Writing an Economic Case Study: Hidden Reefs

calculatorThe use of case studies is an extremely important tool in modern education, and especially so in economics, due to the reactive nature of the discipline. However, in order for a case study to be effective, it has to be carefully written and checked for inconsistencies – it won’t do if due to some oversight on the part of the author students will concentrate their attention on an insignificant detail that has no pertinence to the problem in question. Let’s take a look at usual mistakes done when writing an economic case study.

1. Mixing up Different Approaches

There are two basic approaches to case study structuring: the problem-oriented and the analytical one. In problem-oriented case studies students are supposed to take a look at the situation, identify the most important problems and suggest solutions to them (or, alternatively, the problems are already presented). In analytical ones, students are presented with a situation and told what has happened, and their task is to analyze it and understand what exactly has happened and why, without any references to problems and/or solutions. Quite often case study authors don’t draw a clearly defined line between these two approaches, which results in confusion and decreased performance.

2. Insufficient Research

Writing a case study is a much more complicated task than one may think after simply reading them. It requires a great deal of research, solid knowledge of theory and, what is probably the most daunting, interviewing real people. It is important – you don’t simply invent a situation illustrating some aspect of a theory. You have to carefully investigate a situation, read as much on it as possible, define which people who have something to do with a situation you need to interview, prepare lists of questions and organize the whole thing. It may sound intimidating, but it is the only way to write a real case study.

3. Founding a Case Study on a Shaky Premise

Make sure there is material for a case study in the situation you are looking at: either an interesting problem or a situation illustrating an important point. Don’t twist it so that it fits your premise, better find another situation, worthy of a study.

4. Recycling Old Studies

Studying older case studies is alright if you try to learn how to do it or investigate a similar situation; writing a new case study based on the old information from a case study done by somebody else is… not such a good idea.

5. Information Presented Inconsistently

One of the most common mistakes of case study writers is inconsistent and mixed-up order of presenting information. It is best not to invent anything fancy and simply do it chronologically. If there are some statistics and graphs illustrating the described situation, they should come last.

These are the most basic mistakes there are; if you avoid them you will already drastically increase your chances of writing a high-quality case study. However, only continuous practice and study of mistakes made by other people can bring your real mastery of the subject.

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