effectively
Common review feedback comments
- The case requires additional information in order to be taught
- A lack of detail
- Suggested answers are not supported by the case
- Learning objectives which apply a model without a purpose
- No sample answers
- Not written in the third person or past tense
- No analysis or lessons learned
What makes a good teaching note?
- Clear learning objectives
- Suggested class time, broken down by topics
- Suggested student assignment
- Brief description of the opening and closing 10-15 minutes and case synopsis
- Challenging case discussion questions with sample answers
- Supporting materials – worksheets, videos, readings, reference material, etc
- Target audience identified
- If applicable, an update on ‘what actually happened’
The Emerald Cases Hub
Sign in or register on the Emerald Cases Hub for resources and support to help you write a quality case study and increase your chances of publication. Develop your skills and knowledge with a course on writing a case study and teaching note or download our handy how-to guides.
Which publication would suit my case study?
A key factor in boosting the chances of your case study being published is making sure it is submitted to the most suitable outlet. Emerald is delighted to offer two key options:
Emerging Markets Case Studies (EMCS)
EMCS welcomes well-researched, instructive, and multimedia online cases about the most interesting companies in complex emerging market contexts, to be used by faculty to develop effective managers globally.
Cases must be factual and be developed from multiple sources, including primary data sourced and signed-off by the company involved.
The CASE Journal (TCJ)
TCJ is the official journal of The CASE Association, the leading online, double-blind, peer-reviewed journal featuring factual teaching cases and case exercises spanning the full spectrum of business and management disciplines.
TCJ invites submissions of cases designed for classroom use.
Write a teaching note
A well-written case study needs an equally well-written teaching note. Read our how-to guide on how to write a teaching note.
Submit your case study
Submit your case through your chosen channel’s online submission site, find author support and understand your next steps to publish your case study.
We partner with a range of organisations to offer case writing competitions. Applying for an award opens the door to the possibility of you receiving international recognition and a cash prize.