Creating Case Studies That Rock Your Learners’ World

Two words that cause my heart to sink: Case Studies.

Most of the case studies I’ve seen are serious and dull as dirt. They read like a dry, long instructional booklet: illogical, nonsensical and technical. They are void of human life. Many are full of self promotion marketing spin with no educational benefit to the reader.

In theory, case studies are good learning tools. In practice, most don’t hold the attention of readers.

Defining A Case Study

Case studies are written accounts of a real or fabricated incident. Case studies ask participants to put themselves in the problem at hand. They provide enough information and details so that participants can analyze, evaluate and prepare potential solutions.

Case studies make it is easier for participants to be open to new skills, taking risks and making mistakes than within their own real-life. They don’t run the risk of failing in real life or facing negative consequences.

Ultimately, case studies promote communication, problem solving and higher level thinking skills.

How Case Studies Benefit Conference Education And Participants

Case studies benefit education sessions by providing participants an opportunity to:

  • Learn as they analyze, interact, practice, problem solve and predict an outcome.
  • Discuss potential solutions and their outcomes with others.
  • Increase understanding of relationships within a specific situation.
  • Try new perspectives from the views of the characters.
  • Connect examples to past experiences in a controlled environment.
  • Develop confidence in dealing with specific concerns.

Eight Tips For Writing Case Studies That Rock Your Readers’ World

1. Tell a story.

Stories have universal appeal and offer readers vicarious adventures. Case studies that use a narrative grab attention.

2. Use characters with whimsical names.

Every case study could use a dose of humor. Give your characters quirky names like Iva Problem or Don Ready. Pilgrim Progress author John Bunyan used this principle well.

3. Include character dialogue.

Don’t hold back on compelling conversations. Remember the dialogue of some of your childhood stories?

  • “Who’s been sleeping in my ______________?” asked Poppa Bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
  • “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your _______________ _______________,” cried the witch.
  •  “Fee fie fo fum; I smell the ________________ of an __________________,” said the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk.

Let your case study characters sound the way people really talk.

4. Use authentic details.

Don’t use general terms. Use specific, realistic details, nicknames and slang common to the situation. Provide notes defining acronyms and slang for novices.

5. Appeal to the senses.

Be descriptive with vivid, realistic details. Describe sights, sounds and smells.

6. Present story details in chronological order.

Avoid flashbacks that some successful writers use. Keep the story about the job related problem in sequence.

7. Include important facts.

Include the information your participants need to understand the situation and answer questions.

8. End with questions.

The entire purpose of the case study is to get participants to solve a problem. End with several open-ended leading questions. Avoid yes-no questions. Shun trick questions.

While your case study probably won’t win a literary award, it will keep readers interested. Who knows, with the right story and dialogue, it may even rock their world.

What do you like or dislike about case studies? Share your insights in the comments section.

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