Friday, 24 July 2015

Construction of Field Cases

You need to have some idea of what theories you will use to explore the world of your case study as you start to write it up. The theories that you use to underpin your case will provide a ‘lens’ to analyse your case with, benchmarks for you to see where the case fits what is known, and where it doesn’t (De Vaus, 2001).

For writing up research reports and articles, the case portion of your work replaces the findings or results section of your research. Your literature review is completed as normal, and your discussion is also approached as normal, tying together your case (aka findings) and your literature review, exploring the meaning in what you have found.

When it comes to constructing field cases, using some simple structures to help the reader make sense of your narrative will benefit your storytelling. Those structures are:
  • Introduction: short introductory paragraph outlining the context of the case itself
  • Body: the story you are telling, broken down into logical chunks which build on each other to form a complete and compelling story. Use sub-headings to guide the reader, models, tables and images to help the reader understand the situation and the players. Tell the story simply, with strong, clear language. Tell your story with ‘flavour’. Hansen suggests that the central characters in our cases should be seen as people, with personalities, tone and feel consistent with the words and images we portray in the case. Use the voices of your protagonists (ie, quotes from your interviews or from what others have said about them), so we 'hear' them speaking. She provides an example (Barnes, Hansen, & Christensen, 1994, p. 268): 
  • Professor Sylvia Mangrove was an unconventional, creative person who claimed to welcome spontaneity in the classroom but actually feared it

    Professor Sylvia Mangrove disentangled her orange cape from her ‘Down with Authority' button and turned in the direction of the cheerful whistle that had rent the stillness of her Economics 243 classroom, but her anticipatory smile froze when she read the crudely lettered political slogan Lawrence Wingford waved. She had warned her students not to depart from the syllabus. The rest of the class began to cough with embarrassment.”
  • Conclusion: summarise what you have related in the body, re-emphasising the key takeaways for the reader. Tie off loose ends.
Re-read your case and check that all salient points are present. Ensure that your story flows. Have others read it so you know that your writing is engaging.

Polish, refine, remove redundant words and duplication (such as "Collectively, together we..."). This editing process is time-consuming, but it is worth it: the result will be tighter, clearer and have more punch. As Blaise Pascal once wrote, "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time" (1656).

Take the time :-)


  • De Vaus, D. A. (2001). Research Design in Social Design. USA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Pascal, Blaise (1656). Provincial Letters: Letter XVI: I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. Retreived 17 July 2015 from  
  • Vega, P. G. (2012). How important is a teaching note? What should be in a teaching note? USA: Bertolon School of Business, Salem State University & Case Centre (formerly ECCH). Retrieved 1 November 2012 from

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