How to Create a Transparent Case Study

There are two critical aspects of writing a case study which must be taken into consideration: the process behind the case study, and the strategies and methods used to write up the findings. Case studies vary widely from department to department but all are based on some simple principles.

Whether a student chooses their case study or is assigned one, it must revolve around a “case.” A case consists of observable, measurable events, conditions, changes, and/or behaviors. The key factor here is “observable.” This is the factor which will define how transparent your case study has the potential to be when written up.

To create a transparent case study, two things must occur:

  1. You must observe the case thoroughly and collect the necessary data.
  2. You must present this information with clarity and precision in your written case study.

About Observation

Obviously, your methods of observing and recording data will be wildly different depending upon your discipline, but these tips can help in most situations:

  • Identify what data should be collected
  • What information do you need to support your case study thesis? What information might contradict it? You need to gather data for both.

  • Record data which is objective.
  • That means determining how best to present data to show that it’s measurable, and reproducible. Subjective determinations are not helpful here. You want to record data which is objectively quantifiable.

  • Record variables.
  • These might be variables you’ve introduced, variables which can’t control, or simple notes about the environment or conditions under which your observation took place. It’s often in neglecting outside variables that students threaten the transparency of their case study.

About Writing

    Remember, a case study is almost entirely focused upon facts and figures. Whenever possible, frame your thoughts by referencing the data. If you’ve collected data thoroughly, accounted for variables, and chosen the right data to record, it should speak for itself. You’re simply putting the data into a prose form for much of the study.

    Separate opinions from facts. There will be instances where your opinions, or what you infer from the data, should be discussed. Present these as inferences and opinions and you’ll maintain transparency; blur the line between opinion and fact, and you’ll run into problems.

    Avoid vague language. Don’t use vague qualifications like “good,” “bad,” “much,” “few,” “many,” “little,” “big,” etc. If the distinction is strong enough, there should be data to back it up. If it isn’t, leave it out.


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