The Case Method at the Harvard Business School: Papers by Present and Past Members of the Faculty and Staff

By Malcolm P. McNair | Go to book overview
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From what has gone before in this volume, and particularly from some of the cases that have been reproduced, it will be apparent that during the normal classroom periods of fifty or eighty minutes time does not permit complete analysis of all aspects of a case. Classroom discussion, under the guidance of the instructor, will highlight significant issues, direct the student's attention to angles of the case which he may not have perceived, and give the student an opportunity to exercise his judgment in making a rough balance of the factors involved. If the instructor in the classroom tries to pursue the objective of dovetailing all the pieces of the analysis into a neat and consistent pattern, he will inevitably destroy much of the spontaneity of case discussion and will tend to convert the case into a mere series of texts and illustrations for a lecture. Furthermore, no one student ordinarily has the opportunity in the classroom to pursue the complete analysis of a particular case from start to finish. If the instructor were to require one or two students to pursue such complete analysis, the result would be recitation rather than discussion. For these reasons, a necessary and important part of instruction under the case method consists in the periodic preparation by students of searching, comprehensive, and detailed case analyses in written form. The following paper by Thomas J. Raymond deals with this aspect of the case method.


Written Analyses of Cases

THOMAS J. RAYMOND


I. REPORT REQUIREMENTS

The requirement of written reports on cases has been a prominent feature of instruction in the Harvard Business School for many years. Indeed such written assignments have practically coexisted with the case method at the Business School since its early beginnings.1 They are used in the curriculum of both the first and the second year.

At an earlier period, written reports in the first year formed an integral part of the instruction in particular courses--e.g., Finance, Marketing, Industrial Management, and so on. More recently, however, the written report work of the first year has been organized as a separate course, currently known as Written Analysis of Cases. This separate course organization for written work during the first year not only facilitates scheduling but has two other important advantages. First, this arrangement permits the use of cases which cut across the several first-year subjects, requiring the student to balance, for instance, production considerations, marketing considerations, and fi

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1
See Dr. Copeland's description of the first offering of the course in Business Policy, supra, p. 26.

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