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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

The discussions of the case method thus far in this volume have treated cases essentially as isolated phenomena, but the instructor who is going to offer a course on the case basis must deal with the problem of organizing his case material into some kind of outline. Depending on whether the instructor wishes principally to stress the analysis of cases as isolated bits of reality or whether he wishes to emphasize contrasts and interrelations among case situations, this course outline may be a loose one or a tight, closely articulated one. And, depending further on the particular instructor's point of view, the logics of the outline may be those of the functional, institutional, or industrial field of the course, those imposed by the case material itself, or those deriving largely from pedagogical considerations. There is no general rule. In the following paper, Neil H. Borden, who has been in charge of the Advertising course in the Harvard Business School since the earl 1920's, describes his experience in organizing case material for effective teaching in that field.


Development of an Outline for a Course Taught by the Case Method

NEIL H. BORDEN

This is a history of the development of an outline for a course taught by the case method. The beginnings of this course, Advertising Problems, date back more than a quarter century, to a period when I was a young instructor in the Harvard Business School. Although the time is long past, the memories of the problems faced are fresh and they are buttressed by notes still in my files.

The specific outline which I designed for my course in Advertising Problems is of importance only for illustration, as are the changes in the outline that have occurred since. The things which I wish to stress in this history are the problems faced in developing a case course and the procedures followed in resolving the issues. Such an approach may permit the drawing of observations which will be of help to others facing a similar task.

Up to the time when I took charge of the Advertising course, only a few cases had been used in the classes. My predecessor had taken his doctoral work in Psychology and had taught in that field, and currently he was pioneering in the application of psychological methods to advertising work. Of particular interest to him was the development of field investigational methods to determine the characteristics of markets for products. Accordingly his students devoted considerable time to constructing questionnaires and conducting actual field work

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