How to Write a Case Study Essay

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Case studies are essays that seek an answer to a problem or puzzle. Case studies take extensive amounts of research and analysis into a subject, person or group to identify and answer a case problem. In most forms of writing, you’ll often be advised to only research as much you need to write the essay. A case study essay differs from this way of thinking because it is primarily based around researching. The essay serves as a means to convey the research, not the other way around.

1 Identify the subject of your study

Identify the subject of your study. It's best not to decide on a case problem at this point. If you decide on a case problem too soon, you risk writing a biased essay because you'll only be using the research to answer your problem. Naturally, there will be times when you can develop the case problem first, but in general, it's a smart practice to wait until you've researched your topic to remain as objective as possible.

2 Choose the type

Choose the type of case study you want to write. You can write an illustrative case study, exploratory case study, cumulative case study or critical instance case study. Illustrative case studies don’t require as much research, and they cover a topic in a general way. According to, illustrative case studies “primarily serve to make the unfamiliar familiar.” Exploratory case studies are similar to a preliminary case study that helps you identify questions and find the focus of your main case study. A cumulative case study incorporates the use of case studies already written to avoid doing redundant studies. A critical instance study concerns itself with specifics and can be useful to answer cause and effect problems.

3 Research your case study

Research your case study. The type of study you plan to do should dictate what and how much you research. The Internet can be an excellent research tool, keeping in mind to only use the most credible sources, such as education and government sites. Access to a University library can prove invaluable, especially when seeking academic journals and other case studies. You should only use credible resources when researching outside of the Internet as well, and the most credible sources are often printed by a university press. The research phase is also the time to conduct any interviews you need.

4 Analyze your research

Analyze your research. It’s beneficial to work in a group and distribute research throughout the group. This is also the time to think about identifying a case problem, which is easier to develop through group discussion.

5 Outline your essay

Outline your essay. Many people may want to skip this, but outlining is a smart practice. Think of it as a first draft without actually writing the first draft. Use your outline to put your main ideas in a logical order. There are no specific rules for outlining a case study essay. You should include an introduction, body and conclusion just like any other essay. While there may not be any exact rules for outlining a case study, keep this advice from in mind, "[A case study] is information arranged in such a way that the reader is put in the same position as the case writer was at the beginning when he or she was faced with a new situation and asked to figure out what was going on."

6 Write your first draft

Write your first draft. If you’ve outlined, writing the first draft should be significantly easier because you’ll have a plan to follow. Remember that an outline is just a plan, and you’ll probably have to change things along the way as necessary.

7 Edit your draft

Edit your draft. Correct obvious grammatical errors. Make sure all the paragraphs are in the order you want them. Consider that some information may work better if presented in a different order.

8 Write a final draft

Write a final draft. A benefit of putting together a strong outline is that you won’t need major rewrites, but some paragraphs and sentences can usually be rewritten more clearly and efficiently.

Rick Radcliff became a full-time freelance writer in 2010. He has also ghostwritten for private clients, specializing in health and technology. Radcliff is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English from Pennsylvania State University.