How to Write a Good Case Study Key Elements of Every Successful Case Study

How to Write a Good Case Study

Developing and presenting a good case study is very often one of the key steps in selling your product, engineering knowledge or service. Engineering case studies are often a challenge because they require a good balance between values and risks, shared information and estimation of costs and benefits.

How to make sure that you have taken into account all the key challenges and opportunities and addressed them in a most credible way?


But first, what is a case study?

The case study is a detailed story of a case or a problem your company has done or solved. It includes a description of a current state, often discussing a problem, an explanation of what can be improved, and a resolution that explains how the company solved or improved on something. A great case study is also often filled with research and real data to back up points made about a project's results.

Putting together a compelling case study is one of the most powerful strategies for attracting future customers and proving your credibility.

It also, in the technical sense, is a document that tries to persuade the reader to implement a proposed plan or approve a proposed project. Very often, a case study is also a benefit study and in many occasions, it can represent an extensive proposal.

The writer tries to convince the reader that the proposed plan or project is worth doing (worth the time, energy, and expense necessary), that the author represents the best candidate for implementing the idea, and that it will result with tangible benefits.

Case studies occur frequently in engineering because, by nature, engineering analyzes (studies) situations that already exist. This document explains how to use a basic engineering problem-solving method to structure case studies.


Have you done any? Are you planning to? Or are you evaluating one?

All managers, engineers and consultants are getting in contact with different case studies. They either have to develop it or estimate it. If you are a consultant or entrepreneur, you should highly focus on building at least one and present your work with it.

A good case study should have elements of:

  • Coherence and unity,
  • Clarity and logic,
  • Credibility,
  • Conciseness.

It should present the author's:

  • Confidence,
  • Experience,
  • Open-mindedness.

Case studies focus on the problem-solving method and include answers to the following questions:

  1. Explanation of the situation being faced;
  2. Analysis of the specific problem to be tackled;
  3. Creating, analyzing, and refining a solution;
  4. And further steps in evaluating, improving, and implementing. 

Steps of case study development

The following three steps are common to all the case studies and should be treated with the same focus. They are:

  1. Research and prepare
  2. Write the study 
  3. Study presentation

Research and preparation are important because you want to address the right topic that will raise interest and target the benefits that the product, service or solution can achieve. The research is needed so you address relevant data and assumptions that are solid ground for a good case study.

The study should be written following well defined content (see below) and clearly explaining all the necessary steps, all the risks, limitations and benefits that the application will bring.

Presentation is equally important: from the way it is structured and designed to how it is communicated. Whenever appropriate, live presentation with discussion should be done to enable even more clarity and focus on the values of the work. 


The content of every good case study

A well prepared case study generally consists of:

  • Introduction: A brief overview of the problem, solution, costs, and benefits.
  • Issue: The main definition of the issue, including subject, purpose, main argument, background information and importance.
  • Solution: The main definition of the solution, including your step-by-step plan, the benefits, and how potential obstacles will be overcome.
  • Qualifications: Overview of the personnel required, experience.
  • Conclusion of the costs and benefits, and wrap-up: Balance the cost against the benefit, reinforce your point one last time.


The effect you want to achieve with the good case study

Case studies should generally do the following:

  1. Identify and define the problem that needs to be solved or the opportunity that can be taken advantage of. You must show that you clearly understand the problem/situation if you are to convince the reader that you can solve it. 
  2. Describe your proposed project, clearly defining the scope of what you propose to do. Often, it is best to give a general overview of your idea, and then break it down into more detailed sub-sections.
  3. Indicate how your proposed solution will solve the problem and provide tangible benefits. Specifically, indicate how it will meet the objectives and abide by the constraints outlined in the problem definition. Give specific examples. Show the specific differences between “how things are now” and “how they could be.” Be as empirical as possible, emphasize the results, benefits, and feasibility of your proposed idea.
  4. Include the practical details: propose a budget and a timeline for completing your project. Represent these graphically (budget table, and Gantt chart). Your timeline should include the major milestones or deliverables of the project, as well as dates or time frames for completion of each step.
  5. Conclude with a final pitch that summarizes and emphasizes the benefits of implementing your proposed idea – but without sounding like an advertisement.

Hope this has motivated and gave some more clarity to the important topic of how to deliver and/or estimate good case studies... should you focus on putting together one - now it's the best time to do it! :-)