Management Case Studies: Writing a good Case Study

A Plain English handbook by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in the late 90’s to help companies draft clear SEC disclosure documents emphasize the need for writing clear informative text. As Warren Buffett mentions in the preface, it is quite difficult to understand what the companies are actually saying.

Writing clear, informative text is vital for a case study. Those who master the technique can boost their case studies value with readers. Clear writing is becoming more and more important.
Readers of a case study will have very different backgrounds and knowledge levels. Some students may be from finance backgrounds who understand balance sheets. A majority will not.

Case studies should be written in a manner that students and educators can assess their level. There needs to be sufficient introductory level subject matter for those with relatively less financial or business knowledge, and more advanced information for those who do. It’s easy to do that on the web with hyperlinks but difficult to do in a hard copy case study.

Case Study – A student’s perspective

With management and business case studies, Yamini, a MBA student with Maharishi Institute of Management Education likes to see a summary at the beginning. She opines that having key facts up front will be very useful.

Case study writers who use acronyms and do not define them develop an incomplete case study. It is absolutely wrong to assume that a case study reader knows what acronyms mean. Most readers are particularly interested in hard facts. Most students read the case study from the back. As Ishleen says, “I am not interested in the fancy stuff in a business or management case study.”

Good-quality writing does get case studies credit. One case study writer with a business management education provider says, “We get feedback from the students and case study corporate trainers. These people are the actual users of the case studies so they know if they have understood the case study or case studies correctly, but we sometimes have to modify the case studies for the students or corporate trainers. The language in our case studies tends to be straight to the point and simple. We try not to make it too formal and complicated with management or business jargon. In cases where we write about management subjects like business ethics and corporate governance, the text in the case study needs to be more formal. It depends on which management or business area we write.”

The skill lies in not just writing correctly, but in being able to interpret and explain potentially complex business situations in clear-cut ways.