A case study is a research approach that investigates a topic or issue by focusing on a representative person, group of people, or other sample. A case study can focus on a real or hypothetical situation, but will generally relate to theories or methods in your chosen field of study and their applications in the broader context of your discipline.

Case studies are similar to reports in that they are divided into sections with subheadings, allowing the reader to jump to specific points of interest. This allows you to present information you have gathered or researched about a particular topic in a way that is easily understood by your reader.

Your case study will often contain both quantitative and qualitative data, allowing for a rich level of detail when exploring a particular issue.

How to write a case study

A case study assignment will most commonly be written, similar to a report style. However, your tutor may request you to get creative, and format your case study as an infographic, poster or video. Regardless of your format, the structure of your case study will include the sections listed below.

Case study structure

Here you will introduce the background of the topic/issue and any surrounding research or literature. Remember that a case study is a limited view of a representative sample, so you will not be able to cover every aspect of the subject. If you are looking at the impacts of a certain disease or illness on a person’s lifestyle, you may want to limit your research to people in a particular country or region rather than worldwide.

In this section you will summarise what is already known about the topic, essentially building on the literature that has been published before your study. Similar to a literature review, discussed below, your discussion section allows you to bring the reader up to speed on the topic, summarising any relevant information so that they are able to understand the context of your research and any conclusions you reach.

Your results and data will need to be clear, concise and accurate. You may need to provide data from before a specific event, and then assess how the event had an impact on the data. Graphs, tables and figures will help to convey this information to your reader.

As with other assignment types, your conclusion is where you bring it all together. In this section you will also recommend actions for the company/group to take, or further research that needs to be done. Be specific with your recommendations – include what should be done, by when and whom, how it should be implemented and why you expect it to be effective.

Include any figures, tables, images or diagrams that you have referred to in your case study.