Case Study Handbook By William Ellet Mr Jiroj

Summary: How to Read, Discuss and Write Persuasively About Cases
I. Introduction
1. Persuasion, Argument, and Case Method
2. What is a case?
II. Analysis
3. How to Analyze a Case
4. Case Analysis Demonstration
5. Problem
6. Decisions
7. Evaluation
III. Discussion
8. How to Discuss a Case
IV. Writing
9. How to Write a Case-Based Essay
10. Problem Essays
11. Decision Essays
12. Evaluation Essays
V. Application in Finance
VI. Questions.

Summary: How to Read, Discuss and Write Persuasively About Cases

I. Introduction (Ch.1-2)

1. Persuasion, Argument, and Case Method
1.1 Receiving Knowledge versus Making It
• The lecture model is for transferring information. The learners receive knowledge from an expert but it does not encourage thinking and applying the contents.
1.2 Writing and Persuasion
• Mangers and leaders need ability to think clearly and communicate convincingly.
• Persuasion is the art to convincing an audience.
• Cases have multiple meanings and are always controversial
• An argument is a series of logically related statements. The relationship between the statement of a conclusion and evidence for it is important.

2. What is a Case?

In a case method class room, instructor asks the right questions at the right time, provide feedback on answer, and sustain a discussion that opens up meanings of the case.
2.1 What a Case is, What It does, What It doesn’t do
• Cases are verbal representations of reality that put the reader in the role of a participant in the situation.
• Common purpose of cases is to represent reality to convey a situation with all its across currents and rough edges-including irrelevancies, sideshows, misconceptions, and little information or an overwhelming amount of it.
• A case has 3 characteristics: an important business issue(s), sufficient information for conclusions, no stated conclusions.
• Some complicating properties of a case include 1) irrelevant information, noise; 2) unstated information, reader must infer from the stated information; and 3) nonlinear structure, evidence is scattered, disguised, or left to inference.
2.2 Taming an Indeterminate Text
• Cases require active readers, thinker.

2.3 Three Ways to Read
• Three approaches to read a case; 1) receive it (text that states both a subject and significance); 2) find it (text that has keys or clues); and 3) make it (find solution: conclusion and suggestion).

II. Part I Analysis (Ch 3-7)

3. How to Analyze a Case

3.1 Starting Point for Understanding
• A case is a text that refuses to explain itself.
• The case method is heuristic, self-guided learning that employs analysis to help draw conclusions about situation.
• Analysis is to break something into its constituent parts and to study the relationships of the parts to the whole.
3.2 Thinking, not Reading, is Key
• Reader should spend more time thinking about a case than reading it.
3.3 Types of Case Situation
• There are four types of situation in cases: 1) problems, 2) decisions, 3) evaluations, and 4) rules.
• Problem refers to something that is troubling. In case analysis, problem is a situation that has important outcome or performance and no explicit explanation of the outcome or performance.
• Problem analysis begins with a definition of the problem.
• Decision might be explicit or implicit and dependent on another situation. In cases, decisions analysis need decision options, decision criteria, and relevant evidence.
• Goal is to determine the decision that creates the best fit between available evidence and the criteria (what is good decision and what is not a good decision).
• Evaluations express a judgment about the worth, value or effectiveness of performance or outcome.
• Evaluation needs appropriate criteria, what lead to value or effectiveness and what do not.
• Scope of rules is very narrow, only for a specific set of circumstance. For example, break-even calculation for marketing, NPV for finance, and etc.
• What needed for rule analysis are 1) the type of information needed in a situation, 2) the appropriate rule to furnish that information, 3) the correct way to apply the rule, and 4) the data necessary to execute the rule.
• Rules analysis has uncertainty which is set in assumption. If assumption is not true, the formula will give wrong results.
3.4 Case Analysis as a Process
• The key to the process is active reading, interrogative and purposeful. That is asking question and seek answer.
• Goal of Analysis is to come up with a conclusion about the main issue with supported evidence from the cases.
• For point of view, reader should try to put herself in the protagonist (main character)’s shoes, try to understand her dilemma and why she is in that dilemma.
• Hypothesis is a tentative explanation that explains a set of facts and can be tested by further investigation. It is the most useful constructs for resolving the protagonist’s dilemma.
3.5 Description of Process
• Situation- Usually the first and last sections of the case are sufficient to identify the situation. After reading openings and closing section, readers should consider what they have learned. Is the situation a problem, decision, or evaluation?
• Questions- What do readers need to know about the situation? Different cases need different question. For problem case, who or what is the subject of the problem and what is the problem? For decision case, what are the decision options and what are the possible criteria? For evaluation, who or what is being evaluated and what might the most important criteria be for this sort of evaluation?
• Hypothesis-Narrow the possibilities to the one that seems most plausible and most promise.
• Proof and Action-Ask question what evidence do I have that supports the hypothesis and what additional evidence do I need?
• Alternatives-Question what is the greatest weakness of the hypothesis and what is the strongest alternative?

4. Case Analysis Demonstration

• To investigate a case, readers might follow the steps according to the process by evaluate 1) situation, 2) questions, 3) hypothesis, 4) Proof and Action, and 5) Alternatives

5. Problem

• Problems are outcomes or result of actions, processes, activities, or forces that we don’t fully understand.
• Problem analysis has five elements; 1) problem definition, 2) diagnosis, 3) cause-effect analysis, 4) concepts and framework, and 5) action.

5.1 Problem Definition
• A problem requires a diagnosis based on cause and effect analysis. A diagnosis is a summary statement of the important causes.
5.2 Concepts and Frameworks
• Cause-effect analysis relies on causal frameworks as appropriate to the problem.
5.3 Actions
• Problem analysis yields actionable content-often a great deal of it. You should reflect on your analysis and formulate actions that will improve the current state as it is described in the problem definition.
5.4 Many Causes or Few
• A question essential to diagnosis is how many causes are sufficient?
• Despite the limits, evidence in a case can be the basis for many causes.
• A causal account needs to be convincing and actionable.
5.5 Proof and Action
• The proof of a diagnosis begins when we can identify a possible cause.

6. Decisions

• Cases involving an explicit decision are a staple of management education.
• Decision analysis has five elements; option, criteria, analysis of options, recommendation, and actions.
6.1 Options
• A decision requires concrete options but not all cases define decision options.

6.2 Criteria
• Criteria should be relevant and kept minimum necessary to a sound decision, and relate to a significant amount of the available evidence to the options.

6.3 Analysis of Options
• Reader should look at the case information in relation to the criteria and focus on the decision option that creates the best fit between the criteria and the facts.
• Fact threshold means that you have enough evidence that fits a decision option to give you confidence in the option.
6.4 Recommendation
• The object of decision analysis is to recommend the best choice among the available options.
• Hypothesis becomes your recommendation when you have succeeded in aligning what you believe is persuasive evidence.
6.5 Action
• The purpose of decision action plan is to implement the decision as effectively as possible.

7. Evaluation

• Evaluations are judgments about the worth, value, or effectiveness of a performance, act, or outcome of some kind.
7.1 Elements of an Evaluative Analysis
• Evaluative statements need to be backed by an analysis.
• An evaluation has six elements; 1) criteria, 2) terms, 3) evaluative analysis, 4) bottom-line judgment, 5) qualification and 6) action.
7.1.1 Criteria
• Two sources of criteria are the situation in the case and specialized methods.
• Criteria that can be quantitatively measured are a good place to stare as assessment.
7.1.2 Terms
• Appropriate terms are needed to express an evaluation. Performance appraisals often have multipoint scales for expressing.
7.1.3 Evaluative Analysis
• Evaluations are organized according to criteria.
• The comparative quantity of positive and negative evidence doesn’t decide the bottom-line judgment-the comparative importance of the criteria and evidence does.
7.1.4 Bottom-line Judgment
• An evaluation without an overall or bottom-line judgment is like a decision analysis that does not include a recommendation.
• In case of real world bottom-line judgments are important because they make the evaluation action.
7.1.5 Qualification
Qualifications state factors that are not part of the evaluation but that have a significant effect on it. A qualification could be a condition that needs to exist to make the overall evaluation valid.
7.1.6 Action
The result of an evaluation can drive meaningful action.
7.2 Looking at Both Sides
In problem diagnosis, readers focus on locating and proving the primary causes of a problem; readers do not and should not provide a discussion about why a cause might not account for the effect.
In decision analysis, readers are concerned with recommending the best option and proving it. Reader should acknowledge the major downsides of their recommendation and respond to them.
Evaluation needs to encompass everything relevant to a performance, act, or outcome-good, bad, in between and ambiguous.

III. Discussion (chapter 8)

8. How to Discuss a Case

8.1 Collaboration
• The purpose of a case discussion is 1) to construct meanings for a case based on evidence drawn from it and 2) to recognize the uncertainties.
• Wrong assumptions are 1) cases are stories with the truth and one right answer, 2) case analysis is the process of finding correct answer, 3) case discussion is opportunity to show the founding of the right answer.
• Students should take responsibility for their own view of case, develop an argument for it, and listen to others.
• Collaboration is what the case method is about. The success of case study is dependent on all students.

8.2 Classroom Risks
• It might be from students’ personal factors. For example the language used is not students’ first language. There might be culture differences. Students might come from field that is not business field. There might be fear of making mistakes.
8.3 Reducing Risk
• Various wrong way to reduce risk include canned comments, prepared speeches, and delay and assess.
• The Right Way to reduce risk is to speak up early and be prepared (be flexible, not prepare for all possibilities.

• Other useful ideas in case study are 1) put Limits on Your Preparation , 2) Read Actively – interrogative and purposively, 3) Recognizing the Social Factor – knowing each other can create easy atmosphere , 4) Remember How to Laugh 5) Listening is Participating, 6) Reflect on What You Learn- spend some time to review what has discussed and 7) Be Patient with yourself-listen and wait to participate.

IV Writing (chapter 9 to 12)

9. How to Write a Case-Based Essay

9.1 Characteristics of a Persuasive Case Essay
• To convince a reader that a conclusion of the case is valid, the writer must offer credible evidence.
• 3 common characteristics of case-based essays are answers what and why, and sometimes how question: 1) makes a position statement (what?), 2) uses evidence to persuade the reader (why?) and 3) If needed, provides an action plan (how?)
• A sharply focused position statement organizes the entire essay.
• Using evidence well is very important skill for a writer of case essays because the evidence convinces the arguments and recommendation.
• Action Plan complements and completes the argument of a case-base essay by answering 1) how do you solve a problem?, 2) how do you implement a decision?, and 3) how do you improve a performance?.
Elements of an Action Plan
• An effective action plan has 5 characteristics: goals, actionable content of argument, steps, organization, and risk

10. Problem Essays

• Problem situations in cases are outcomes or results of actions, processes, activities, or forces that we don’t fully understand.
10.1 How to Organize a Problem Essays
• An essay on a problem situation has four parts: 1) problem definition, 2) diagnosis, 3) proving causal links, and 4) problem action plans.
• Problem definition should express the effects or outcomes identifiable in the situation that the main character in the case should be most concerned about.
• Summarize the diagnosis, the principal causes of the problem is organized after the problem has been defined.
• The part of proving causal links shows the readers why the diagnosis is valid.
• The task of the action plan for problem essay is to improve situations involving poor performance.

11. Decision Essays

11.1 How to Organize a Decision Essay
• Discussion essays have 6 elements which could be arranged in the state-and-prove order as 1) recommended decisions, 2) decision options, 3) decision criteria, 4) proof of recommended option, 5) critique of options, and 6) action plan or in the prove- and-state format as 1) decision options, 2) decision criteria, 3) critique of options, 4) proof of recommended option, 5) recommended decisions, and 6) action plan.
• The sate-and-prove order and prove-and-state are organized in deductive and inductive ways accordingly.
• To make a reasonable argument, the essay must have explicit and relevant criteria.
• An expected part of a decision essay is proof of the recommended option, This is involve in part of critique of options.
• The purpose of action plan in decision essay is to implement the decision as effectively as possible.

12. Evaluation Essays

• Evaluations are judgments about the worth, value, or effectiveness of a performance, act or outcome.
12.1 How to Organize an Evaluation Essay
• An evaluation essay has 5 elements and cold be organized consequently according to these 5 elements as 1) bottom-line evaluation, 2) evaluation criteria, 3) proof of the evaluation, 4) qualifications, and 5) action plan or as 1) evaluation criteria, 2) proof of the evaluation, 3) qualifications, 4) bottom-line evaluation, and 5) action plan.

12.2 Other issues
• Bottom-line Evaluation is the most important statement of the essay and it provides conclusion which might need to be expressed.
• The results of an evaluation are dependent on evaluation Criteria employed.
• Proof of evaluation is organized by the term of assessment such as effectiveness and ineffectiveness or weakness and strength.
• Qualifications state factors not part of the evaluation that have a significant effect on it.
• General purpose of evaluation action plans varies according to the subject of the assessment. A plan for performance appraisals improves the individual’s weakness and amplifies the strength.

V. Application in Finance

• Many finance courses use cases as tools to help students to learn beyond the concept of finance.
• Students who learn finance through cases gain both knowledge about finance and analytical skill about finance.
• There are many real interesting finance cases in Thailand to study but there are not many written cases available for students to learn.

VI. Questions.

• Most study cases are from either American or English textbooks. Some cases are not applicable in Thai environment. How to motivate Thai writers to write more study cases which is based on information in Thailand?
• How to educate teacher to know the way to conduct case study?


William Ellet The case study handbook: How to read, discuss, and write persuasively about cases. (2007) Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts.

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