Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

Ideas for Case Research

Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

Ideas for Case Research

Article excerpt


Dr. Cara Peters, Associate Editor of Journal for Case Studies, has a long-time friend from graduate school who used to be an active member of the Society for Case Research. This was the kind of guy that everyone liked and when she saw him at past summer workshops he had interesting, well-written cases. Well, after not seeing him at the workshop for quite some time, Peters sent him an email telling him encouraging him to continue his case research. Her friend answered that he had hoped to be back sometime but he just hadn't any opportunities to work with companies that could lead to a case for awhile.

Well, that conversation created an "a-ha" moment for Peters. There was no particular reason that we in SCR had not seen her friend in awhile, other than he did not have an idea for a case. We, as editors, know that problem can be addressed and that sent us on the search for researchers who have written about how to get ideas for cases. Within our very own SCR newsletter, we found that Ann Hackert shared her thoughts on how to get inspiration for cases in fall issue of 2012. We also found others outside of SCR, such as Management Professor Gina Vega (2013), who discussed in her case writing book where to find case subjects.

In her book, Vega (2013, 21) stated

   cases are all around you, everywhere. You are your own best sources
   for cases. You have had a wide array of experiences and have
   interacted with many different people and organizations over the
   course of your professional and private life.

Vega recommended that a researcher take the first step by, "identifying what you want your students to learn and then brainstorming on all of the contacts you have who may be able to share a good story" (p. 22). While Vega is suggesting a good place to start is with what you want the students to learn, we feel that approach may be limiting. Most of us are very familiar with topics and theories in our own field. If we were limited only to writing cases about our own specialty areas, then we may be overlooking ideas and opportunities for identifying other interesting case material.

Hackert (2012) stated that inspiration for cases can be found all around us. In her words, "inspiration can be found anywhere there is a good story to tell ... friends, relatives, alumni, students and local businesses" (p. 5). However, Hackert's (2012) approach does not suggest starting with the learning objectives of the students. Her approach appears to be a bit broader. If you begin with inspiration from stories told by friends or relatives, for example, their "problems at work" may be outside your field of expertise. For example, your neighbor may be talking about a personnel problem he is dealing with at work. As a specialist in marketing, you may know very little about human resource management. Nonetheless, we believe that should not deter you from writing a case. As long as you have a good story to tell and permission from the case subject, the SCR is full of potential co-authors that can help you find the right theory, develop appropriate learning objectives, and write the answers to the human resource questions in the teaching note.

Despite the differences between Vega (2013) and Hackert (2012), they share common ground. Both researchers encouraged us to examine our world to identify good ideas for cases. Not all of us understand this intuitively, such as Peters' friend who had not had any interactions with companies that probably had incidents that could have been excellent case writing material. Perhaps we are not looking beyond the small, daily interactions that have potential to turn into cases. Most cases are not derived from a consulting project where the professor is approached by a company to help solve a problem. Cases come from a wide variety of sources. We need to dig deeper into our daily conversations and interactions that we have in both our professional and personal lives. …

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