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Case Study Method


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Case Study Analysis

Introduction to the Case Study Analysis Method


A case study analysis paradigm is an approach to inquiry that was developed at the Harvard University College of Business and which has been subsequently been utilized by countless universities, organizations, and businesses in analyzing and prioritizing a broad range of policy problems. This model has been widely applied to issues of environmental concern.

In an abbreviated format, case study analysis typically involves proceeding through the following process:


ONE: Problem Identification


Problem identification involves the process by which problematic issues are brought to the attention of the organization and / or to the public.  Problem identification includes a consideration of who brings the problem to attention and when, how, and a concise statement of the nature of the problem.  Of key concern is the identity of those bringing the problem to the attention of the organization, their unique perspectives and their credibility. Similarly, it is important to determine how clearly the problem is stated.  In particular it is important to determine if the initial problem statement is clear and specific or more general in its statement.


TWO: Problem Context, Clarification & Definition


In every case study, a problem statement occurs against the background of a larger policy context.  For instance low morale among schoolteachers must be considered within the context of issues associated with the larger school system that employs the teachers.  Understanding the context of the problem is vital not only for understanding the nature of the problems, but also in terms of being sure that the problem as originally stated adequately reflects what the “true” problem may be, as well as suggesting various options that might ameliorated the problem.


Beyond understanding the “context” of the problem statement, it is important to be able to clarify and more narrowly define the problem in such a way that workable options can be identified that may serve to resolve or improve the problem situations.  In other words, it is important to know what specifically “needs fixing” before specific remedies are applied.


THREE: Consensus Assessment Regarding The Importance And Extent Of The Problem


Also know, as stakeholder analysis, this portion of the case method approach is intended to identify stakeholders who have a strong interest in the problem in question and to assess the strength of their view in the policy debate. Such an assessment is essential to learning who the "heavy hitters" are among the policy debate lineup.


FOUR: Identification of Possible Policy Options

In conducting a stakeholder analysis, various policy options proposed various interest groups are identified. During this phase of the case method approach, the analyst determines what the range of policy options are and who favors them. Such an analysis is conducted in recognition that some options have more stakeholder support than others. Effort should be made to differentiate between options that are politically acceptable versus those that may be adequate to solve the disputed policy problem or issue.


FIVE: Identification of Ethical Considerations Associated with Each Policy Option

Unavoidably, any possible policy option that is chosen will result in the maximization of some ethical considerations and the minimalization of others. Effort should be made to identify not only the ethical considerations associated with each option, but also the persons, groups or interests that will be most involved with these considerations.


SIX: Selection of a Set of Options Worthy of Further Analysis and / or Implementation:

In the end, options must be weighed to determine the best and most feasible option available for the problem under question at a given point in time. This process of analysis, weighing, and option advocacy is the terminus and ultimate outcome of the case method approach. Also known as "satisficing," the identification of the best option available to improve the problem situation given time, resources, effective problem resolution and feasibility is the end-point in pursuit of which the case method process analysis was conducted.


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