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  • What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on May 8, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods , but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyze the case, other interesting articles.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

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case issues

Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

TipIf your research is more practical in nature and aims to simultaneously investigate an issue as you solve it, consider conducting action research instead.

Unlike quantitative or experimental research , a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

Example of an outlying case studyIn the 1960s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. It became an important case study for understanding previously neglected causes of heart disease.

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience or phenomenon.

Example of a representative case studyIn the 1920s, two sociologists used Muncie, Indiana as a case study of a typical American city that supposedly exemplified the changing culture of the US at the time.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews , observations , and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

Example of a mixed methods case studyFor a case study of a wind farm development in a rural area, you could collect quantitative data on employment rates and business revenue, collect qualitative data on local people’s perceptions and experiences, and analyze local and national media coverage of the development.

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

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In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis , with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyze its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

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Writing A Case Study

Case Study Examples

Barbara P

Brilliant Case Study Examples and Templates For Your Help

15 min read

Published on: Jun 26, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 29, 2023

Case Study Examples

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It’s no surprise that writing a case study is one of the most challenging academic tasks for students. You’re definitely not alone here!

Most people don't realize that there are specific guidelines to follow when writing a case study. If you don't know where to start, it's easy to get overwhelmed and give up before you even begin.

Don't worry! Let us help you out!

We've collected over 25 free case study examples with solutions just for you. These samples with solutions will help you win over your panel and score high marks on your case studies.

So, what are you waiting for? Let's dive in and learn the secrets to writing a successful case study.

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An Overview of Case Studies

A case study is a research method used to study a particular individual, group, or situation in depth. It involves analyzing and interpreting data from a variety of sources to gain insight into the subject being studied. 

Case studies are often used in psychology, business, and education to explore complicated problems and find solutions. They usually have detailed descriptions of the subject, background info, and an analysis of the main issues.

The goal of a case study is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Typically, case studies can be divided into three parts, challenges, solutions, and results. 

Here is a case study sample PDF so you can have a clearer understanding of what a case study actually is:

Case Study Sample PDF

How to Write a Case Study Examples

Learn how to write a case study with the help of our comprehensive case study guide.

Case Study Examples for Students

Quite often, students are asked to present case studies in their academic journeys. The reason instructors assign case studies is for students to sharpen their critical analysis skills, understand how companies make profits, etc.

Below are some case study examples in research, suitable for students:

Case Study Example in Software Engineering

Qualitative Research Case Study Sample

Software Quality Assurance Case Study

Social Work Case Study Example

Ethical Case Study

Case Study Example PDF

These examples can guide you on how to structure and format your own case studies.

Struggling with formatting your case study? Check this case study format guide and perfect your document’s structure today.

Business Case Study Examples

A business case study examines a business’s specific challenge or goal and how it should be solved. Business case studies usually focus on several details related to the initial challenge and proposed solution. 

To help you out, here are some samples so you can create case studies that are related to businesses: 

Here are some more business case study examples:

Business Case Studies PDF

Business Case Studies Example

Typically, a business case study discovers one of your customer's stories and how you solved a problem for them. It allows your prospects to see how your solutions address their needs. 

Medical Case Study Examples

Medical case studies are an essential part of medical education. They help students to understand how to diagnose and treat patients. 

Here are some medical case study examples to help you.

Medical Case Study Example

Nursing Case Study Example

Want to understand the various types of case studies? Check out our types of case study blog to select the perfect type.

Psychology Case Study Examples 

Case studies are a great way of investigating individuals with psychological abnormalities. This is why it is a very common assignment in psychology courses. 

By examining all the aspects of your subject’s life, you discover the possible causes of exhibiting such behavior. 

For your help, here are some interesting psychology case study examples:

Psychology Case Study Example

Mental Health Case Study Example

Sales Case Study Examples

Case studies are important tools for sales teams’ performance improvement. By examining sales successes, teams can gain insights into effective strategies and create action plans to employ similar tactics.

By researching case studies of successful sales campaigns, sales teams can more accurately identify challenges and develop solutions.

Sales Case Study Example

Interview Case Study Examples

Interview case studies provide businesses with invaluable information. This data allows them to make informed decisions related to certain markets or subjects.

Interview Case Study Example

Marketing Case Study Examples

Marketing case studies are real-life stories that showcase how a business solves a problem. They typically discuss how a business achieves a goal using a specific marketing strategy or tactic.

They typically describe a challenge faced by a business, the solution implemented, and the results achieved.

This is a short sample marketing case study for you to get an idea of what an actual marketing case study looks like.

 Here are some more popular marketing studies that show how companies use case studies as a means of marketing and promotion:

“Chevrolet Discover the Unexpected” by Carol H. Williams

This case study explores Chevrolet's “ DTU Journalism Fellows ” program. The case study uses the initials “DTU” to generate interest and encourage readers to learn more. 

Multiple types of media, such as images and videos, are used to explain the challenges faced. The case study concludes with an overview of the achievements that were met.

Key points from the case study include:

  • Using a well-known brand name in the title can create interest.
  • Combining different media types, such as headings, images, and videos, can help engage readers and make the content more memorable.
  • Providing a summary of the key achievements at the end of the case study can help readers better understand the project's impact.

“The Met” by Fantasy

“ The Met ” by Fantasy is a fictional redesign of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, created by the design studio Fantasy. The case study clearly and simply showcases the museum's website redesign.

The Met emphasizes the website’s features and interface by showcasing each section of the interface individually, allowing the readers to concentrate on the significant elements.

For those who prefer text, each feature includes an objective description. The case study also includes a “Contact Us” call-to-action at the bottom of the page, inviting visitors to contact the company.

Key points from this “The Met” include:

  • Keeping the case study simple and clean can help readers focus on the most important aspects.
  • Presenting the features and solutions with a visual showcase can be more effective than writing a lot of text.
  • Including a clear call-to-action at the end of the case study can encourage visitors to contact the company for more information.

“Better Experiences for All” by Herman Miller

Herman Miller's minimalist approach to furniture design translates to their case study, “ Better Experiences for All ”, for a Dubai hospital. The page features a captivating video with closed-captioning and expandable text for accessibility.

The case study presents a wealth of information in a concise format, enabling users to grasp the complexities of the strategy with ease. It concludes with a client testimonial and a list of furniture items purchased from the brand.

Key points from the “Better Experiences” include:

  • Make sure your case study is user-friendly by including accessibility features like closed captioning and expandable text.
  • Include a list of products that were used in the project to guide potential customers.

“NetApp” by Evisort 

Evisort's case study on “ NetApp ” stands out for its informative and compelling approach. The study begins with a client-centric overview of NetApp, strategically directing attention to the client rather than the company or team involved.

The case study incorporates client quotes and explores NetApp’s challenges during COVID-19. Evisort showcases its value as a client partner by showing how its services supported NetApp through difficult times. 

  • Provide an overview of the company in the client’s words, and put focus on the customer. 
  • Highlight how your services can help clients during challenging times.
  • Make your case study accessible by providing it in various formats.

“Red Sox Season Campaign,” by CTP Boston

The “ Red Sox Season Campaign ” showcases a perfect blend of different media, such as video, text, and images. Upon visiting the page, the video plays automatically, there are videos of Red Sox players, their images, and print ads that can be enlarged with a click.

The page features an intuitive design and invites viewers to appreciate CTP's well-rounded campaign for Boston's beloved baseball team. There’s also a CTA that prompts viewers to learn how CTP can create a similar campaign for their brand.

Some key points to take away from the “Red Sox Season Campaign”: 

  • Including a variety of media such as video, images, and text can make your case study more engaging and compelling.
  • Include a call-to-action at the end of your study that encourages viewers to take the next step towards becoming a customer or prospect.

“Airbnb + Zendesk” by Zendesk

The case study by Zendesk, titled “ Airbnb + Zendesk : Building a powerful solution together,” showcases a true partnership between Airbnb and Zendesk. 

The article begins with an intriguing opening statement, “Halfway around the globe is a place to stay with your name on it. At least for a weekend,” and uses stunning images of beautiful Airbnb locations to captivate readers.

Instead of solely highlighting Zendesk's product, the case study is crafted to tell a good story and highlight Airbnb's service in detail. This strategy makes the case study more authentic and relatable.

Some key points to take away from this case study are:

  • Use client's offerings' images rather than just screenshots of your own product or service.
  • To begin the case study, it is recommended to include a distinct CTA. For instance, Zendesk presents two alternatives, namely to initiate a trial or seek a solution.

“Influencer Marketing” by Trend and WarbyParker

The case study "Influencer Marketing" by Trend and Warby Parker highlights the potential of influencer content marketing, even when working with a limited budget. 

The “Wearing Warby” campaign involved influencers wearing Warby Parker glasses during their daily activities, providing a glimpse of the brand's products in use. 

This strategy enhanced the brand's relatability with influencers' followers. While not detailing specific tactics, the case study effectively illustrates the impact of third-person case studies in showcasing campaign results.

Key points to take away from this case study are:

  • Influencer marketing can be effective even with a limited budget.
  • Showcasing products being used in everyday life can make a brand more approachable and relatable.
  • Third-person case studies can be useful in highlighting the success of a campaign.

Marketing Case Study Example

Marketing Case Study Template

Now that you have read multiple case study examples, hop on to our tips.

Tips to Write a Good Case Study

Here are some note-worthy tips to craft a winning case study 

  • Define the purpose of the case study This will help you to focus on the most important aspects of the case. The case study objective helps to ensure that your finished product is concise and to the point.
  • Choose a real-life example. One of the best ways to write a successful case study is to choose a real-life example. This will give your readers a chance to see how the concepts apply in a real-world setting.
  • Keep it brief. This means that you should only include information that is directly relevant to your topic and avoid adding unnecessary details.
  • Use strong evidence. To make your case study convincing, you will need to use strong evidence. This can include statistics, data from research studies, or quotes from experts in the field.
  • Edit and proofread your work. Before you submit your case study, be sure to edit and proofread your work carefully. This will help to ensure that there are no errors and that your paper is clear and concise.

There you go!

We’re sure that now you have secrets to writing a great case study at your fingertips! This blog teaches the key guidelines of various case studies with samples. So grab your pen and start crafting a winning case study right away!

Having said that, we do understand that some of you might be having a hard time writing compelling case studies.

But worry not! Our expert case study writing service is here to take all your case-writing blues away! 

With 100% thorough research guaranteed, our professional essay writing service can craft an amazing case study within 6 hours! 

So why delay? Let us help you shine in the eyes of your instructor!

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
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  • Acknowledgments

Definition and Introduction

Case analysis is a problem-based teaching and learning method that involves critically analyzing complex scenarios within an organizational setting for the purpose of placing the student in a “real world” situation and applying reflection and critical thinking skills to contemplate appropriate solutions, decisions, or recommended courses of action. It is considered a more effective teaching technique than in-class role playing or simulation activities. The analytical process is often guided by questions provided by the instructor that ask students to contemplate relationships between the facts and critical incidents described in the case.

Cases generally include both descriptive and statistical elements and rely on students applying abductive reasoning to develop and argue for preferred or best outcomes [i.e., case scenarios rarely have a single correct or perfect answer based on the evidence provided]. Rather than emphasizing theories or concepts, case analysis assignments emphasize building a bridge of relevancy between abstract thinking and practical application and, by so doing, teaches the value of both within a specific area of professional practice.

Given this, the purpose of a case analysis paper is to present a structured and logically organized format for analyzing the case situation. It can be assigned to students individually or as a small group assignment and it may include an in-class presentation component. Case analysis is predominately taught in economics and business-related courses, but it is also a method of teaching and learning found in other applied social sciences disciplines, such as, social work, public relations, education, journalism, and public administration.

Ellet, William. The Case Study Handbook: A Student's Guide . Revised Edition. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2018; Christoph Rasche and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Analysis . Writing Center, Baruch College; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.

How to Approach Writing a Case Analysis Paper

The organization and structure of a case analysis paper can vary depending on the organizational setting, the situation, and how your professor wants you to approach the assignment. Nevertheless, preparing to write a case analysis paper involves several important steps. As Hawes notes, a case analysis assignment “...is useful in developing the ability to get to the heart of a problem, analyze it thoroughly, and to indicate the appropriate solution as well as how it should be implemented” [p.48]. This statement encapsulates how you should approach preparing to write a case analysis paper.

Before you begin to write your paper, consider the following analytical procedures:

  • Review the case to get an overview of the situation . A case can be only a few pages in length, however, it is most often very lengthy and contains a significant amount of detailed background information and statistics, with multilayered descriptions of the scenario, the roles and behaviors of various stakeholder groups, and situational events. Therefore, a quick reading of the case will help you gain an overall sense of the situation and illuminate the types of issues and problems that you will need to address in your paper. If your professor has provided questions intended to help frame your analysis, use them to guide your initial reading of the case.
  • Read the case thoroughly . After gaining a general overview of the case, carefully read the content again with the purpose of understanding key circumstances, events, and behaviors among stakeholder groups. Look for information or data that appears contradictory, extraneous, or misleading. At this point, you should be taking notes as you read because this will help you develop a general outline of your paper. The aim is to obtain a complete understanding of the situation so that you can begin contemplating tentative answers to any questions your professor has provided or, if they have not provided, developing answers to your own questions about the case scenario and its connection to the course readings,lectures, and class discussions.
  • Determine key stakeholder groups, issues, and events and the relationships they all have to each other . As you analyze the content, pay particular attention to identifying individuals, groups, or organizations described in the case and identify evidence of any problems or issues of concern that impact the situation in a negative way. Other things to look for include identifying any assumptions being made by or about each stakeholder, potential biased explanations or actions, explicit demands or ultimatums , and the underlying concerns that motivate these behaviors among stakeholders. The goal at this stage is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situational and behavioral dynamics of the case and the explicit and implicit consequences of each of these actions.
  • Identify the core problems . The next step in most case analysis assignments is to discern what the core [i.e., most damaging, detrimental, injurious] problems are within the organizational setting and to determine their implications. The purpose at this stage of preparing to write your analysis paper is to distinguish between the symptoms of core problems and the core problems themselves and to decide which of these must be addressed immediately and which problems do not appear critical but may escalate over time. Identify evidence from the case to support your decisions by determining what information or data is essential to addressing the core problems and what information is not relevant or is misleading.
  • Explore alternative solutions . As noted, case analysis scenarios rarely have only one correct answer. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the process of analyzing the case and diagnosing core problems, while based on evidence, is a subjective process open to various avenues of interpretation. This means that you must consider alternative solutions or courses of action by critically examining strengths and weaknesses, risk factors, and the differences between short and long-term solutions. For each possible solution or course of action, consider the consequences they may have related to their implementation and how these recommendations might lead to new problems. Also, consider thinking about your recommended solutions or courses of action in relation to issues of fairness, equity, and inclusion.
  • Decide on a final set of recommendations . The last stage in preparing to write a case analysis paper is to assert an opinion or viewpoint about the recommendations needed to help resolve the core problems as you see them and to make a persuasive argument for supporting this point of view. Prepare a clear rationale for your recommendations based on examining each element of your analysis. Anticipate possible obstacles that could derail their implementation. Consider any counter-arguments that could be made concerning the validity of your recommended actions. Finally, describe a set of criteria and measurable indicators that could be applied to evaluating the effectiveness of your implementation plan.

Use these steps as the framework for writing your paper. Remember that the more detailed you are in taking notes as you critically examine each element of the case, the more information you will have to draw from when you begin to write. This will save you time.

NOTE : If the process of preparing to write a case analysis paper is assigned as a student group project, consider having each member of the group analyze a specific element of the case, including drafting answers to the corresponding questions used by your professor to frame the analysis. This will help make the analytical process more efficient and ensure that the distribution of work is equitable. This can also facilitate who is responsible for drafting each part of the final case analysis paper and, if applicable, the in-class presentation.

Framework for Case Analysis . College of Management. University of Massachusetts; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Rasche, Christoph and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Study Analysis . University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center; Van Ness, Raymond K. A Guide to Case Analysis . School of Business. State University of New York, Albany; Writing a Case Analysis . Business School, University of New South Wales.

Structure and Writing Style

A case analysis paper should be detailed, concise, persuasive, clearly written, and professional in tone and in the use of language . As with other forms of college-level academic writing, declarative statements that convey information, provide a fact, or offer an explanation or any recommended courses of action should be based on evidence. If allowed by your professor, any external sources used to support your analysis, such as course readings, should be properly cited under a list of references. The organization and structure of case analysis papers can vary depending on your professor’s preferred format, but its structure generally follows the steps used for analyzing the case.


The introduction should provide a succinct but thorough descriptive overview of the main facts, issues, and core problems of the case . The introduction should also include a brief summary of the most relevant details about the situation and organizational setting. This includes defining the theoretical framework or conceptual model on which any questions were used to frame your analysis.

Following the rules of most college-level research papers, the introduction should then inform the reader how the paper will be organized. This includes describing the major sections of the paper and the order in which they will be presented. Unless you are told to do so by your professor, you do not need to preview your final recommendations in the introduction. U nlike most college-level research papers , the introduction does not include a statement about the significance of your findings because a case analysis assignment does not involve contributing new knowledge about a research problem.

Background Analysis

Background analysis can vary depending on any guiding questions provided by your professor and the underlying concept or theory that the case is based upon. In general, however, this section of your paper should focus on:

  • Providing an overarching analysis of problems identified from the case scenario, including identifying events that stakeholders find challenging or troublesome,
  • Identifying assumptions made by each stakeholder and any apparent biases they may exhibit,
  • Describing any demands or claims made by or forced upon key stakeholders, and
  • Highlighting any issues of concern or complaints expressed by stakeholders in response to those demands or claims.

These aspects of the case are often in the form of behavioral responses expressed by individuals or groups within the organizational setting. However, note that problems in a case situation can also be reflected in data [or the lack thereof] and in the decision-making, operational, cultural, or institutional structure of the organization. Additionally, demands or claims can be either internal and external to the organization [e.g., a case analysis involving a president considering arms sales to Saudi Arabia could include managing internal demands from White House advisors as well as demands from members of Congress].

Throughout this section, present all relevant evidence from the case that supports your analysis. Do not simply claim there is a problem, an assumption, a demand, or a concern; tell the reader what part of the case informed how you identified these background elements.

Identification of Problems

In most case analysis assignments, there are problems, and then there are problems . Each problem can reflect a multitude of underlying symptoms that are detrimental to the interests of the organization. The purpose of identifying problems is to teach students how to differentiate between problems that vary in severity, impact, and relative importance. Given this, problems can be described in three general forms: those that must be addressed immediately, those that should be addressed but the impact is not severe, and those that do not require immediate attention and can be set aside for the time being.

All of the problems you identify from the case should be identified in this section of your paper, with a description based on evidence explaining the problem variances. If the assignment asks you to conduct research to further support your assessment of the problems, include this in your explanation. Remember to cite those sources in a list of references. Use specific evidence from the case and apply appropriate concepts, theories, and models discussed in class or in relevant course readings to highlight and explain the key problems [or problem] that you believe must be solved immediately and describe the underlying symptoms and why they are so critical.

Alternative Solutions

This section is where you provide specific, realistic, and evidence-based solutions to the problems you have identified and make recommendations about how to alleviate the underlying symptomatic conditions impacting the organizational setting. For each solution, you must explain why it was chosen and provide clear evidence to support your reasoning. This can include, for example, course readings and class discussions as well as research resources, such as, books, journal articles, research reports, or government documents. In some cases, your professor may encourage you to include personal, anecdotal experiences as evidence to support why you chose a particular solution or set of solutions. Using anecdotal evidence helps promote reflective thinking about the process of determining what qualifies as a core problem and relevant solution .

Throughout this part of the paper, keep in mind the entire array of problems that must be addressed and describe in detail the solutions that might be implemented to resolve these problems.

Recommended Courses of Action

In some case analysis assignments, your professor may ask you to combine the alternative solutions section with your recommended courses of action. However, it is important to know the difference between the two. A solution refers to the answer to a problem. A course of action refers to a procedure or deliberate sequence of activities adopted to proactively confront a situation, often in the context of accomplishing a goal. In this context, proposed courses of action are based on your analysis of alternative solutions. Your description and justification for pursuing each course of action should represent the overall plan for implementing your recommendations.

For each course of action, you need to explain the rationale for your recommendation in a way that confronts challenges, explains risks, and anticipates any counter-arguments from stakeholders. Do this by considering the strengths and weaknesses of each course of action framed in relation to how the action is expected to resolve the core problems presented, the possible ways the action may affect remaining problems, and how the recommended action will be perceived by each stakeholder.

In addition, you should describe the criteria needed to measure how well the implementation of these actions is working and explain which individuals or groups are responsible for ensuring your recommendations are successful. In addition, always consider the law of unintended consequences. Outline difficulties that may arise in implementing each course of action and describe how implementing the proposed courses of action [either individually or collectively] may lead to new problems [both large and small].

Throughout this section, you must consider the costs and benefits of recommending your courses of action in relation to uncertainties or missing information and the negative consequences of success.

The conclusion should be brief and introspective. Unlike a research paper, the conclusion in a case analysis paper does not include a summary of key findings and their significance, a statement about how the study contributed to existing knowledge, or indicate opportunities for future research.

Begin by synthesizing the core problems presented in the case and the relevance of your recommended solutions. This can include an explanation of what you have learned about the case in the context of your answers to the questions provided by your professor. The conclusion is also where you link what you learned from analyzing the case with the course readings or class discussions. This can further demonstrate your understanding of the relationships between the practical case situation and the theoretical and abstract content of assigned readings and other course content.

Problems to Avoid

The literature on case analysis assignments often includes examples of difficulties students have with applying methods of critical analysis and effectively reporting the results of their assessment of the situation. A common reason cited by scholars is that the application of this type of teaching and learning method is limited to applied fields of social and behavioral sciences and, as a result, writing a case analysis paper can be unfamiliar to most students entering college.

After you have drafted your paper, proofread the narrative flow and revise any of these common errors:

  • Unnecessary detail in the background section . The background section should highlight the essential elements of the case based on your analysis. Focus on summarizing the facts and highlighting the key factors that become relevant in the other sections of the paper by eliminating any unnecessary information.
  • Analysis relies too much on opinion . Your analysis is interpretive, but the narrative must be connected clearly to evidence from the case and any models and theories discussed in class or in course readings. Any positions or arguments you make should be supported by evidence.
  • Analysis does not focus on the most important elements of the case . Your paper should provide a thorough overview of the case. However, the analysis should focus on providing evidence about what you identify are the key events, stakeholders, issues, and problems. Emphasize what you identify as the most critical aspects of the case to be developed throughout your analysis. Be thorough but succinct.
  • Writing is too descriptive . A paper with too much descriptive information detracts from your analysis of the complexities of the case situation. Questions about what happened, where, when, and by whom should only be included as essential information leading to your examination of questions related to why, how, and for what purpose.
  • Inadequate definition of a core problem and associated symptoms . A common error found in case analysis papers is recommending a solution or course of action without adequately defining or demonstrating that you understand the problem. Make sure you have clearly described the problem and its impact and scope within the organizational setting. Ensure that you have adequately described the root causes w hen describing the symptoms of the problem.
  • Recommendations lack specificity . Identify any use of vague statements and indeterminate terminology, such as, “A particular experience” or “a large increase to the budget.” These statements cannot be measured and, as a result, there is no way to evaluate their successful implementation. Provide specific data and use direct language in describing recommended actions.
  • Unrealistic, exaggerated, or unattainable recommendations . Review your recommendations to ensure that they are based on the situational facts of the case. Your recommended solutions and courses of action must be based on realistic assumptions and fit within the constraints of the situation. Also note that the case scenario has already happened, therefore, any speculation or arguments about what could have occurred if the circumstances were different should be revised or eliminated.

Bee, Lian Song et al. "Business Students' Perspectives on Case Method Coaching for Problem-Based Learning: Impacts on Student Engagement and Learning Performance in Higher Education." Education & Training 64 (2022): 416-432; The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Georgallis, Panikos and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching using Case-Based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Georgallis, Panikos, and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching Using Case-based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; .Dean,  Kathy Lund and Charles J. Fornaciari. "How to Create and Use Experiential Case-Based Exercises in a Management Classroom." Journal of Management Education 26 (October 2002): 586-603; Klebba, Joanne M. and Janet G. Hamilton. "Structured Case Analysis: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in a Marketing Case Course." Journal of Marketing Education 29 (August 2007): 132-137, 139; Klein, Norman. "The Case Discussion Method Revisited: Some Questions about Student Skills." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 30-32; Mukherjee, Arup. "Effective Use of In-Class Mini Case Analysis for Discovery Learning in an Undergraduate MIS Course." The Journal of Computer Information Systems 40 (Spring 2000): 15-23; Pessoa, Silviaet al. "Scaffolding the Case Analysis in an Organizational Behavior Course: Making Analytical Language Explicit." Journal of Management Education 46 (2022): 226-251: Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Schweitzer, Karen. "How to Write and Format a Business Case Study." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-and-format-a-business-case-study-466324 (accessed December 5, 2022); Reddy, C. D. "Teaching Research Methodology: Everything's a Case." Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods 18 (December 2020): 178-188; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.

Writing Tip

Ca se Study and Case Analysis Are Not the Same!

Confusion often exists between what it means to write a paper that uses a case study research design and writing a paper that analyzes a case; they are two different types of approaches to learning in the social and behavioral sciences. Professors as well as educational researchers contribute to this confusion because they often use the term "case study" when describing the subject of analysis for a case analysis paper. But you are not studying a case for the purpose of generating a comprehensive, multi-faceted understanding of a research problem. R ather, you are critically analyzing a specific scenario to argue logically for recommended solutions and courses of action that lead to optimal outcomes applicable to professional practice.

To avoid any confusion, here are twelve characteristics that delineate the differences between writing a paper using the case study research method and writing a case analysis paper:

  • Case study is a method of in-depth research and rigorous inquiry ; case analysis is a reliable method of teaching and learning . A case study is a modality of research that investigates a phenomenon for the purpose of creating new knowledge, solving a problem, or testing a hypothesis using empirical evidence derived from the case being studied. Often, the results are used to generalize about a larger population or within a wider context. The writing adheres to the traditional standards of a scholarly research study. A case analysis is a pedagogical tool used to teach students how to reflect and think critically about a practical, real-life problem in an organizational setting.
  • The researcher is responsible for identifying the case to study; a case analysis is assigned by your professor . As the researcher, you choose the case study to investigate in support of obtaining new knowledge and understanding about the research problem. The case in a case analysis assignment is almost always provided, and sometimes written, by your professor and either given to every student in class to analyze individually or to a small group of students, or students select a case to analyze from a predetermined list.
  • A case study is indeterminate and boundless; a case analysis is predetermined and confined . A case study can be almost anything [see item 9 below] as long as it relates directly to examining the research problem. This relationship is the only limit to what a researcher can choose as the subject of their case study. The content of a case analysis is determined by your professor and its parameters are well-defined and limited to elucidating insights of practical value applied to practice.
  • Case study is fact-based and describes actual events or situations; case analysis can be entirely fictional or adapted from an actual situation . The entire content of a case study must be grounded in reality to be a valid subject of investigation in an empirical research study. A case analysis only needs to set the stage for critically examining a situation in practice and, therefore, can be entirely fictional or adapted, all or in-part, from an actual situation.
  • Research using a case study method must adhere to principles of intellectual honesty and academic integrity; a case analysis scenario can include misleading or false information . A case study paper must report research objectively and factually to ensure that any findings are understood to be logically correct and trustworthy. A case analysis scenario may include misleading or false information intended to deliberately distract from the central issues of the case. The purpose is to teach students how to sort through conflicting or useless information in order to come up with the preferred solution. Any use of misleading or false information in academic research is considered unethical.
  • Case study is linked to a research problem; case analysis is linked to a practical situation or scenario . In the social sciences, the subject of an investigation is most often framed as a problem that must be researched in order to generate new knowledge leading to a solution. Case analysis narratives are grounded in real life scenarios for the purpose of examining the realities of decision-making behavior and processes within organizational settings. A case analysis assignments include a problem or set of problems to be analyzed. However, the goal is centered around the act of identifying and evaluating courses of action leading to best possible outcomes.
  • The purpose of a case study is to create new knowledge through research; the purpose of a case analysis is to teach new understanding . Case studies are a choice of methodological design intended to create new knowledge about resolving a research problem. A case analysis is a mode of teaching and learning intended to create new understanding and an awareness of uncertainty applied to practice through acts of critical thinking and reflection.
  • A case study seeks to identify the best possible solution to a research problem; case analysis can have an indeterminate set of solutions or outcomes . Your role in studying a case is to discover the most logical, evidence-based ways to address a research problem. A case analysis assignment rarely has a single correct answer because one of the goals is to force students to confront the real life dynamics of uncertainly, ambiguity, and missing or conflicting information within professional practice. Under these conditions, a perfect outcome or solution almost never exists.
  • Case study is unbounded and relies on gathering external information; case analysis is a self-contained subject of analysis . The scope of a case study chosen as a method of research is bounded. However, the researcher is free to gather whatever information and data is necessary to investigate its relevance to understanding the research problem. For a case analysis assignment, your professor will often ask you to examine solutions or recommended courses of action based solely on facts and information from the case.
  • Case study can be a person, place, object, issue, event, condition, or phenomenon; a case analysis is a carefully constructed synopsis of events, situations, and behaviors . The research problem dictates the type of case being studied and, therefore, the design can encompass almost anything tangible as long as it fulfills the objective of generating new knowledge and understanding. A case analysis is in the form of a narrative containing descriptions of facts, situations, processes, rules, and behaviors within a particular setting and under a specific set of circumstances.
  • Case study can represent an open-ended subject of inquiry; a case analysis is a narrative about something that has happened in the past . A case study is not restricted by time and can encompass an event or issue with no temporal limit or end. For example, the current war in Ukraine can be used as a case study of how medical personnel help civilians during a large military conflict, even though circumstances around this event are still evolving. A case analysis can be used to elicit critical thinking about current or future situations in practice, but the case itself is a narrative about something finite and that has taken place in the past.
  • Multiple case studies can be used in a research study; case analysis involves examining a single scenario . Case study research can use two or more cases to examine a problem, often for the purpose of conducting a comparative investigation intended to discover hidden relationships, document emerging trends, or determine variations among different examples. A case analysis assignment typically describes a stand-alone, self-contained situation and any comparisons among cases are conducted during in-class discussions and/or student presentations.

The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . 6th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2017; Crowe, Sarah et al. “The Case Study Approach.” BMC Medical Research Methodology 11 (2011):  doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-11-100; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing; 1994.

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What Is a Case Study?

Weighing the pros and cons of this method of research

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

case issues

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter.

case issues

Verywell / Colleen Tighe

  • Pros and Cons

What Types of Case Studies Are Out There?

Where do you find data for a case study, how do i write a psychology case study.

A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior. Case studies can be used in many different fields, including psychology, medicine, education, anthropology, political science, and social work.

The point of a case study is to learn as much as possible about an individual or group so that the information can be generalized to many others. Unfortunately, case studies tend to be highly subjective, and it is sometimes difficult to generalize results to a larger population.

While case studies focus on a single individual or group, they follow a format similar to other types of psychology writing. If you are writing a case study, we got you—here are some rules of APA format to reference.  

At a Glance

A case study, or an in-depth study of a person, group, or event, can be a useful research tool when used wisely. In many cases, case studies are best used in situations where it would be difficult or impossible for you to conduct an experiment. They are helpful for looking at unique situations and allow researchers to gather a lot of˜ information about a specific individual or group of people. However, it's important to be cautious of any bias we draw from them as they are highly subjective.

What Are the Benefits and Limitations of Case Studies?

A case study can have its strengths and weaknesses. Researchers must consider these pros and cons before deciding if this type of study is appropriate for their needs.

One of the greatest advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult or impossible to replicate in a lab. Some other benefits of a case study:

  • Allows researchers to capture information on the 'how,' 'what,' and 'why,' of something that's implemented
  • Gives researchers the chance to collect information on why one strategy might be chosen over another
  • Permits researchers to develop hypotheses that can be explored in experimental research

On the other hand, a case study can have some drawbacks:

  • It cannot necessarily be generalized to the larger population
  • Cannot demonstrate cause and effect
  • It may not be scientifically rigorous
  • It can lead to bias

Researchers may choose to perform a case study if they want to explore a unique or recently discovered phenomenon. Through their insights, researchers develop additional ideas and study questions that might be explored in future studies.

It's important to remember that the insights from case studies cannot be used to determine cause-and-effect relationships between variables. However, case studies may be used to develop hypotheses that can then be addressed in experimental research.

Case Study Examples

There have been a number of notable case studies in the history of psychology. Much of  Freud's work and theories were developed through individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include:

  • Anna O : Anna O. was a pseudonym of a woman named Bertha Pappenheim, a patient of a physician named Josef Breuer. While she was never a patient of Freud's, Freud and Breuer discussed her case extensively. The woman was experiencing symptoms of a condition that was then known as hysteria and found that talking about her problems helped relieve her symptoms. Her case played an important part in the development of talk therapy as an approach to mental health treatment.
  • Phineas Gage : Phineas Gage was a railroad employee who experienced a terrible accident in which an explosion sent a metal rod through his skull, damaging important portions of his brain. Gage recovered from his accident but was left with serious changes in both personality and behavior.
  • Genie : Genie was a young girl subjected to horrific abuse and isolation. The case study of Genie allowed researchers to study whether language learning was possible, even after missing critical periods for language development. Her case also served as an example of how scientific research may interfere with treatment and lead to further abuse of vulnerable individuals.

Such cases demonstrate how case research can be used to study things that researchers could not replicate in experimental settings. In Genie's case, her horrific abuse denied her the opportunity to learn a language at critical points in her development.

This is clearly not something researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers to study phenomena that are otherwise impossible to reproduce.

There are a few different types of case studies that psychologists and other researchers might use:

  • Collective case studies : These involve studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community. For example, psychologists might explore how access to resources in a community has affected the collective mental well-being of those who live there.
  • Descriptive case studies : These involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed, and the information gathered is compared to the pre-existing theory.
  • Explanatory case studies : These   are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have caused certain things to occur.
  • Exploratory case studies : These are sometimes used as a prelude to further, more in-depth research. This allows researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses .
  • Instrumental case studies : These occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.
  • Intrinsic case studies : This type of case study is when the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget's observations of his own children are good examples of how an intrinsic case study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.

The three main case study types often used are intrinsic, instrumental, and collective. Intrinsic case studies are useful for learning about unique cases. Instrumental case studies help look at an individual to learn more about a broader issue. A collective case study can be useful for looking at several cases simultaneously.

The type of case study that psychology researchers use depends on the unique characteristics of the situation and the case itself.

There are a number of different sources and methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. Six major sources that have been identified by researchers are:

  • Archival records : Census records, survey records, and name lists are examples of archival records.
  • Direct observation : This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting . While an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to utilize a group of observers.
  • Documents : Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc., are the types of documents often used as sources.
  • Interviews : Interviews are one of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involve structured survey questions or more open-ended questions.
  • Participant observation : When the researcher serves as a participant in events and observes the actions and outcomes, it is called participant observation.
  • Physical artifacts : Tools, objects, instruments, and other artifacts are often observed during a direct observation of the subject.

If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure to check with your instructor for any specific guidelines you need to follow. If you are writing your case study for a professional publication, check with the publisher for their specific guidelines for submitting a case study.

Here is a general outline of what should be included in a case study.

Section 1: A Case History

This section will have the following structure and content:

Background information : The first section of your paper will present your client's background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills and weaknesses.

Description of the presenting problem : In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with.

Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.

Your diagnosis : Provide your diagnosis and give the appropriate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the client's symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.

Section 2: Treatment Plan

This portion of the paper will address the chosen treatment for the condition. This might also include the theoretical basis for the chosen treatment or any other evidence that might exist to support why this approach was chosen.

  • Cognitive behavioral approach : Explain how a cognitive behavioral therapist would approach treatment. Offer background information on cognitive behavioral therapy and describe the treatment sessions, client response, and outcome of this type of treatment. Make note of any difficulties or successes encountered by your client during treatment.
  • Humanistic approach : Describe a humanistic approach that could be used to treat your client, such as client-centered therapy . Provide information on the type of treatment you chose, the client's reaction to the treatment, and the end result of this approach. Explain why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.
  • Psychoanalytic approach : Describe how a psychoanalytic therapist would view the client's problem. Provide some background on the psychoanalytic approach and cite relevant references. Explain how psychoanalytic therapy would be used to treat the client, how the client would respond to therapy, and the effectiveness of this treatment approach.
  • Pharmacological approach : If treatment primarily involves the use of medications, explain which medications were used and why. Provide background on the effectiveness of these medications and how monotherapy may compare with an approach that combines medications with therapy or other treatments.

This section of a case study should also include information about the treatment goals, process, and outcomes.

When you are writing a case study, you should also include a section where you discuss the case study itself, including the strengths and limitiations of the study. You should note how the findings of your case study might support previous research. 

In your discussion section, you should also describe some of the implications of your case study. What ideas or findings might require further exploration? How might researchers go about exploring some of these questions in additional studies?

Need More Tips?

Here are a few additional pointers to keep in mind when formatting your case study:

  • Never refer to the subject of your case study as "the client." Instead, use their name or a pseudonym.
  • Read examples of case studies to gain an idea about the style and format.
  • Remember to use APA format when citing references .

Crowe S, Cresswell K, Robertson A, Huby G, Avery A, Sheikh A. The case study approach .  BMC Med Res Methodol . 2011;11:100.

Crowe S, Cresswell K, Robertson A, Huby G, Avery A, Sheikh A. The case study approach . BMC Med Res Methodol . 2011 Jun 27;11:100. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-100

Gagnon, Yves-Chantal.  The Case Study as Research Method: A Practical Handbook . Canada, Chicago Review Press Incorporated DBA Independent Pub Group, 2010.

Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . United States, SAGE Publications, 2017.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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O'Mathúna D, Iphofen R, editors. Ethics, Integrity and Policymaking: The Value of the Case Study [Internet]. Cham (CH): Springer; 2022. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-15746-2_1

Cover of Ethics, Integrity and Policymaking

Ethics, Integrity and Policymaking: The Value of the Case Study [Internet].

Chapter 1 making a case for the case: an introduction.

Dónal O’Mathúna and Ron Iphofen .


Published online: November 3, 2022.

This chapter agues for the importance of case studies in generating evidence to guide and/or support policymaking across a variety of fields. Case studies can offer the kind of depth and detail vital to the nuances of context, which may be important in securing effective policies that take account of influences not easily identified in more generalised studies. Case studies can be written in a variety of ways which are overviewed in this chapter, and can also be written with different purposes in mind. At the same time, case studies have limitations, particularly when evidence of causation is sought. Understanding these can help to ensure that case studies are appropriately used to assist in policymaking. This chapter also provides an overview of the types of case studies found in the rest of this volume, and briefly summarises the themes and topics addressed in each of the other chapters.

1.1. Judging the Ethics of Research

When asked to judge the ethical issues involved in research or any evidence-gathering activity, any research ethicist worth their salt will (or should) reply, at least initially: ‘It depends’. This is neither sophistry nor evasive legalism. Instead, it is a specific form of casuistry used in ethics in which general ethical principles are applied to the specifics of actual cases and inferences made through analogy. It is valued as a structured yet flexible approach to real-world ethical challenges. Case study methods recognise the complexities of depth and detail involved in assessing research activities. Another way of putting this is to say: ‘Don’t ask me to make a judgement about a piece of research until I have the details of the project and the context in which it will or did take place.’ Understanding and fully explicating a context is vital as far as ethical research (and evidence-gathering) is concerned, along with taking account of the complex interrelationship between context and method (Miller and Dingwall 1997 ).

This rationale lies behind this collection of case studies which is one outcome from the EU-funded PRO-RES Project. 1 One aim of this project was to establish the virtues, values, principles and standards most commonly held as supportive of ethical practice by researchers, scientists and evidence-generators and users. The project team conducted desk research, workshops and consulted throughout the project with a wide range of stakeholders (PRO-RES 2021a ). The resulting Scientific, Trustworthy, and Ethical evidence for Policy (STEP) ACCORD was devised, which all stakeholders could sign up to and endorse in the interests of ensuring any policies which are the outcome of research findings are based upon ethical evidence (PRO-RES 2021b ).

By ‘ethical evidence’ we mean results and findings that have been generated by research and other activities during which the standards of research ethics and integrity have been upheld (Iphofen and O’Mathúna 2022 ). The first statement of the STEP ACCORD is that policy should be evidence-based, meaning that it is underpinned by high-quality research, analysis and evidence (PRO-RES 2021b ). While our topic could be said to be research ethics, we have chosen to refer more broadly to evidence-generating activities. Much debate has occurred over the precise definition of research under the apparent assumption that ‘non-research projects’ fall outside the purview of requirements to obtain ethics approval from an ethics review body. This debate is more about the regulation of research than the ethics of research and has contributed to an unbalanced approach to the ethics of research (O’Mathúna 2018 ). Research and evidence-generating activities raise many ethical concerns, some similar and some distinct. When the focus is primarily on which projects need to obtain what sort of ethics approval from which type of committee, the ethical issues raised by those activities themselves can receive insufficient attention. This can leave everyone involved with these activities either struggling to figure out how to manage complex and challenging ethical dilemmas or pushing ahead with those activities confident that their approval letter means they have fulfilled all their ethical responsibilities. Unfortunately, this can lead to a view that research ethics is an impediment and burden that must be overcome so that the important work in the research itself can get going.

The alternative perspective advocated by PRO-RES, and the authors of the chapters in this volume, is that ethics underpins all phases of research, from when the idea for a project is conceived, all the way through its design and implementation, and on to how its findings are disseminated and put into practice in individual decisions or in policy. Given the range of activities involved in all these phases, multiple types of ethical issues can arise. Each occurs in its own context of time and place, and this must be taken into account. While ethical principles and theories have important contributions to make at each of these points, case studies are also very important. These allow for the normative effects of various assumptions and declarations to be judged in context. We therefore asked the authors of this volume’s chapters to identify various case studies which would demonstrate the ethical challenges entailed in various types of research and evidence-generating activities. These illustrative case studies explore various innovative topics and fields that raise challenges requiring ethical reflection and careful policymaking responses. The cases highlight diverse ethical issues and provide lessons for the various options available for policymaking (see Sect.  1.6 . below). Cases are drawn from many fields, including artificial intelligence, space science, energy, data protection, professional research practice and pandemic planning. The issues are examined in different locations, including Europe, India, Africa and in global contexts. Each case is examined in detail and also helps to anticipate lessons that could be learned and applied in other situations where ethical evidence is needed to inform evidence-based policymaking.

1.2. The Case for Cases

Case studies have increasingly been used, particularly in social science (Exworthy and Powell 2012 ). Many reasons underlie this trend, one being the movement towards evidence-based practice. Case studies provide a methodology by which a detailed study can be conducted of a social unit, whether that unit is a person, an organization, a policy or a larger group or system (Exworthy and Powell 2012 ). The case study is amenable to various methodologies, mostly qualitative, which allow investigations via documentary analyses, interviews, focus groups, observations, and more.

At the same time, consensus is lacking over the precise nature of a case study. Various definitions have been offered, but Yin ( 2017 ) provides a widely cited definition with two parts. One is that a case study is an in-depth inquiry into a real-life phenomenon where the context is highly pertinent. The second part of Yin’s definition addresses the many variables involved in the case, the multiple sources of evidence explored, and the inclusion of theoretical propositions to guide the analysis. While Yin’s emphasis is on the case study as a research method, he identifies important elements of broader relevance that point to the particular value of the case study for examining ethical issues.

Other definitions of case studies emphasize their story or narrative aspects (Gwee 2018 ). These stories frequently highlight a dilemma in contextually rich ways, with an emphasis on how decisions can be or need to be made. Case studies are particularly helpful with ethical issues to provide crucial context and explore (and evaluate) how ethical decisions have been made or need to be made. Classic cases include the Tuskegee public health syphilis study, the Henrietta Lacks human cell line case, the Milgram and Zimbardo psychology cases, the Tea Room Trade case, and the Belfast Project in oral history research (examined here in Chap. 10 ). Cases exemplify core ethical principles, and how they were applied or misapplied; in addition, they examine how policies have worked well or not (Chaps. 2 , 3 and 5 ). Cases can examine ethics in long-standing issues (like research misconduct (Chap. 7 ), energy production (Chap. 8 ), or Chap. 11 ’s consideration of researchers breaking the law), or with innovations in need of further ethical reflection because of their novelty (like extended space flight (Chap. 9 ) and AI (Chaps. 13 and 14 ), with the latter looking at automation in legal systems). These case studies help to situate the innovations within the context of widely regarded ethical principles and theories, and allow comparisons to be made with other technologies or practices where ethical positions have been developed. In doing so, these case studies offer pointers and suggestions for policymakers given that they are the ones who will develop applicable policies.

1.3. Research Design and Causal Inference

Not everyone is convinced of the value of the case study. It must be admitted that they have limitations, which we will reflect on shortly. Yet we believe that others go too far in their criticisms, revealing instead some prejudices against the value of the case (Yin 2017 ). In what has become a classic text for research design, Campbell and Stanley ( 1963 ) have few good words for what they call the ‘One Shot Case Study.’ They rank it below two other ‘pre-experimental’ designs—the One-Group Pretest–Posttest and the Static-Group Comparison—and conclude that case studies “have such a total absence of control to be of almost no scientific value” (Campbell and Stanley 1963 , 6). The other designs have, in turn, a baseline and outcome measure and some degree of comparative analysis which provides them some validity. Such a criticism is legitimate if one prioritises the experimental method as the most superior in terms of effectiveness evidence and, as for Campbell and Stanley, one is striving to assess the effectiveness of educational interventions.

What is missing from that assessment is that different methodologies are more appropriate for different kinds of questions. Questions of causation and whether a particular treatment, policy or educational strategy is more effective than another are best answered by experimental methods. While experimental designs are better suited to explore causal relationships, case studies are more suited to explore “how” and “why” questions (Yin 2017 ). It can be more productive to view different methodologies as complementing one another, rather than examining them in hierarchical terms.

The case study approach draws on a long tradition in ethnography and anthropology: “It stresses the importance of holistic perspectives and so has more of a ‘humanistic’ emphasis. It recognises that there are multiple influences on any single individual or group and that most other methods neglect the thorough understanding of this range of influences. They usually focus on a chosen variable or variables which are tested in terms of their influence. A case study tends to make no initial assumptions about which are the key variables—preferring to allow the case to ‘speak for itself’” (Iphofen et al. 2009 , 275). This tradition has sometimes discouraged people from conducting or using case studies on the assumption that they take massive amounts of time and lead to huge reports. This is the case with ethnography, but the case study method can be applied in more limited settings and can lead to high-quality, concise reports.

Another criticism of case studies is that they cannot be used to make generalizations. Certainly, there are limits to their generalisability, but the same is true of experimental studies. One randomized controlled trial cannot be generalised to the whole population without ensuring that its details are evaluated in the context of how it was conducted.

Similarly, it should not be assumed that generalisability can adequately guide practice or policy when it comes to the specifics of an individual case. A case study should not be used to support statistical generalizations (that the same percentage found in the case will be found in the general public). But a case study can be used to expand and generalize theories and thus have much usefulness. It affords a method of examining the specific (complex) interactions occurring in a case which can only be known from the details. Such an analysis can be carried out for individuals, policies or interventions.

The current COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the dangers of generalising in the wrong context. Some people have very mild cases of COVID-19 or are asymptomatic. Others get seriously ill and even die. Sometimes people generalise from cases they know and assume they will have mild symptoms. Then they refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine, basically generalising from similar cases. Mass vaccination is recommended for the sake of the health of the public (generalised health) and to limit the spread of a deadly virus. Cases are reported of people having adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines, and some people generalise from these that they will not take whatever risks might be involved in receiving the vaccine themselves. It might be theoretically possible to discover which individuals WILL react adversely to immunisation on a population level. But it is highly complex and expensive to do so, and takes an extensive period of time. Given the urgency of benefitting the health of ‘the public’, policymakers have decided that the risks to a sub-group are warranted. Only after the emergence of epidemiological data disclosing negative effects of some vaccines on some individuals will it become more clear which characteristics typify those cases which are likely to experience the adverse effects, and more accurately quantify the risks of experiencing those effects.

Much literature now points to the advantages and disadvantages of case studies (Gomm et al. 2000 ), and how to use them and conduct them with adequate rigour to ensure the validity of the evidence generated (Schell 1992 ; Yin 2011 , 2017 ). At the same time, legitimate critiques have been made of some case studies because they have been conducted without adequate rigor, in unsystematic ways, or in ways that allowed bias to have more influence than evidence (Hammersley 2001 ). Part of the problem here is similar to interviewing, where some will assume that since interviews are a form of conversation, anyone can do it. Case studies have some similarities to stories, but that doesn’t mean they are quick and easy ways to report on events. That view can lead to the situation where “most people feel that they can prepare a case study, and nearly all of us believe we can understand one. Since neither view is well founded, the case study receives a lot of approbation it does not deserve” (Hoaglin et al., cited in Yin 2017 , 16).

Case studies can be conducted and used in a wide range of ways (Gwee 2018 ). Case studies can be used as a research method, as a teaching tool, as a way of recording events so that learning can be applied to practice, and to facilitate practical problem-solving skills (Luck et al. 2006 ). Significant differences exist between a case study that was developed and used in research compared to one used for teaching (Yin 2017 ). A valid rationale for studying a ‘case’ should be provided so that it is clear that the proposed method is suitable to the topic and subject being studied. The unit of study for a case could be an individual person, social group, community, or society. Sometimes that specific case alone will constitute the actual research project. Thus, the study could be of one individual’s experience, with insights and understanding gained of the individual’s situation which could be of use to understand others’ experiences. Often there will be attempts made at a comparison between cases—one organisation being compared to another, with both being studied in some detail, and in terms of the same or similar criteria. Given this variety, it is important to use cases in ways appropriate to how they were generated.

The case study continues to be an important piece of evidence in clinical decision-making in medicine and healthcare. Here, case studies do not demonstrate causation or effectiveness, but are used as an important step in understanding the experiences of patients, particularly with a new or confusing set of symptoms. This was clearly seen as clinicians published case studies describing a new respiratory infection which the world now knows to be COVID-19. Only as case studies were generated, and the patterns brought together in larger collections of cases, did the characteristics of the illness come to inform those seeking to diagnose at the bedside (Borges do Nascimento et al. 2020 ). Indeed case studies are frequently favoured in nursing, healthcare and social work research where professional missions require a focus on the care of the individual and where cases facilitate making use of the range of research paradigms (Galatzer-Levy et al. 2000 ; Mattaini 1996 ; Gray 1998 ; Luck et al. 2006 ).

1.4. Devil’s in the Detail

Our main concern in this collection is not with case study aetiology but rather to draw on the advantages of the method to highlight key ethical issues related to the use of evidence in influencing policy. Thus, we make no claim to causal ‘generalisation’ on the basis of these reports—but instead we seek to help elucidate ethics issues, if even theoretical, and anticipate responses and obstacles in similar situations and contexts that might help decision-making in novel circumstances. A key strength of case studies is their capacity to connect abstract theoretical concepts to the complex realities of practice and the real world (Luck et al. 2006 ). Ethics cases clearly fit this description and allow the contextual details of issues and dilemmas to be included in discussions of how ethical principles apply as policy is being developed.

Since cases are highly focussed on the specifics of the situation, more time can be given over to data gathering which may be of both qualitative and quantitative natures. Given the many variables involved in the ‘real life’ setting, increased methodological flexibility is required (Yin 2017 ). This means seeking to maximise the data sources—such as archives (personal and public), records (such as personal diaries), observations (participant and covert) and interviews (face-to-face and online)—and revisiting all sources when necessary and as case participants and time allows.

1.5. Cases and Policymaking

Case studies allow researchers and practitioners to learn from the specifics of a situation and apply that learning in similar situations. Ethics case studies allow such reflection to facilitate the development of ethical decision-making skills. This volume has major interests in ethics and evidence-generation (research), but also in a third area: policymaking. Cases can influence policymaking, such as how one case can receive widespread attention and become the impetus to create policy that aims to prevent similar cases. For example, the US federal Brady Law was enacted in 1993 to require background checks on people before they purchase a gun (ATF 2021 ). The law was named for White House Press Secretary James Brady, and his case became widely known in the US. He was shot and paralyzed during John Hinckley, Jr.’s 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Another example, this time in a research context, was how the Tuskegee Syphilis Study led, after its public exposure in 1971, to the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare appointing an expert panel to examine the ethics of that case. This resulted in federal policymakers enacting the National Research Act in 1974, which included setting up a national commission that published the Belmont Report in 1976. This report continues to strongly influence research ethics practice around the world. These examples highlight the power of a case study to influence policymaking.

One of the challenges for policymakers, though, is that compelling cases can often be provided for opposite sides of an issue. Also, while the Belmont Report has been praised for articulating a small number of key ethical principles, how those principles should be applied in specific instances of research remains an ongoing challenge and a point of much discussion. This is particularly relevant for innovative techniques and technologies. Hence the importance of cases interacting with general principles and leading to ongoing reflection and debate over the applicable cases. At the same time, new areas of research and evidence generation activities will lead to questions about how existing ethical principles and values apply. New case studies can help to facilitate that reflection, which can then allow policymakers to consider whether existing policy should be adapted or whether whole new areas of policy are needed.

Case studies also can play an important role in learning from and evaluating policy. Policymakers tend to focus on practical, day-to-day concerns and with the introduction of new programmes (Exworthy and Peckam 2012 ). Time and resources may be scant when it comes to evaluating how well existing policies are performing or reflecting on how policies can be adapted to overcome shortcomings (Hunter 2003 ). Effective policies may exist elsewhere (historically or geographically) and be more easily adapted to a new context instead of starting policymaking from scratch. Case studies can permit learning from past policies (or situations where policies did not exist), and they can illuminate various factors that should be explored in more detail in the context of the current issue or situation. Chaps. 2 , 3 and 5 in this volume are examples of this type of case study.

1.6. The Moral Gain

This volume reflects the ambiguity of ethical dilemmas in contemporary policymaking. Analyses will reflect current debates where consensus has not been achieved yet. These cases illustrate key points made throughout the PRO-RES project: that ethical decision-making is a fluid enterprise, where values, principles and standards must constantly be applied to new situations, new events and new research developments. The cases illustrate how no ‘one point’ exists in the research process where judgements about ethics can be regarded as ‘final.’ Case studies provide excellent ways for readers to develop important decision-making skills.

Research produces novel products and processes which can have broad implications for society, the environment and relationships. Research methods themselves are modified or applied in new ways and places, requiring further ethical reflection. New topics and whole fields of research develop and require careful evaluation and thoughtful responses. New case studies are needed because research constantly generates new issues and new ethics questions for policymaking.

The cases found in this volume address a wide range of topics and involve several disciplines. The cases were selected by the parameters of the PRO-RES project and the Horizon 2020 funding call to which it responded. First, the call was concerned with both research ethics and scientific integrity and each of the cases addresses one or both of these areas. The call sought projects that addressed non-medical research, and the cases here address disciplines such as social sciences, engineering, artificial intelligence and One Health. The call also sought particular attention be given to (a) covert research, (b) working in dangerous areas/conflict zones and (c) behavioral research collecting data from social media/internet sources. Hence, we included cases that addressed each of these areas. Finally, while an EU-funded project can be expected to have a European focus, the issues addressed have global implications. Therefore, we wanted to include cases studies from outside Europe and did so by involving authors from India and Africa to reflect on the volume’s areas of interest.

The first case study offered in this volume (Chap. 2 ) examines a significant policy approach taken by the European Union to address ethics and integrity in research and innovation: Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). This chapter examines the lessons that can be learned from RRI in a European context. Chapter 3 elaborates on this topic with another policy learning case study, but this time examining RRI in India. One of the critiques made of RRI is that it can be Euro-centric. This case study examines this claim, and also describes how a distinctively Indian concept, Scientific Temper, can add to and contextualise RRI. Chapter 4 takes a different approach in being a case study of the development of research ethics guidance in the United Kingdom (UK). It explores the history underlying the research ethics framework commissioned by the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) and the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA), and points to lessons that can be learned about the policy-development process itself.

While staying focused on policy related to research ethics, the chapters that follow include case studies that address more targeted concerns. Chapter 5 examines the impact of the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the Republic of Croatia. Research data collected in Croatia is used to explore the handling of personal data before and after the introduction of GDPR. This case study aims to provide lessons learned that could contribute to research ethics policies and procedures in other European Member States.

Chapter 6 moves from policy itself to the role of policy advisors in policymaking. This case study explores the distinct responsibilities of those elevated to the role of “policy advisor,” especially given the current lack of policy to regulate this field or how its advice is used by policymakers. Next, Chap. 7 straddles the previous chapters’ focus on policy and its evaluation while introducing the focus of the next section on historical case studies. This chapter uses the so-called “race for the superconductor” as a case study by which the PRO-RES ethics framework is used to explore specific ethical dilemmas (PRO-RES 2021b ). This case study is especially useful for policymakers because of how it reveals the multiple difficulties in balancing economic, political, institutional and professional requirements and values.

The next case study continues the use of historical cases, but here to explore the challenges facing innovative research into unorthodox energy technology that has the potential to displace traditional energy suppliers. The wave power case in Chap. 8 highlights how conducting research with integrity can have serious consequences and come with considerable cost. The case also points to the importance of transparency in how evidence is used in policymaking so that trust in science and scientists is promoted at the same time as science is used in the public interest. Another area of cutting-edge scientific innovation is explored in Chap. 9 , but this time looking to the future. This case study examines space exploration, and specifically the ethical issues around establishing safe exposure standards for astronauts embarking on extended duration spaceflights. This case highlights the ethical challenges in policymaking focused on an elite group of people (astronauts) who embark on extremely risky activities in the name of science and humanity.

Chapter 10 moves from the physical sciences to the social sciences. The Belfast Project provides a case study to explore the ethical challenges of conducting research after violent conflict. In this case, researchers promised anonymity and confidentiality to research participants, yet that was overturned through legal proceedings which highlighted the limits of confidentiality in research. This case points to the difficulty of balancing the value of research archives in understanding conflict against the value of providing juridical evidence to promote justice. Another social science case is examined in Chap. 11 , this time in ethnography. This so-called ‘urban explorer’ case study explores the justifications that might exist for undertaking covert research where researchers break the law (in this case by trespassing) in order to investigate a topic that would remain otherwise poorly understood. This case raises a number of important questions for policymakers around: the freedoms that researchers should be given to act in the public interest; when researchers are justified in breaking the law; and what responsibilities and consequences researchers should accept if they believe they are justified in doing so.

Further complexity in research and evidence generation is introduced in Chap. 12 . A case study in One Health is used to explore ethical issues at the intersection of animal, human and environmental ethics. The pertinence of such studies has been highlighted by COVID-19, yet policies lag behind in recognising the urgency and complexity of initiating investigations into novel outbreaks, such as the one discussed here that occurred among animals in Ethiopia. Chapter 13 retains the COVID-19 setting, but returns the attention to technological innovation. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the focus of these two chapters in the volume, here examining the ethical challenges arising from the emergency authorisation of using AI to respond to the public health needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chapter 14 addresses a longer term use of AI in addressing problems and challenges in the legal system. Using the so-called Robodebt case, the chapter explores the reasons why legal systems are turning to AI and other automated procedures. The Robodebt case highlights problems when AI algorithms are built on inaccurate assumptions and implemented with little human oversight. This case shows the massive problems for hundreds of thousands of Australians who became victims of poorly conceived AI and makes recommendations to assist policymakers to avoid similar debacles. The last chapter (Chap. 15 ) draws some general conclusions from all the cases that are relevant when using case studies.

1.7. Into the Future

This volume focuses on ethics in research and professional integrity and how we can be clear about the lessons that can be drawn to assist policymakers. The cases provided cover a wide range of situations, settings, and disciplines. They cover international, national, organisational, group and individual levels of concern. Each case raises distinct issues, yet also points to some general features of research, evidence-generation, ethics and policymaking. All the studies illustrate the difficulties of drawing clear ‘boundaries’ between the research and the context. All these case studies show how in real situations dynamic judgements have to be made about many different issues. Guidelines and policies do help and are needed. But at the same time, researchers, policymakers and everyone else involved in evidence generation and evidence implementation need to embody the virtues that are central to good research. Judgments will need to be made in many areas, for example, about how much transparency can be allowed, or is ethically justified; how much risk can be taken, both with participants’ safety and also with the researchers’ safety; how much information can be disclosed to or withheld from participants in their own interests and for the benefit of the ‘science’; and many others. All of these point to just how difficult it can be to apply common standards across disciplines, professions, cultures and countries. That difficulty must be acknowledged and lead to open discussions with the aim of improving practice. The cases presented here point to efforts that have been made towards this. None of them is perfect. Lessons must be learned from all of them, towards which Chap. 15 aims to be a starting point. Only by openly discussing and reflecting on past practice can lessons be learned that can inform policymaking that aims to improve future practice. In this way, ethical progress can become an essential aspect of innovation in research and evidence-generation.

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PRO-RES is a European Commission-funded project aiming to PROmote ethics and integrity in non-medical RESearch by building a supported guidance framework for all non-medical sciences and humanities disciplines adopting social science methodologies. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 788352. Open access fees for this volume were paid for through the PRO-RES funding.

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ ), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

  • Cite this Page O’Mathúna D, Iphofen R. Making a Case for the Case: An Introduction. 2022 Nov 3. In: O'Mathúna D, Iphofen R, editors. Ethics, Integrity and Policymaking: The Value of the Case Study [Internet]. Cham (CH): Springer; 2022. Chapter 1. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-15746-2_1
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In this Page

  • Judging the Ethics of Research
  • The Case for Cases
  • Research Design and Causal Inference
  • Devil’s in the Detail
  • Cases and Policymaking
  • The Moral Gain
  • Into the Future

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7 Favorite Business Case Studies to Teach—and Why

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The Army Crew Team . Emily Michelle David of CEIBS

ATH Technologies . Devin Shanthikumar of Paul Merage School of Business

Fabritek 1992 . Rob Austin of Ivey Business School

Lincoln Electric Co . Karin Schnarr of Wilfrid Laurier University

Pal’s Sudden Service—Scaling an Organizational Model to Drive Growth . Gary Pisano of Harvard Business School

The United States Air Force: ‘Chaos’ in the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron . Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School

Warren E. Buffett, 2015 . Robert F. Bruner of Darden School of Business

To dig into what makes a compelling case study, we asked seven experienced educators who teach with—and many who write—business case studies: “What is your favorite case to teach and why?”

The resulting list of case study favorites ranges in topics from operations management and organizational structure to rebel leaders and whodunnit dramas.

1. The Army Crew Team

Emily Michelle David, Assistant Professor of Management, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)

case issues

“I love teaching  The Army Crew Team  case because it beautifully demonstrates how a team can be so much less than the sum of its parts.

I deliver the case to executives in a nearby state-of-the-art rowing facility that features rowing machines, professional coaches, and shiny red eight-person shells.

After going through the case, they hear testimonies from former members of Chinese national crew teams before carrying their own boat to the river for a test race.

The rich learning environment helps to vividly underscore one of the case’s core messages: competition can be a double-edged sword if not properly managed.

case issues

Executives in Emily Michelle David’s organizational behavior class participate in rowing activities at a nearby facility as part of her case delivery.

Despite working for an elite headhunting firm, the executives in my most recent class were surprised to realize how much they’ve allowed their own team-building responsibilities to lapse. In the MBA pre-course, this case often leads to a rich discussion about common traps that newcomers fall into (for example, trying to do too much, too soon), which helps to poise them to both stand out in the MBA as well as prepare them for the lateral team building they will soon engage in.

Finally, I love that the post-script always gets a good laugh and serves as an early lesson that organizational behavior courses will seldom give you foolproof solutions for specific problems but will, instead, arm you with the ability to think through issues more critically.”

2. ATH Technologies

Devin Shanthikumar, Associate Professor of Accounting, Paul Merage School of Business

case issues

“As a professor at UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business, and before that at Harvard Business School, I have probably taught over 100 cases. I would like to say that my favorite case is my own,   Compass Box Whisky Company . But as fun as that case is, one case beats it:  ATH Technologies  by Robert Simons and Jennifer Packard.

ATH presents a young entrepreneurial company that is bought by a much larger company. As part of the merger, ATH gets an ‘earn-out’ deal—common among high-tech industries. The company, and the class, must decide what to do to achieve the stretch earn-out goals.

ATH captures a scenario we all want to be in at some point in our careers—being part of a young, exciting, growing organization. And a scenario we all will likely face—having stretch goals that seem almost unreachable.

It forces us, as a class, to really struggle with what to do at each stage.

After we read and discuss the A case, we find out what happens next, and discuss the B case, then the C, then D, and even E. At every stage, we can:

see how our decisions play out,

figure out how to build on our successes, and

address our failures.

The case is exciting, the class discussion is dynamic and energetic, and in the end, we all go home with a memorable ‘ah-ha!’ moment.

I have taught many great cases over my career, but none are quite as fun, memorable, and effective as ATH .”

3. Fabritek 1992

Rob Austin, Professor of Information Systems, Ivey Business School

case issues

“This might seem like an odd choice, but my favorite case to teach is an old operations case called  Fabritek 1992 .

The latest version of Fabritek 1992 is dated 2009, but it is my understanding that this is a rewrite of a case that is older (probably much older). There is a Fabritek 1969 in the HBP catalog—same basic case, older dates, and numbers. That 1969 version lists no authors, so I suspect the case goes even further back; the 1969 version is, I’m guessing, a rewrite of an even older version.

There are many things I appreciate about the case. Here are a few:

It operates as a learning opportunity at many levels. At first it looks like a not-very-glamorous production job scheduling case. By the end of the case discussion, though, we’re into (operations) strategy and more. It starts out technical, then explodes into much broader relevance. As I tell participants when I’m teaching HBP's Teaching with Cases seminars —where I often use Fabritek as an example—when people first encounter this case, they almost always underestimate it.

It has great characters—especially Arthur Moreno, who looks like a troublemaker, but who, discussion reveals, might just be the smartest guy in the factory. Alums of the Harvard MBA program have told me that they remember Arthur Moreno many years later.

Almost every word in the case is important. It’s only four and a half pages of text and three pages of exhibits. This economy of words and sparsity of style have always seemed like poetry to me. I should note that this super concise, every-word-matters approach is not the ideal we usually aspire to when we write cases. Often, we include extra or superfluous information because part of our teaching objective is to provide practice in separating what matters from what doesn’t in a case. Fabritek takes a different approach, though, which fits it well.

It has a dramatic structure. It unfolds like a detective story, a sort of whodunnit. Something is wrong. There is a quality problem, and we’re not sure who or what is responsible. One person, Arthur Moreno, looks very guilty (probably too obviously guilty), but as we dig into the situation, there are many more possibilities. We spend in-class time analyzing the data (there’s a bit of math, so it covers that base, too) to determine which hypotheses are best supported by the data. And, realistically, the data doesn’t support any of the hypotheses perfectly, just some of them more than others. Also, there’s a plot twist at the end (I won’t reveal it, but here’s a hint: Arthur Moreno isn’t nearly the biggest problem in the final analysis). I have had students tell me the surprising realization at the end of the discussion gives them ‘goosebumps.’

Finally, through the unexpected plot twist, it imparts what I call a ‘wisdom lesson’ to young managers: not to be too sure of themselves and to regard the experiences of others, especially experts out on the factory floor, with great seriousness.”

4. Lincoln Electric Co.

Karin Schnarr, Assistant Professor of Policy, Wilfrid Laurier University

case issues

“As a strategy professor, my favorite case to teach is the classic 1975 Harvard case  Lincoln Electric Co.  by Norman Berg.

I use it to demonstrate to students the theory linkage between strategy and organizational structure, management processes, and leadership behavior.

This case may be an odd choice for a favorite. It occurs decades before my students were born. It is pages longer than we are told students are now willing to read. It is about manufacturing arc welding equipment in Cleveland, Ohio—a hard sell for a Canadian business classroom.

Yet, I have never come across a case that so perfectly illustrates what I want students to learn about how a company can be designed from an organizational perspective to successfully implement its strategy.

And in a time where so much focus continues to be on how to maximize shareholder value, it is refreshing to be able to discuss a publicly-traded company that is successfully pursuing a strategy that provides a fair value to shareholders while distributing value to employees through a large bonus pool, as well as value to customers by continually lowering prices.

However, to make the case resonate with today’s students, I work to make it relevant to the contemporary business environment. I link the case to multimedia clips about Lincoln Electric’s current manufacturing practices, processes, and leadership practices. My students can then see that a model that has been in place for generations is still viable and highly successful, even in our very different competitive situation.”

5. Pal’s Sudden Service—Scaling an Organizational Model to Drive Growth

Gary Pisano, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

case issues

“My favorite case to teach these days is  Pal’s Sudden Service—Scaling an Organizational Model to Drive Growth .

I love teaching this case for three reasons:

1. It demonstrates how a company in a super-tough, highly competitive business can do very well by focusing on creating unique operating capabilities. In theory, Pal’s should have no chance against behemoths like McDonalds or Wendy’s—but it thrives because it has built a unique operating system. It’s a great example of a strategic approach to operations in action.

2. The case shows how a strategic approach to human resource and talent development at all levels really matters. This company competes in an industry not known for engaging its front-line workers. The case shows how engaging these workers can really pay off.

3. Finally, Pal’s is really unusual in its approach to growth. Most companies set growth goals (usually arbitrary ones) and then try to figure out how to ‘backfill’ the human resource and talent management gaps. They trust you can always find someone to do the job. Pal’s tackles the growth problem completely the other way around. They rigorously select and train their future managers. Only when they have a manager ready to take on their own store do they open a new one. They pace their growth off their capacity to develop talent. I find this really fascinating and so do the students I teach this case to.”

6. The United States Air Force: ‘Chaos’ in the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron

Francesca Gino, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

case issues

“My favorite case to teach is  The United States Air Force: ‘Chaos’ in the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron .

The case surprises students because it is about a leader, known in the unit by the nickname Chaos , who inspired his squadron to be innovative and to change in a culture that is all about not rocking the boat, and where there is a deep sense that rules should simply be followed.

For years, I studied ‘rebels,’ people who do not accept the status quo; rather, they approach work with curiosity and produce positive change in their organizations. Chaos is a rebel leader who got the level of cultural change right. Many of the leaders I’ve met over the years complain about the ‘corporate culture,’ or at least point to clear weaknesses of it; but then they throw their hands up in the air and forget about changing what they can.

Chaos is different—he didn’t go after the ‘Air Force’ culture. That would be like boiling the ocean.

Instead, he focused on his unit of control and command: The 99th squadron. He focused on enabling that group to do what it needed to do within the confines of the bigger Air Force culture. In the process, he inspired everyone on his team to be the best they can be at work.

The case leaves the classroom buzzing and inspired to take action.”

7. Warren E. Buffett, 2015

Robert F. Bruner, Professor of Business Administration, Darden School of Business

case issues

“I love teaching   Warren E. Buffett, 2015  because it energizes, exercises, and surprises students.

Buffett looms large in the business firmament and therefore attracts anyone who is eager to learn his secrets for successful investing. This generates the kind of energy that helps to break the ice among students and instructors early in a course and to lay the groundwork for good case discussion practices.

Studying Buffett’s approach to investing helps to introduce and exercise important themes that will resonate throughout a course. The case challenges students to define for themselves what it means to create value. The case discussion can easily be tailored for novices or for more advanced students.

Either way, this is not hero worship: The case affords a critical examination of the financial performance of Buffett’s firm, Berkshire Hathaway, and reveals both triumphs and stumbles. Most importantly, students can critique the purported benefits of Buffett’s conglomeration strategy and the sustainability of his investment record as the size of the firm grows very large.

By the end of the class session, students seem surprised with what they have discovered. They buzz over the paradoxes in Buffett’s philosophy and performance record. And they come away with sober respect for Buffett’s acumen and for the challenges of creating value for investors.

Surely, such sobriety is a meta-message for any mastery of finance.”

More Educator Favorites


Emily Michelle David is an assistant professor of management at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). Her current research focuses on discovering how to make workplaces more welcoming for people of all backgrounds and personality profiles to maximize performance and avoid employee burnout. David’s work has been published in a number of scholarly journals, and she has worked as an in-house researcher at both NASA and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

case issues

Devin Shanthikumar  is an associate professor and the accounting area coordinator at UCI Paul Merage School of Business. She teaches undergraduate, MBA, and executive-level courses in managerial accounting. Shanthikumar previously served on the faculty at Harvard Business School, where she taught both financial accounting and managerial accounting for MBAs, and wrote cases that are used in accounting courses across the country.

case issues

Robert D. Austin is a professor of information systems at Ivey Business School and an affiliated faculty member at Harvard Medical School. He has published widely, authoring nine books, more than 50 cases and notes, three Harvard online products, and two popular massive open online courses (MOOCs) running on the Coursera platform.

case issues

Karin Schnarr is an assistant professor of policy and the director of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program at the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada where she teaches strategic management at the undergraduate, graduate, and executive levels. Schnarr has published several award-winning and best-selling cases and regularly presents at international conferences on case writing and scholarship.

case issues

Gary P. Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie, Jr. Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean of faculty development at Harvard Business School, where he has been on the faculty since 1988. Pisano is an expert in the fields of technology and operations strategy, the management of innovation, and competitive strategy. His research and consulting experience span a range of industries including aerospace, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, specialty chemicals, health care, nutrition, computers, software, telecommunications, and semiconductors.

case issues

Francesca Gino studies how people can have more productive, creative, and fulfilling lives. She is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author, most recently, of  Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life . Gino regularly gives keynote speeches, delivers corporate training programs, and serves in advisory roles for firms and not-for-profit organizations across the globe.

case issues

Robert F. Bruner is a university professor at the University of Virginia, distinguished professor of business administration, and dean emeritus of the Darden School of Business. He has also held visiting appointments at Harvard and Columbia universities in the United States, at INSEAD in France, and at IESE in Spain. He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books on finance, management, and teaching. Currently, he teaches and writes in finance and management.

Related Articles


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case issues

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Top 40 Most Popular Case Studies of 2017

We generated a list of the 40 most popular Yale School of Management case studies in 2017 by combining data from our publishers, Google analytics, and other measures of interest and adoption. In compiling the list, we gave additional weight to usage outside Yale

We generated a list of the 40 most popular Yale School of Management case studies in 2017 by combining data from our publishers, Google analytics, and other measures of interest and adoption. In compiling the list, we gave additional weight to usage outside Yale.

Case topics represented on the list vary widely, but a number are drawn from the case team’s focus on healthcare, asset management, and sustainability. The cases also draw on Yale’s continued emphasis on corporate governance, ethics, and the role of business in state and society. Of note, nearly half of the most popular cases feature a woman as either the main protagonist or, in the case of raw cases where multiple characters take the place of a single protagonist, a major leader within the focal organization. While nearly a fourth of the cases were written in the past year, some of the most popular, including Cadbury and Design at Mayo, date from the early years of our program over a decade ago. Nearly two-thirds of the most popular cases were “raw” cases - Yale’s novel, web-based template which allows for a combination of text, documents, spreadsheets, and videos in a single case website.

Read on to learn more about the top 10 most popular cases followed by a complete list of the top 40 cases of 2017.  A selection of the top 40 cases are available for purchase through our online store . 

#1 - Coffee 2016

Faculty Supervision: Todd Cort

Coffee 2016 asks students to consider the coffee supply chain and generate ideas for what can be done to equalize returns across various stakeholders. The case draws a parallel between coffee and wine. Both beverages encourage connoisseurship, but only wine growers reap a premium for their efforts to ensure quality.  The case describes the history of coffee production across the world, the rise of the “third wave” of coffee consumption in the developed world, the efforts of the Illy Company to help coffee growers, and the differences between “fair” trade and direct trade. Faculty have found the case provides a wide canvas to discuss supply chain issues, examine marketing practices, and encourage creative solutions to business problems. 

#2 - AXA: Creating New Corporate Responsibility Metrics

Faculty Supervision: Todd Cort and David Bach

The case describes AXA’s corporate responsibility (CR) function. The company, a global leader in insurance and asset management, had distinguished itself in CR since formally establishing a CR unit in 2008. As the case opens, AXA’s CR unit is being moved from the marketing function to the strategy group occasioning a thorough review as to how CR should fit into AXA’s operations and strategy. Students are asked to identify CR issues of particular concern to the company, examine how addressing these issues would add value to the company, and then create metrics that would capture a business unit’s success or failure in addressing the concerns.

#3 - IBM Corporate Service Corps

Faculty Supervision: David Bach in cooperation with University of Ghana Business School and EGADE

The case considers IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC), a program that had become the largest pro bono consulting program in the world. The case describes the program’s triple-benefit: leadership training to the brightest young IBMers, brand recognition for IBM in emerging markets, and community improvement in the areas served by IBM’s host organizations. As the program entered its second decade in 2016, students are asked to consider how the program can be improved. The case allows faculty to lead a discussion about training, marketing in emerging economies, and various ways of providing social benefit. The case highlights the synergies as well as trade-offs between pursuing these triple benefits.

#4 - Cadbury: An Ethical Company Struggles to Insure the Integrity of Its Supply Chain

Faculty Supervision: Ira Millstein

The case describes revelations that the production of cocoa in the Côte d’Ivoire involved child slave labor. These stories hit Cadbury especially hard. Cadbury's culture had been deeply rooted in the religious traditions of the company's founders, and the organization had paid close attention to the welfare of its workers and its sourcing practices. The US Congress was considering legislation that would allow chocolate grown on certified plantations to be labeled “slave labor free,” painting the rest of the industry in a bad light. Chocolate producers had asked for time to rectify the situation, but the extension they negotiated was running out. Students are asked whether Cadbury should join with the industry to lobby for more time?  What else could Cadbury do to ensure its supply chain was ethically managed?

#5 - 360 State Real Options

Faculty Supervision: Matthew Spiegel

In 2010 developer Bruce Becker (SOM ‘85) completed 360 State Street, a major new construction project in downtown New Haven. Just west of the apartment building, a 6,000-square-foot pocket of land from the original parcel remained undeveloped. Becker had a number of alternatives to consider in regards to the site. He also had no obligation to build. He could bide his time. But Becker worried about losing out on rents should he wait too long. Students are asked under what set of circumstances and at what time would it be most advantageous to proceed?

#6 - Design at Mayo

Faculty Supervision: Rodrigo Canales and William Drentell

The case describes how the Mayo Clinic, one of the most prominent hospitals in the world, engaged designers and built a research institute, the Center for Innovation (CFI), to study the processes of healthcare provision. The case documents the many incremental innovations the designers were able to implement and the way designers learned to interact with physicians and vice-versa.

In 2010 there were questions about how the CFI would achieve its stated aspiration of “transformational change” in the healthcare field. Students are asked what would a major change in health care delivery look like? How should the CFI's impact be measured? Were the center's structure and processes appropriate for transformational change? Faculty have found this a great case to discuss institutional obstacles to innovation, the importance of culture in organizational change efforts, and the differences in types of innovation.

This case is freely available to the public.

#7 - Ant Financial

Faculty Supervision: K. Sudhir in cooperation with Renmin University of China School of Business

In 2015, Ant Financial’s MYbank (an offshoot of Jack Ma’s Alibaba company) was looking to extend services to rural areas in China by providing small loans to farmers. Microloans have always been costly for financial institutions to offer to the unbanked (though important in development) but MYbank believed that fintech innovations such as using the internet to communicate with loan applicants and judge their credit worthiness would make the program sustainable. Students are asked whether MYbank could operate the program at scale? Would its big data and technical analysis provide an accurate measure of credit risk for loans to small customers? Could MYbank rely on its new credit-scoring system to reduce operating costs to make the program sustainable?

#8 - Business Leadership in South Africa’s 1994 Reforms

Faculty Supervision: Ian Shapiro

This case examines the role of business in South Africa's historic transition away from apartheid to popular sovereignty. The case provides a previously untold oral history of this key moment in world history, presenting extensive video interviews with business leaders who spearheaded behind-the-scenes negotiations between the African National Congress and the government. Faculty teaching the case have used the material to push students to consider business’s role in a divided society and ask: What factors led business leaders to act to push the country's future away from isolation toward a "high road" of participating in an increasingly globalized economy? What techniques and narratives did they use to keep the two sides talking and resolve the political impasse? And, if business leadership played an important role in the events in South Africa, could they take a similar role elsewhere?

#9 - Shake Shack IPO

Faculty Supervision: Jake Thomas and Geert Rouwenhorst

From an art project in a New York City park, Shake Shack developed a devoted fan base that greeted new Shake Shack locations with cheers and long lines. When Shake Shack went public on January 30, 2015, investors displayed a similar enthusiasm. Opening day investors bid up the $21 per share offering price by 118% to reach $45.90 at closing bell. By the end of May, investors were paying $92.86 per share. Students are asked if this price represented a realistic valuation of the enterprise and if not, what was Shake Shack truly worth? The case provides extensive information on Shake Shack’s marketing, competitors, operations and financials, allowing instructors to weave a wide variety of factors into a valuation of the company.

#10 - Searching for a Search Fund Structure

Faculty Supervision: AJ Wasserstein

This case considers how young entrepreneurs structure search funds to find businesses to take over. The case describes an MBA student who meets with a number of successful search fund entrepreneurs who have taken alternative routes to raising funds. The case considers the issues of partnering, soliciting funds vs. self-funding a search, and joining an incubator. The case provides a platform from which to discuss the pros and cons of various search fund structures.

40 Most Popular Case Studies of 2017

Click on the case title to learn more about the dilemma. A selection of our most popular cases are available for purchase via our online store .

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Videos Concepts Unwrapped View All 36 short illustrated videos explain behavioral ethics concepts and basic ethics principles. Concepts Unwrapped: Sports Edition View All 10 short videos introduce athletes to behavioral ethics concepts. Ethics Defined (Glossary) View All 58 animated videos - 1 to 2 minutes each - define key ethics terms and concepts. Ethics in Focus View All One-of-a-kind videos highlight the ethical aspects of current and historical subjects. Giving Voice To Values View All Eight short videos present the 7 principles of values-driven leadership from Gentile's Giving Voice to Values. In It To Win View All A documentary and six short videos reveal the behavioral ethics biases in super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's story. Scandals Illustrated View All 30 videos - one minute each - introduce newsworthy scandals with ethical insights and case studies. Video Series

Case Studies UT Star Icon

Case Studies

More than 70 cases pair ethics concepts with real world situations. From journalism, performing arts, and scientific research to sports, law, and business, these case studies explore current and historic ethical dilemmas, their motivating biases, and their consequences. Each case includes discussion questions, related videos, and a bibliography.

A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces

James Frey’s popular memoir stirred controversy and media attention after it was revealed to contain numerous exaggerations and fabrications.

Abramoff: Lobbying Congress

Abramoff: Lobbying Congress

Super-lobbyist Abramoff was caught in a scheme to lobby against his own clients. Was a corrupt individual or a corrupt system – or both – to blame?

Apple Suppliers & Labor Practices

Apple Suppliers & Labor Practices

Is tech company Apple, Inc. ethically obligated to oversee the questionable working conditions of other companies further down their supply chain?

Approaching the Presidency: Roosevelt & Taft

Approaching the Presidency: Roosevelt & Taft

Some presidents view their responsibilities in strictly legal terms, others according to duty. Roosevelt and Taft took two extreme approaches.

Appropriating “Hope”

Appropriating “Hope”

Fairey’s portrait of Barack Obama raised debate over the extent to which an artist can use and modify another’s artistic work, yet still call it one’s own.

Arctic Offshore Drilling

Arctic Offshore Drilling

Competing groups frame the debate over oil drilling off Alaska’s coast in varying ways depending on their environmental and economic interests.

Banning Burkas: Freedom or Discrimination?

Banning Burkas: Freedom or Discrimination?

The French law banning women from wearing burkas in public sparked debate about discrimination and freedom of religion.

Birthing Vaccine Skepticism

Birthing Vaccine Skepticism

Wakefield published an article riddled with inaccuracies and conflicts of interest that created significant vaccine hesitancy regarding the MMR vaccine.

Blurred Lines of Copyright

Blurred Lines of Copyright

Marvin Gaye’s Estate won a lawsuit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for the hit song “Blurred Lines,” which had a similar feel to one of his songs.

Bullfighting: Art or Not?

Bullfighting: Art or Not?

Bullfighting has been a prominent cultural and artistic event for centuries, but in recent decades it has faced increasing criticism for animal rights’ abuse.

Buying Green: Consumer Behavior

Buying Green: Consumer Behavior

Do purchasing green products, such as organic foods and electric cars, give consumers the moral license to indulge in unethical behavior?

Cadavers in Car Safety Research

Cadavers in Car Safety Research

Engineers at Heidelberg University insist that the use of human cadavers in car safety research is ethical because their research can save lives.

Cardinals’ Computer Hacking

Cardinals’ Computer Hacking

St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa hacked into the Houston Astros’ webmail system, leading to legal repercussions and a lifetime ban from MLB.

Cheating: Atlanta’s School Scandal

Cheating: Atlanta’s School Scandal

Teachers and administrators at Parks Middle School adjust struggling students’ test scores in an effort to save their school from closure.

Cheating: Sign-Stealing in MLB

Cheating: Sign-Stealing in MLB

The Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme rocked the baseball world, leading to a game-changing MLB investigation and fallout.

Cheating: UNC’s Academic Fraud

Cheating: UNC’s Academic Fraud

UNC’s academic fraud scandal uncovered an 18-year scheme of unchecked coursework and fraudulent classes that enabled student-athletes to play sports.

Cheney v. U.S. District Court

Cheney v. U.S. District Court

A controversial case focuses on Justice Scalia’s personal friendship with Vice President Cheney and the possible conflict of interest it poses to the case.

Christina Fallin: “Appropriate Culturation?”

Christina Fallin: “Appropriate Culturation?”

After Fallin posted a picture of herself wearing a Plain’s headdress on social media, uproar emerged over cultural appropriation and Fallin’s intentions.

Climate Change & the Paris Deal

Climate Change & the Paris Deal

While climate change poses many abstract problems, the actions (or inactions) of today’s populations will have tangible effects on future generations.

Cover-Up on Campus

Cover-Up on Campus

While the Baylor University football team was winning on the field, university officials failed to take action when allegations of sexual assault by student athletes emerged.

Covering Female Athletes

Covering Female Athletes

Sports Illustrated stirs controversy when their cover photo of an Olympic skier seems to focus more on her physical appearance than her athletic abilities.

Covering Yourself? Journalists and the Bowl Championship

Covering Yourself? Journalists and the Bowl Championship

Can news outlets covering the Bowl Championship Series fairly report sports news if their own polls were used to create the news?

Cyber Harassment

Cyber Harassment

After a student defames a middle school teacher on social media, the teacher confronts the student in class and posts a video of the confrontation online.

Defending Freedom of Tweets?

Defending Freedom of Tweets?

Running back Rashard Mendenhall receives backlash from fans after criticizing the celebration of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in a tweet.

Dennis Kozlowski: Living Large

Dennis Kozlowski: Living Large

Dennis Kozlowski was an effective leader for Tyco in his first few years as CEO, but eventually faced criminal charges over his use of company assets.

Digital Downloads

Digital Downloads

File-sharing program Napster sparked debate over the legal and ethical dimensions of downloading unauthorized copies of copyrighted music.

Dr. V’s Magical Putter

Dr. V’s Magical Putter

Journalist Caleb Hannan outed Dr. V as a trans woman, sparking debate over the ethics of Hannan’s reporting, as well its role in Dr. V’s suicide.

East Germany’s Doping Machine

East Germany’s Doping Machine

From 1968 to the late 1980s, East Germany (GDR) doped some 9,000 athletes to gain success in international athletic competitions despite being aware of the unfortunate side effects.

Ebola & American Intervention

Ebola & American Intervention

Did the dispatch of U.S. military units to Liberia to aid in humanitarian relief during the Ebola epidemic help or hinder the process?

Edward Snowden: Traitor or Hero?

Edward Snowden: Traitor or Hero?

Was Edward Snowden’s release of confidential government documents ethically justifiable?

Ethical Pitfalls in Action

Ethical Pitfalls in Action

Why do good people do bad things? Behavioral ethics is the science of moral decision-making, which explores why and how people make the ethical (and unethical) decisions that they do.

Ethical Use of Home DNA Testing

Ethical Use of Home DNA Testing

The rising popularity of at-home DNA testing kits raises questions about privacy and consumer rights.

Flying the Confederate Flag

Flying the Confederate Flag

A heated debate ensues over whether or not the Confederate flag should be removed from the South Carolina State House grounds.

Freedom of Speech on Campus

Freedom of Speech on Campus

In the wake of racially motivated offenses, student protests sparked debate over the roles of free speech, deliberation, and tolerance on campus.

Freedom vs. Duty in Clinical Social Work

Freedom vs. Duty in Clinical Social Work

What should social workers do when their personal values come in conflict with the clients they are meant to serve?

Full Disclosure: Manipulating Donors

Full Disclosure: Manipulating Donors

When an intern witnesses a donor making a large gift to a non-profit organization under misleading circumstances, she struggles with what to do.

Gaming the System: The VA Scandal

Gaming the System: The VA Scandal

The Veterans Administration’s incentives were meant to spur more efficient and productive healthcare, but not all administrators complied as intended.

German Police Battalion 101

German Police Battalion 101

During the Holocaust, ordinary Germans became willing killers even though they could have opted out from murdering their Jewish neighbors.

Head Injuries & American Football

Head Injuries & American Football

Many studies have linked traumatic brain injuries and related conditions to American football, creating controversy around the safety of the sport.

Head Injuries & the NFL

Head Injuries & the NFL

American football is a rough and dangerous game and its impact on the players’ brain health has sparked a hotly contested debate.

Healthcare Obligations: Personal vs. Institutional

Healthcare Obligations: Personal vs. Institutional

A medical doctor must make a difficult decision when informing patients of the effectiveness of flu shots while upholding institutional recommendations.

High Stakes Testing

High Stakes Testing

In the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act, parents, teachers, and school administrators take different positions on how to assess student achievement.

In-FUR-mercials: Advertising & Adoption

In-FUR-mercials: Advertising & Adoption

When the Lied Animal Shelter faces a spike in animal intake, an advertising agency uses its moral imagination to increase pet adoptions.

Krogh & the Watergate Scandal

Krogh & the Watergate Scandal

Egil Krogh was a young lawyer working for the Nixon Administration whose ethics faded from view when asked to play a part in the Watergate break-in.

Limbaugh on Drug Addiction

Limbaugh on Drug Addiction

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh argued that drug abuse was a choice, not a disease. He later became addicted to painkillers.


U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s “over-exaggeration” of an incident at the 2016 Rio Olympics led to very real consequences.

Meet Me at Starbucks

Meet Me at Starbucks

Two black men were arrested after an employee called the police on them, prompting Starbucks to implement “racial-bias” training across all its stores.

Myanmar Amber

Myanmar Amber

Buying amber could potentially fund an ethnic civil war, but refraining allows collectors to acquire important specimens that could be used for research.

Negotiating Bankruptcy

Negotiating Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy lawyer Gellene successfully represented a mining company during a major reorganization, but failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest.

Pao & Gender Bias

Pao & Gender Bias

Ellen Pao stirred debate in the venture capital and tech industries when she filed a lawsuit against her employer on grounds of gender discrimination.

Pardoning Nixon

Pardoning Nixon

One month after Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency, Gerald Ford made the controversial decision to issue Nixon a full pardon.

Patient Autonomy & Informed Consent

Patient Autonomy & Informed Consent

Nursing staff and family members struggle with informed consent when taking care of a patient who has been deemed legally incompetent.

Prenatal Diagnosis & Parental Choice

Prenatal Diagnosis & Parental Choice

Debate has emerged over the ethics of prenatal diagnosis and reproductive freedom in instances where testing has revealed genetic abnormalities.

Reporting on Robin Williams

Reporting on Robin Williams

After Robin Williams took his own life, news media covered the story in great detail, leading many to argue that such reporting violated the family’s privacy.

Responding to Child Migration

Responding to Child Migration

An influx of children migrants posed logistical and ethical dilemmas for U.S. authorities while intensifying ongoing debate about immigration.

Retracting Research: The Case of Chandok v. Klessig

Retracting Research: The Case of Chandok v. Klessig

A researcher makes the difficult decision to retract a published, peer-reviewed article after the original research results cannot be reproduced.

Sacking Social Media in College Sports

Sacking Social Media in College Sports

In the wake of questionable social media use by college athletes, the head coach at University of South Carolina bans his players from using Twitter.

Selling Enron

Selling Enron

Following the deregulation of electricity markets in California, private energy company Enron profited greatly, but at a dire cost.

Snyder v. Phelps

Snyder v. Phelps

Freedom of speech was put on trial in a case involving the Westboro Baptist Church and their protesting at the funeral of U.S. Marine Matthew Snyder.

Something Fishy at the Paralympics

Something Fishy at the Paralympics

Rampant cheating has plagued the Paralympics over the years, compromising the credibility and sportsmanship of Paralympian athletes.

Sports Blogs: The Wild West of Sports Journalism?

Sports Blogs: The Wild West of Sports Journalism?

Deadspin pays an anonymous source for information related to NFL star Brett Favre, sparking debate over the ethics of “checkbook journalism.”

Stangl & the Holocaust

Stangl & the Holocaust

Franz Stangl was the most effective Nazi administrator in Poland, killing nearly one million Jews at Treblinka, but he claimed he was simply following orders.

Teaching Blackface: A Lesson on Stereotypes

Teaching Blackface: A Lesson on Stereotypes

A teacher was put on leave for showing a blackface video during a lesson on racial segregation, sparking discussion over how to teach about stereotypes.

The Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scandal

The Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scandal

The Houston Astros rode a wave of success, culminating in a World Series win, but it all came crashing down when their sign-stealing scheme was revealed.

The Central Park Five

The Central Park Five

Despite the indisputable and overwhelming evidence of the innocence of the Central Park Five, some involved in the case refuse to believe it.

The CIA Leak

The CIA Leak

Legal and political fallout follows from the leak of classified information that led to the identification of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

The Collapse of Barings Bank

The Collapse of Barings Bank

When faced with growing losses, investment banker Nick Leeson took big risks in an attempt to get out from under the losses. He lost.

The Costco Model

The Costco Model

How can companies promote positive treatment of employees and benefit from leading with the best practices? Costco offers a model.

The FBI & Apple Security vs. Privacy

The FBI & Apple Security vs. Privacy

How can tech companies and government organizations strike a balance between maintaining national security and protecting user privacy?

The Miss Saigon Controversy

The Miss Saigon Controversy

When a white actor was cast for the half-French, half-Vietnamese character in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon , debate ensued.

The Sandusky Scandal

The Sandusky Scandal

Following the conviction of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky for sexual abuse, debate continues on how much university officials and head coach Joe Paterno knew of the crimes.

The Varsity Blues Scandal

The Varsity Blues Scandal

A college admissions prep advisor told wealthy parents that while there were front doors into universities and back doors, he had created a side door that was worth exploring.


Providing radiation therapy to cancer patients, Therac-25 had malfunctions that resulted in 6 deaths. Who is accountable when technology causes harm?

Welfare Reform

Welfare Reform

The Welfare Reform Act changed how welfare operated, intensifying debate over the government’s role in supporting the poor through direct aid.

Wells Fargo and Moral Emotions

Wells Fargo and Moral Emotions

In a settlement with regulators, Wells Fargo Bank admitted that it had created as many as two million accounts for customers without their permission.

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Writing Effective Legal Case Briefs for Law Students

How to write a case brief, complete with examples.

tl;dr - Case briefs help your understanding of legal concepts and enable you to better prepare for exams. Here are some example case briefs .

As a new law student, one of the essential skills you need to develop is the ability to write effective legal case briefs. A case brief is a concise summary of a legal case that highlights the key issues, legal principles, and holdings of the court. Writing a good case brief can help you better understand the law, prepare for class discussions and exams, and become a more effective legal professional. In this article, we'll explore the key elements of a good legal case brief and provide some tips on how to write one effectively.

Legal case briefs are an essential tool for you as a law student, as they provide a concise and organized summary of a court case. Case brief examples serve as a means for you to understand the facts, issues, and legal principles underlying a court decision, and are crucial in helping you develop analytical and critical thinking skills.

One of the primary reasons why case briefs are important for you is that they help you understand the law in a practical and applied manner. In law school, you study legal principles and concepts in a theoretical sense. However, case briefs provide a means for you to see how these principles are applied in real-world situations. By analyzing and dissecting court decisions, you are able to gain a better understanding of how legal principles and concepts are applied in practice. For example, case brief examples of landmark cases like Marbury v. Madison or Brown v. Board of Education can help you understand the historical and legal significance of these cases.

Understand the Structure of a Legal Case Brief

Before we dive into the details of how to write a good legal case brief, it's important to understand its structure. A typical legal case brief, such as the examples of case briefs available on LSD , includes the following sections:

  • Title and Citation: This section includes the name of the case, the court that decided the case, and the citation (i.e., the reference that identifies where the case is published).
  • Facts: This section provides a brief summary of the key facts of the case, including who the parties are, what they did, and how the case came to court.
  • Issues: This section identifies the legal issues that the court was asked to decide, and focuses on the questions that the court addressed in its decision.
  • Holding: This section summarizes the court's decision on the legal issues presented in the case.
  • Analysis: This section provides an explanation of the court's reasoning in arriving at its holding, including the legal principles and rules that the court relied on.

Focus on the Key Facts and Issues

When writing a case brief, it's important to focus on the key facts and legal issues presented in the case. You should avoid including unnecessary details or information that is not relevant to the legal issues. Instead, focus on the facts and issues that are essential to understanding the court's decision. This is evident in many examples of case briefs written by legal professionals.

Identify the Legal Principles and Rules

In addition to focusing on the key facts and issues, it's important to identify the legal principles and rules that the court relied on in arriving at its decision. This will help you understand the court's reasoning and the legal principles that are relevant to the case. Many examples of case briefs available online also highlight the legal principles and rules that were applied in a particular case.

Use Clear and Concise Language

A good legal case brief should be written in clear and concise language, as seen in examples of case briefs written by legal professionals. You should avoid using legal jargon or technical terms that may be difficult for a layperson to understand. Instead, use plain language that accurately conveys the meaning of the court's decision.

Be Organized and Structured

To make your case brief more effective, it's important to be organized and structured in your writing. Use headings and subheadings to separate different sections of your brief, and make sure that each section flows logically from one to the next. This is evident in many examples of case briefs available online, which are organized and structured in a clear and logical manner.

So, what’s the point?

Developing analytical and critical thinking skills.

Writing case briefs helps you develop analytical and critical thinking skills. By analyzing court decisions and identifying key facts, issues, and legal principles, you are practicing your ability to think critically and to identify relevant legal issues. Case briefs provide a practical way to develop these skills and apply them to real-world legal problems.

To further develop your analytical and critical thinking skills, you can practice writing your own case briefs. Take a recent court decision and write a brief that summarizes the key facts, issues, and legal principles involved. This will help you become more proficient at identifying relevant information and organizing it in a structured manner.

Preparing for Class and Exams

In addition to being a valuable tool for developing analytical skills, case briefs also help you prepare for class discussions and exams. As you read cases and write briefs, you are gaining a deeper understanding of the law and the reasoning behind court decisions. This knowledge will help you participate more effectively in class discussions and will also help you prepare for law school exams.

To get the most out of case briefs when preparing for exams, you can practice writing case briefs for cases that you studied throughout the year, or to hypotheticals from past exams. This will help you apply the analytical skills you've developed to new situations and ensure that you are able to communicate your understanding of legal principles effectively.

In conclusion, case briefs are an essential tool for law students as they provide a practical application of legal principles, help develop analytical and critical thinking skills, and aid in preparing for class discussions and exams. By studying case brief examples, practicing writing your own briefs, and developing a deep understanding of the law in context, you can become a more proficient and effective student and legal professional. For examples, check out LSD's case brief database .

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How to brief a case

Confusion often arises over the term “legal brief.” There are at least two different senses in which the term is used.

Appellate brief

An appellate brief is a written legal argument presented to an appellate court. Its purpose is to persuade the higher court to uphold or reverse the trial court’s decision. Briefs of this kind are therefore geared to presenting the issues involved in the case from the perspective of one side only.

Appellate briefs from both sides can be very valuable to anyone assessing the legal issues raised in a case. Unfortunately, they are rarely published. The U.S. Supreme Court is the only court for which briefs are regularly available in published form. The Landmark Briefs series ( REF. LAW KF 101.9 .K8 ) includes the full texts of briefs relating to a very few of the many cases heard by this court. In addition, summaries of the briefs filed on behalf of the plaintiff or defendant for all cases reported are included in the U.S. Supreme Court Reports. Lawyer’s Ed., 2nd. series ( REF. LAW KF 101 .A42 ).

Student brief

A student brief is a short summary and analysis of the case prepared for use in classroom discussion. It is a set of notes, presented in a systematic way, in order to sort out the parties, identify the issues, ascertain what was decided, and analyze the reasoning behind decisions made by the courts.

Although student briefs always include the same items of information, the form in which these items are set out can vary. Before committing yourself to a particular form for briefing cases, check with your instructor to ensure that the form you have chosen is acceptable.

The parties and how to keep track of them

Beginning students often have difficulty identifying relationships between the parties involved in court cases. The following definitions may help:

Plaintiffs sue defendants in civil suits in trial courts.

The government (state or federal) prosecutes defendants in criminal cases in trial courts.

The losing party in a criminal prosecution or a civil action may ask a higher (appellate) court to review the case on the ground that the trial court judge made a mistake. If the law gives the loser the right to a higher court review, his or her lawyers will appeal. If the loser does not have this right, his or her lawyers may ask the court for a writ of certiorari. Under this procedure, the appellate court is being asked to exercise its lawful discretion in granting the cases a hearing for review.

For example, a defendant convicted in a federal district court has the right to appeal this decision in the Court of Appeals of the circuit and this court cannot refuse to hear it. The party losing in this appellate court can request that the case be reviewed by the Supreme Court, but, unless certain special circumstances apply, has no right to a hearing.

These two procedures, appeals and petitions for certiorari , are sometimes loosely grouped together as “appeals.” However, there is, as shown, a difference between them, and you should know it.

A person who seeks a writ of certiorari , that is, a ruling by a higher court that it hear the case, is known as a petitioner . The person who must respond to the petition, that is, the winner in the lower court, is called the respondent .

A person who files a formal appeal demanding appellate review as a matter of right is known as the appellant . His or her opponent is the appellee .

The name of the party initiating the action in court, at any level on the judicial ladder, always appears first in the legal papers. For example, Arlo Tatum and others sued in Federal District Court for an injunction against Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and others to stop the Army from spying on them. Tatum and his friends became plaintiffs and the case was then known as Tatum v. Laird . The Tatum group lost in the District Court and appealed to the Court of Appeals, where they were referred to as the appellants , and the defendants became the appellees . Thus the case was still known at Tatum v. Laird .

When Tatum and his fellow appellants won in the Court of Appeals, Laird and his fellow appellees decided to seek review by the Supreme Court. They successfully petitioned for a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court directing the Court of Appeals to send up the record of the case (trial court transcript, motion papers, and assorted legal documents) to the Supreme Court.

At this point the name of the case changed to Laird v. Tatum : Laird and associates were now the petitioners , and Tatum and his fellows were the respondents . Several church groups and a group of former intelligence agents obtained permission to file briefs (written arguments) on behalf of the respondents to help persuade the Court to arrive at a decision favorable to them. Each of these groups was termed an amicus curiae , or “friend of the court.”

In criminal cases, switches in the titles of cases are common, because most reach the appellate courts as a result of an appeal by a convicted defendant. Thus, the case of Arizona v. Miranda later became Miranda v. Arizona .

Student briefs

These can be extensive or short, depending on the depth of analysis required and the demands of the instructor. A comprehensive brief includes the following elements:

  • Title and Citation
  • Facts of the Case
  • Decisions (Holdings)
  • Reasoning (Rationale)
  • Separate Opinions

1. Title and Citation

The title of the case shows who is opposing whom. The name of the person who initiated legal action in that particular court will always appear first. Since the losers often appeal to a higher court, this can get confusing. The first section of this guide shows you how to identify the players without a scorecard.

The citation tells how to locate the reporter of the case in the appropriate case reporter. If you know only the title of the case, the citation to it can be found using the case digest covering that court, through Google Scholar, or one of the electronic legal databases subscribed to by the library ( Westlaw or LEXIS-NEXIS ).

2. Facts of the Case

A good student brief will include a summary of the pertinent facts and legal points raised in the case. It will show the nature of the litigation, who sued whom, based on what occurrences, and what happened in the lower court/s.

The facts are often conveniently summarized at the beginning of the court’s published opinion. Sometimes, the best statement of the facts will be found in a dissenting or concurring opinion. WARNING! Judges are not above being selective about the facts they emphasize. This can become of crucial importance when you try to reconcile apparently inconsistent cases, because the way a judge chooses to characterize and “edit” the facts often determines which way he or she will vote and, as a result, which rule of law will be applied.

The fact section of a good student brief will include the following elements:

  • A one-sentence description of the nature of the case, to serve as an introduction.
  • A statement of the relevant law, with quotation marks or underlining to draw attention to the key words or phrases that are in dispute.
  • A summary of the complaint (in a civil case) or the indictment (in a criminal case) plus relevant evidence and arguments presented in court to explain who did what to whom and why the case was thought to involve illegal conduct.
  • A summary of actions taken by the lower courts, for example: defendant convicted; conviction upheld by appellate court; Supreme Court granted certiorari.

The issues or questions of law raised by the facts peculiar to the case are often stated explicitly by the court. Again, watch out for the occasional judge who misstates the questions raised by the lower court’s opinion, by the parties on appeal, or by the nature of the case.

Constitutional cases frequently involve multiple issues, some of interest only to litigants and lawyers, others of broader and enduring significant to citizens and officials alike. Be sure you have included both.

With rare exceptions, the outcome of an appellate case will turn on the meaning of a provision of the Constitution, a law, or a judicial doctrine. Capture that provision or debated point in your restatement of the issue. Set it off with quotation marks or underline it. This will help you later when you try to reconcile conflicting cases.

When noting issues, it may help to phrase them in terms of questions that can be answered with a precise “yes” or “no.”

For example, the famous case of Brown v. Board of Education involved the applicability of a provision of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to a school board’s practice of excluding black pupils from certain public schools solely due to their race. The precise wording of the Amendment is “no state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The careful student would begin by identifying the key phrases from this amendment and deciding which of them were really at issue in this case. Assuming that there was no doubt that the school board was acting as the State, and that Miss Brown was a “person within its jurisdiction,” then the key issue would be “Does the exclusion of students from a public school solely on the basis of race amount to a denial of ‘equal protection of the laws’?”

Of course the implications of this case went far beyond the situation of Miss Brown, the Topeka School Board, or even public education. They cast doubt on the continuing validity of prior decisions in which the Supreme Court had held that restriction of Black Americans to “separate but equal” facilities did not deny them “equal protection of the laws.” Make note of any such implications in your statement of issues at the end of the brief, in which you set out your observations and comments.

NOTE: Many students misread cases because they fail to see the issues in terms of the applicable law or judicial doctrine than for any other reason. There is no substitute for taking the time to frame carefully the questions, so that they actually incorporate the key provisions of the law in terms capable of being given precise answers. It may also help to label the issues, for example, “procedural issues,” “substantive issues,” “legal issue,” and so on. Remember too, that the same case may be used by instructors for different purposes, so part of the challenge of briefing is to identify those issues in the case which are of central importance to the topic under discussion in class.

4. Decisions

The decision, or holding, is the court’s answer to a question presented to it for answer by the parties involved or raised by the court itself in its own reading of the case. There are narrow procedural holdings, for example, “case reversed and remanded,” broader substantive holdings which deal with the interpretation of the Constitution, statutes, or judicial doctrines. If the issues have been drawn precisely, the holdings can be stated in simple “yes” or “no” answers or in short statements taken from the language used by the court.

5. Reasoning

The reasoning, or rationale, is the chain of argument which led the judges in either a majority or a dissenting opinion to rule as they did. This should be outlined point by point in numbered sentences or paragraphs.

6. Separate Opinions

Both concurring and dissenting opinions should be subjected to the same depth of analysis to bring out the major points of agreement or disagreement with the majority opinion. Make a note of how each justice voted and how they lined up. Knowledge of how judges of a particular court normally line up on particular issues is essential to anticipating how they will vote in future cases involving similar issues.

7. Analysis

Here the student should evaluate the significance of the case, its relationship to other cases, its place in history, and what is shows about the Court, its members, its decision-making processes, or the impact it has on litigants, government, or society. It is here that the implicit assumptions and values of the Justices should be probed, the “rightness” of the decision debated, and the logic of the reasoning considered.

A cautionary note

Don’t brief the case until you have read it through at least once. Don’t think that because you have found the judge’s best purple prose you have necessarily extracted the essence of the decision. Look for unarticulated premises, logical fallacies, manipulation of the factual record, or distortions of precedent. Then ask, How does this case relate to other cases in the same general area of law? What does it show about judicial policymaking? Does the result violate your sense of justice or fairness? How might it have been better decided?

Further information and sample briefs

Many of the guides to legal research and writing include a discussion of student briefs, appellate briefs and other types of legal memoranda used by practicing attorneys.  Examples and more information can be found in the library books listed below:

  • Bahrych, L. (2009). Legal writing in a nutshell (4 th ed., Nutshell series). St. Paul, Minn.: West.[Stacks KF 250 .S68 2009
  • Clary, B., & Lysaght, Pamela. (2006). Successful legal analysis and writing: The fundamentals (2 nd ed.). St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West. [Ref. Law 250 .C53 2006]
  • Edwards, L. (2007). Legal writing and analysis (2 nd ed.). New York, NY: Aspen: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business. [Ref. Law and Reserve Room KF 250 .E378 2007]
  • Garner, B. (2004). The winning brief: 100 tips for persuasive briefing in trial and appellate courts (2 nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. [Ref. Law KF251 .G37 2004]
  • Hames, J., & Ekern, Yvonne. (2015). Legal research, analysis, and writing (5 th ed.).[Reserve Room KF 240 .H36 2015; For 3 rd ed. (2009) Stacks KF 240. H36 2009]
  • Putman, W. (2003).   Legal analysis and writing (2 nd ed., The West Legal Studies series). Clifton Park, NY: Thomson/Delmar Learning. [Ref. Law KF 250 .P87 2003]
  • Ray, M., & Ramsfield, Jill J. (2005). Legal writing--getting it right and getting it written (4 th ed., American casebook series). St. Paul, MN: Thomson/West. [Ref. Law KF 250 .R39 2005]
  • Shapo, H., Walter, Marilyn R., & Fajans, Elizabeth. (2003). Writing and analysis in the law (Rev. 4 th ed.). New York: Foundation Press. [Stacks KF 250 .S5 2003]
  • Slocum, R. (2006). Legal reasoning, writing, and persuasive argument . Newark, NJ: LexisNexis Matthew Bender. [Stacks KF 250 .S568 2006]
  • Yelin, A., & Samborn, Hope Viner. (2015). The legal research and writing handbook: A basic approach for paralegals (7 th ed., Aspen college series). [Reserve Room KF 240 .Y45 2015]

Created by C. Pyle, 1982. Revised by K. Killoran, 1999 and by M. Richards, 2017.

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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Trump’s Immunity Claim, Setting Arguments for April

The former president’s trial on charges of plotting to subvert the 2020 election will remain on hold while the justices consider the matter.

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Former President Donald J. Trump in a blue suit and red tie, against a black background.

By Adam Liptak

Reporting from Washington

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, further delaying his criminal trial as it considers the matter.

The justices scheduled arguments for the week of April 22 and said proceedings in the trial court would remain frozen, handing at least an interim victory to Mr. Trump. His litigation strategy in all of the criminal prosecutions against him has consisted, in large part, of trying to slow things down.

The Supreme Court’s response to Mr. Trump put the justices in the unusual position of deciding another aspect of the former president’s fate: whether and how quickly Mr. Trump could go to trial. That, in turn, could affect his election prospects and, should he be re-elected, his ability to scuttle the prosecution.

The timing of the argument was a sort of compromise. Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the federal prosecutions of Mr. Trump, had asked the court to move more quickly, requesting that the justices hear the case in March.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, had asked the court to proceed at its usual deliberate pace and to consider the case only after he asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the decision of a unanimous three-judge panel , which had rejected his claim of absolute immunity.

In settling on the week of April 22, the court picked the last three scheduled argument sessions of its current term and seemed to indicate that its decision would follow before the end of its current term, in late June.

That does not mean the trial would start right away if Mr. Trump lost. Pretrial proceedings, currently paused, must first be completed. By some rough calculations, the trial could be delayed until late September or October, plunging the proceedings into the heart of the election.

Mr. Trump’s emergency application asking the Supreme Court to intervene had been fully briefed since Feb. 15, and the court’s delay in addressing it suggested that the justices differed about how to proceed. It takes four votes to add a case to the court’s docket but five to grant a stay, and that math may have played a role in the court’s calculations.

A separate case, on Mr. Trump’s eligibility to hold office, may also have played a part. The court heard arguments in that case, from Colorado, on Feb. 8 and is expected to rule soon.

If the court rules for Mr. Trump in the Colorado case, it might be attracted to the optics of ruling against him on his claim of immunity, which legal experts say is an ambitious argument with potentially frightening implications.

The Supreme Court’s brief order said the court would decide this question: “Whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

In his emergency application , Mr. Trump said the appeals court panel had been wrong to rule that he may be criminally charged for his conduct as president. Total immunity for his official conduct, Mr. Trump’s application said, is required by the separation of powers, implicit in procedures for impeaching the president and needed to prevent partisan misuse of the criminal justice system.

“An absence of criminal immunity for official acts threatens the very ability of the president to function properly,” the filing said. “Any decision by the president on a politically controversial question would face the threat of indictment by the opposing party after a change in administrations.”

Mr. Trump, widely considered the Republican front-runner, added a practical concern.

“Conducting a monthslong criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign against President Biden — which appears to be the whole point of the special counsel’s persistent demands for expedition,” the application said. “The D.C. Circuit’s order thus threatens immediate irreparable injury to the First Amendment interests of President Trump and tens of millions of American voters, who are entitled to hear President Trump’s campaign message as they decide how to cast their ballots in November.”

Mr. Smith, the special counsel, took issue with every element of his argument, citing his efforts to subvert democracy.

If Mr. Trump’s “radical claim were accepted,” Mr. Smith wrote, “it would upend understandings about presidential accountability that have prevailed throughout history while undermining democracy and the rule of law — particularly where, as here, a former president is alleged to have committed crimes to remain in office despite losing an election, thereby seeking to subvert constitutional procedures for transferring power and to disenfranchise millions of voters.”

Mr. Smith added that there was no reason to fear tit-for-tat prosecutions that would chill other presidents from taking decisive action.

“That dystopian vision runs contrary to the checks and balances built into our institutions and the framework of the Constitution,” Mr. Smith wrote.

In a supporting brief urging the justices to deny Mr. Trump’s request for a stay, several former prominent officials who had served in Republican administrations said the court did not need to rule broadly, as the conduct Mr. Trump is accused of was so clearly outside of any immunity the Constitution might confer.

“Denying a stay would not preclude possible federal criminal immunity for a president’s official acts in some different, exceptional situation,” the brief said.

Mr. Smith echoed the point, citing the officials’ brief. “A sufficient basis for resolving this case would be that, whatever the rule in other contexts not presented here,” he wrote, “no immunity attaches to a president’s commission of federal crimes to subvert the electoral process.”

Adam Liptak covers the Supreme Court and writes Sidebar, a column on legal developments. A graduate of Yale Law School, he practiced law for 14 years before joining The Times in 2002. More about Adam Liptak

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Supreme Court to hear arguments in Trump immunity case in April

Carrie Johnson 2016 square

Carrie Johnson

Nina Totenberg at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2019. (photo by Allison Shelley)

Nina Totenberg

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The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14. Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments the week of April 22 in a high-stakes dispute over whether former President Donald Trump enjoys immunity from federal criminal prosecution.

The order from the court on Wednesday keeps Trump's prosecution in the Jan. 6 case on hold for at least a few more months.

The justices said, in an unsigned order, that their review would be limited to a single question: "Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office."

The issue is one of first impression for the Supreme Court, since no former president has ever faced criminal charges.

The decision amounts to, at minimum, another short-term victory for Trump, and it means the trial originally set to begin in Washington, D.C., in early March could be delayed until late summer or even after Election Day in November.

Trump, the Republican front-runner in this year's presidential election, has argued that the case amounts to election interference and that going to trial this year would burden his ability to run a political campaign. His attorneys said it would be a challenge to sift through the heavy volume of documents in this case.

Trump appeals immunity ruling to the Supreme Court

Trump appeals immunity ruling to the Supreme Court

Trump is fighting 91 criminal charges in four jurisdictions. The charges are related to his effort to cling to power after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden and other alleged misdeeds that involve retention of classified documents and hush money payments to an adult film actress.

Special counsel Jack Smith had urged the Supreme Court to swiftly reject Trump's claims, arguing the charged crimes "strike at the heart of our democracy."

"Delay in the resolution of these charges threatens to frustrate the public interest in a speedy and fair verdict — a compelling interest in every criminal case and one that has unique national importance here, as it involves federal criminal charges against a former President for alleged criminal efforts to overturn the results of the Presidential election, including through the use of official power," Smith and his team wrote in a recent filing to the justices.

See where the big Trump cases stand in the months leading to the election

See where the big Trump cases stand in the months leading to the election

Three judges on the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., unanimously sided with prosecutors this month.

"We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter," the U.S. circuit judges wrote. Doing so, they said, "would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three branches."

Federal appeals court rules Trump doesn't have broad immunity from prosecution

Federal appeals court rules Trump doesn't have broad immunity from prosecution

The panel said that Trump's immunity argument has virtually no limit. Indeed, at oral argument, when Trump's lawyer was pressed by the panel, he conceded that a president could order SEAL Team 6 to assassinate his political rivals and still be free from any criminal prosecution.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Trump's lawyers contended, "Such hypotheticals provide fodder for histrionic media coverage, but they are a poor substitute for legal and historical analysis." They called the appellate court's decision a "stunning breach of precedent and historical norms." And they noted that no prior president has ever been prosecuted for his official acts.

President Richard Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Watergate scandal, which saw many of his highest-ranking aides go to prison. But after Nixon resigned, he was pardoned by President Gerald Ford.

So the question of presidential immunity has never been resolved by the Supreme Court. In 1974, the justices ruled unanimously that Nixon, then still in office, had to comply with a subpoena for 64 White House tape recordings that were subsequently used as evidence in the prosecution of many top administration officials. The Nixon tapes case thus became the leading precedent suggesting that presidents do not have complete immunity for acts they commit while in office.

The contrary precedent, cited by Trump's lawyers, is a civil case that was decided eight years later and that also involved Nixon. In that case, the court ruled 5-4 that the former president could not be sued by an Air Force whistleblower who claimed he was fired in retaliation for his disclosures about cost overruns.

The consequences of Wednesday's Supreme Court action remain murky at best. A judge in New York already has ordered jury selection to begin March 25 in a separate state case accusing Trump of recordkeeping violations for hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 presidential election.

The judge in the federal election interference case, Tanya Chutkan, has not yet indicated when a trial in D.C. could begin. But in court papers, she has suggested she will give Trump's attorneys a few more months to prepare.

All that can be said with certainty now is that the clock is ticking. If Trump regains the White House, he could order his Justice Department to drop the case related to the Jan. 6, 2021, siege on the Capitol or could even attempt to pardon himself.

Supreme Court justices appear skeptical of effort to remove Trump from a state ballot

Supreme Court justices appear skeptical of effort to remove Trump from a state ballot

The immunity issue is far from the only question involving Trump to reach the nation's highest court. The justices have yet to decide a separate dispute about whether Trump is disqualified from the primary ballot in Colorado over his efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election to Biden.

And they've scheduled arguments in another case related to the Capitol riot for April 16. In that case, they'll consider whether prosecutors overreached when they used an obstruction law that Congress passed after financial scandals to charge hundreds of people with disrupting the electoral count.

Two of the four charges against Trump in the federal prosecution could be wiped away if a majority of the Supreme Court judges determine that the Justice Department's charging strategy went too far.

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The Cases Against Trump: A Guide

Fraud. Hush money. Election subversion. Mar-a-Lago documents. One place to keep track of the presidential candidate’s legal troubles.

Arrows pointing at Donald Trump

Not long ago, the idea that a former president—or major-party presidential nominee—would face serious legal jeopardy was nearly unthinkable. Today, merely keeping track of the many cases against Donald Trump requires a law degree, a great deal of attention, or both.

In all, Trump faces 91 felony counts across two state courts and two different federal districts, any of which could potentially produce a prison sentence. He’s also dealing with a civil suit in New York that could force drastic changes to his business empire, including closing down its operations in his home state. Meanwhile, he is the leading Republican candidate in the race to become the next president—though the Supreme Court has now heard a case seeking to disqualify him. If the criminal and civil cases unfold with any reasonable timeliness, he could be in the heat of the campaign at the same time that his legal fate is being decided.

David A. Graham: The end of Trump Inc.

Here’s a summary of the major legal cases against Trump, including key dates, an assessment of the gravity of the charges, and expectations about how they could turn out. This guide will be updated regularly as the cases proceed.

New York State: Fraud

In the fall of 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil suit against Trump, his adult sons, and his former aide Allen Weisselberg, alleging a years-long scheme in which Trump fraudulently reported the value of properties in order to either lower his tax bill or improve the terms of his loans, all with an eye toward inflating his net worth.

When? Justice Arthur Engoron ruled against Trump and his co-defendants in late September 2023, concluding that many of the defendants’ claims were “clearly” fraudulent—so clearly that he didn’t need a trial to hear them. (He also sanctioned Trump’s lawyers for making repeated frivolous arguments.) Engoron has also fined Trump a total of $15,000 for violating a gag order in the case. The trial ended in January, and a ruling is currently expected in mid-February .

How grave is the allegation? Fraud is fraud, and in this case, the sum of the fraud stretched into the millions—but compared with some of the other legal matters in which Trump is embroiled, this is pretty pedestrian. The case is also civil rather than criminal. But although the stakes are lower for the nation, they remain high for Trump: Engoron could bar Trump’s famed company from business in New York, strip it of several key properties, and fine Trump hundreds of millions of dollars.

How plausible is a guilty verdict? Engoron has already ruled that Trump committed fraud. The outstanding questions are what damages he might have to pay and what exactly Engoron’s ruling means for Trump’s business and properties in New York.

Manhattan: Defamation and Sexual Assault

Although these other cases are all brought by government entities, Trump also faced a pair of defamation suits from the writer E. Jean Carroll, who said that Trump sexually assaulted her in a department-store dressing room in the 1990s. When he denied it, she sued him for defamation and later added a battery claim.

When? In May 2023, a jury concluded that Trump had sexually assaulted and defamed Carroll, and awarded her $5 million. A second defamation case produced an $83.3 million judgment in January 2024.

How grave was the allegation? Although these cases don’t directly connect to the same fundamental issues of rule of law and democratic governance that some of the criminal cases do, they were a serious matter, and a federal judge’s blunt statement that Trump raped Carroll has gone underappreciated.

What happens now? Trump has appealed both cases. During the second trial, he also continued to insult Carroll, which may have courted additional defamation suits.

Manhattan: Hush Money

In March 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg became the first prosecutor to bring felony charges against Trump, alleging that the former president falsified business records as part of a scheme to pay hush money to women who said they had had sexual relationships with Trump.

When? The case is set to go to trial on March 25, Judge Juan Merchant said on February 15.

How grave is the allegation? Falsifying records is a crime, and crime is bad. But many people have analogized this case to Al Capone’s conviction on tax evasion: It’s not that he didn’t deserve it, but it wasn’t really why he was an infamous villain. That this case alleges behavior that didn’t directly attack elections or put national secrets at risk makes it feel more minor—in part because other cases have set a grossly high standard for what constitutes gravity.

How plausible is a guilty verdict? Bragg’s case faces hurdles including arguments over the statute of limitations, a questionable key witness in the former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, and some fresh legal theories. In short, the Manhattan case seems like perhaps the least significant and most tenuous criminal case. Some Trump critics were dismayed that Bragg was the first to bring criminal charges against the former president.

Department of Justice: Mar-a-Lago Documents

Jack Smith, a special counsel in the U.S. Justice Department, has charged Trump with 37 felonies in connection with his removal of documents from the White House when he left office. The charges include willful retention of national-security information, obstruction of justice, withholding of documents, and false statements. Trump took boxes of documents to properties where they were stored haphazardly, but the indictment centers on his refusal to give them back to the government despite repeated requests.

David A. Graham: This indictment is different

When? Smith filed charges in June 2023. Judge Aileen Cannon has set a trial date of May 20, 2024. In November, she rejected Trump’s request to push that back but said she would reconsider timing in March . Smith faces a de facto deadline of January 20, 2025, at which point Trump or any Republican president would likely shut down a case.

How grave is the allegation? These are, I have written, the stupidest crimes imaginable , but they are nevertheless very serious. Protecting the nation’s secrets is one of the greatest responsibilities of any public official with classified clearance, and not only did Trump put these documents at risk, but he also (allegedly) refused to comply with a subpoena, tried to hide them, and lied to the government through his attorneys.

How plausible is a guilty verdict? This may be the most open-and-shut case, and the facts and legal theory here are pretty straightforward. But Smith seems to have drawn a short straw when he was randomly assigned Cannon, a Trump appointee who has sometimes ruled favorably for Trump on procedural matters. Some legal commentators have even accused her of “ sabotaging ” the case.

Fulton County: Election Subversion

In Fulton County, Georgia, which includes most of Atlanta, District Attorney Fani Willis brought a huge racketeering case against Trump and 18 others, alleging a conspiracy that spread across weeks and states with the aim of stealing the 2020 election.

When? Willis obtained the indictment in August 2023. The number of people charged makes the case unwieldy and difficult to track. Several of them, including Kenneth Chesebro , Sidney Powell , and Jenna Ellis, struck plea deals in the fall. Willis has proposed a trial date of August 5, 2024, for the remaining defendants.

How grave is the allegation? More than any other case, this one attempts to reckon with the full breadth of the assault on democracy following the 2020 election.

How plausible is a guilty verdict? Expert views differ. This is a huge case for a local prosecutor, even in a county as large as Fulton, to bring. The racketeering law allows Willis to sweep in a great deal of material, and she has some strong evidence—such as a call in which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” some 11,000 votes. Three major plea deals from co-defendants may also ease Willis’s path, but getting a jury to convict Trump will still be a challenge. Complicating matters, Willis is now under fire for a romantic relationship with an attorney she hired as a special prosecutor.

Department of Justice: Election Subversion

Special Counsel Smith has also charged Trump with four federal felonies in connection with his attempt to remain in power after losing the 2020 election. This case is in court in Washington, D.C.

When? A grand jury indicted Trump on August 1, 2023. The trial was originally schedule for March 4, but Judge Tanya Chutkan said in early February that the date would change, as an appeals court deliberated on Trump’s claim of absolute immunity. A three-judge panel roundly rejected that claim on February 6, but no new trial date has been announced yet. As with the other DOJ case, Smith will need to move quickly, before Trump or any other Republican president could shut down a case upon taking office in January 2025. Other tangential legal skirmishes continue: In October, after verbal attacks by Trump on witnesses and Smith’s wife, Chutkan issued an order limiting what Trump can say about the case.

David A. Graham: Trump attempted a brazen, dead-serious attack on American democracy

How grave is the allegation? This case rivals the Fulton County one in importance. It is narrower, focusing just on Trump and a few key elements of the paperwork coup , but the symbolic weight of the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting an attempt to subvert the American election system is heavy.

How plausible is a guilty verdict? It’s very hard to say. Smith avoided some of the more unconventional potential charges, including aiding insurrection, and everyone watched much of the alleged crime unfold in public in real time, but no precedent exists for a case like this, with a defendant like this.

Additionally …

In more than 30 states , cases have been filed over whether Trump should be thrown off the 2024 ballot under a novel legal theory about the Fourteenth Amendment. Proponents, including J. Michael Luttig and Laurence H. Tribe in The Atlantic , argued that the former president is ineligible to serve again under a clause that disqualifies anyone who took an oath defending the Constitution and then subsequently participated in a rebellion or an insurrection. They said that Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election and his incitement of the January 6 riot meet the criteria.

Cases were brought in many states, and state authorities issued conflicting opinions. Several states ruled against removing Trump from the ballot, but the Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine secretary of state both disqualified him, ruling that he had engaged in an insurrection—a remarkable legal finding. Trump then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

When? The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on February 8. The timing for a decision is not clear.

How grave is the allegation? In a sense, the claim made here is even graver than the criminal election-subversion cases filed against Trump by the U.S. Department of Justice and in Fulton County, Georgia, because neither of those cases alleges insurrection or rebellion. But the stakes are also much different—rather than criminal conviction, they concern the ability to serve as president.

How plausible is a disqualification? Though there is a robust debate among legal scholars on this question, the nine who matter are the ones on the Supreme Court, and they appeared very skeptical of arguments in favor of disqualification during the February 8 hearing.

What happens next after Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump immunity case

When will the high court hold arguments when is the soonest trump might go to trial answers to questions you have about the prosecution of the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election..

case issues

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to weigh Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from criminal prosecution on charges of trying to overturn the 2020 election while president, setting historic oral arguments for the week of April 22 and further delaying his trial in D.C. during this presidential election year.

Here’s what to know about what happens next in the case and how it may affect his three other pending criminal cases in Florida, Georgia and New York.

Subscribe to The Trump Trials, our weekly email newsletter on Donald Trump's four criminal cases

case issues


Prosecutor requests grand jury, made up of

23 residents to secretly hear evidence.

Simple majority vote (at least 12) needed to


No charges filed


Fingerprints and photos are usually taken.


A public court hearing at which a defendant enters an initial plea to charges. A judge sets release conditions pending trial, and may set further scheduling dates.

Supreme Court to review Trump's claim of presidential immunity and whether prosecution may proceed.

Arguments set for week of April 22,

with decision sometime after.


Deadlines will be set to hash out disputes over whether to exclude certain evidence, witnesses or legal arguments; how to handle a small amount of classified information; and how to select and instruct a jury. Chutkan has yet to rule on other matters, including Trump’s request to toss out charges, to compel government disclosure of some information and to issue subpoenas for private witnesses. She also may schedule hearings.


Could take months before a trial would start.


May be appealed

Acquitted of charges

case issues

Prosecutor requests grand jury, made up of 23 residents to secretly

hear evidence. Simple majority vote (at least 12) needed to indict.


Fingerprints and photos are taken.

Supreme Court to review Trump's claim of presidential immunity and whether prosecution may proceed. Arguments set for week of April 22, with decision sometime after.

Trial could start in as soon as two or three months.



More on the Trump Jan. 6 indictment

The latest: The Supreme Court will review Donald Trump’s unprecedented claim that he is shielded from prosecution for actions taken while in office. Supreme Court arguments are set for the week of April 22. Here’s what happens next .

The charges: Former president Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to charges that he plotted to overturn the 2020 election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Here’s a breakdown of the charges against Trump and what they mean, and things that stand out from the Trump indictment . Read the full text of the 45-page indictment .

The trial: The March 4 trial date has been taken off the calendar and jury selection has been postponed indefinitely while Trump’s claim of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution remains on appeal .

The case: The special counsel’s office has been investigating whether Trump or those close to him violated the law by interfering with the lawful transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election or with Congress’s confirmation of the results on Jan. 6, 2021. It is one of several ongoing investigations involving Trump .

Can Trump still run for president? While it has never been attempted by a candidate from a major party before, Trump is allowed to run for president while under indictment in four separate cases — or even if he is convicted of a crime.

  • What happens next after Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump immunity case Earlier today What happens next after Supreme Court agrees to hear Trump immunity case Earlier today
  • Supreme Court to weigh Trump’s immunity claim in D.C. 2020 election trial Earlier today Supreme Court to weigh Trump’s immunity claim in D.C. 2020 election trial Earlier today
  • Special counsel asks Supreme Court to let Trump’s D.C. trial proceed February 15, 2024 Special counsel asks Supreme Court to let Trump’s D.C. trial proceed February 15, 2024

case issues

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Definition of case

 (Entry 1 of 3)

Definition of case  (Entry 2 of 3)

Definition of case  (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

instance , case , illustration , example , sample , specimen mean something that exhibits distinguishing characteristics in its category.

instance applies to any individual person, act, or thing that may be offered to illustrate or explain.

case is used to direct attention to a real or assumed occurrence or situation that is to be considered, studied, or dealt with.

illustration applies to an instance offered as a means of clarifying or illuminating a general statement.

example applies to a typical, representative, or illustrative instance or case.

sample implies a part or unit taken at random from a larger whole and so presumed to be typical of its qualities.

specimen applies to any example or sample whether representative or merely existent and available.

Examples of case in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'case.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Middle English cas , from Anglo-French, from Latin casus fall, chance, from cadere to fall — more at chance

Middle English cas , from Anglo-French case, chase , from Latin capsa chest, case, probably from capere to take — more at heave entry 1

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

circa 1525, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Phrases Containing case

  • case fatality ratio
  • best - case
  • a case of mistaken identity
  • basket case
  • carrying case
  • case of mistaken identity
  • case in point
  • case fatality rate
  • case - harden
  • case - sensitive
  • case history
  • case system
  • cosmetic case
  • get off someone's case
  • classic case
  • federal case
  • dispatch case
  • getting on his case
  • get on someone's case
  • in any case
  • in that case
  • in which case
  • make a federal case out of
  • is it not the case
  • mental case
  • oblique case
  • pencil case
  • on someone's case
  • press one's case
  • textbook case / example
  • traveling case
  • worst - case
  • whatever the case (may be)
  • a case of the sulks

Articles Related to case

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The Fossil Encased in "Case In Point"

"In point" only lives on in this phrase.

Dictionary Entries Near case

Cite this entry.

“Case.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/case. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of case.

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Kids Definition of case  (Entry 2 of 2)

Middle English cas "situation needing action," from early French cas (same meaning), from Latin casus "fall, chance," from cadere "to fall, happen, come by chance"

Middle English cas "box, container," from early French case, chase (same meaning), from Latin capsa "chest, box," from capere "to take" — related to capture , cash

Medical Definition

Medical definition of case, legal definition, legal definition of case.

Note: A test case is selected from a number of cases in order to avoid a flood of litigation. All of the parties to the cases must agree to accept the outcome of the test case as binding.

Legal Definition of case  (Entry 2 of 2)

Latin casus accident, event, set of circumstances, literally, act of falling

More from Merriam-Webster on case

Nglish: Translation of case for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of case for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about case

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Are these symptoms indicative of Transfer Case?

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2015 Turbo, 8k miles. CPO. Bought it about a year ago (yes, I don't put many miles on my car). Over the past 1-2 months, I have noticed that the car was not smooth when accelerating between 30-50mph. I had a passenger in the car who noticed it too but it was very subtle. No noise. Almost felt like I was accelerating but as if I was unsteady with my foot on the gas pedal. Until now, no big deal. Today, I was at the airport and noticed a totally different situation. While circling the airport at 5-10 mph waiting for my wife to come out, the car would struggle as if I either had bad gas or maybe a fuel pump issue. Yes, it felt like going over speed bumps. Once I got past the initial 10-15mph, it would drive much smoother. Does this sound like a transfer case?  



@atwnsw , my SA told me that yes this is the transfer case symptoms and they have replaced several. Someone posted a technique to try to magnify this bumpy/grabby behavior by setting OFFROAD to ON and going slowly (as you described) forward then backward by turning the steering wheel sharply to one side and then when going in the opposite direction to the other.  

Confirmed. Another transfer case! Will be ready in 24-48 hours.  

@atwnsw , that is some quick diagnosis assuming by the dealer. We suspect ours has the same issue but the dealer sent us down the path of bad fuel injectors with no evidence on the forum that anyone ever done that. Would you please provide any additional details on how it was diagnosed by the dealer such as driving technique or any codes thrown so they are so quick to confirm transfer case issue. Also, when you say "unsteady" acceleration, did you experience any jolts (forward to back jerk) when PDK is going through 2nd/3rd gears when accelerating to 30-50mph.  

I called my service advisor to ask and he told me that they "unplug" the transfer case so that the power is removed from the rear to the front of the car. If it stops shuddering, then that isolates the problem to the transfer case. When I felt the unsteady acceleration around the 25-35mph, it was so subtle that I doubted the dealership would believe me. It wasn't until this weekend when I had the feeling of driving over speed bumps between 5-10 mph, when I knew the problem was serious and was able to identify it thanks to this forum. (Until 2 days ago, I never even heard of a transfer case). Not sure if this helps but my guess is that the only solution is to wait until it becomes worse and easily identifiable/repeatable. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.  


I have a 2016 Macan S, 31,000k. Same feeling exactly. For me its from dead stop to 10-15km/hr. Then shuddering. I understand this a transfer case issue. i'm bringing it to the dealer ASAP. Update shortly. I'm not pleased to say the least.  

So my 17 Macan is having small bumps/kicks/slips when accelerating from a stop, like a stop light - does this sound like transfer case issues?  


So I am curious. It appears many transfer cases are failing to a significant degree. When they are replaced will they be guaranteed forever?  


I bring my car into the dealer today for rough acceleration/deceleration issues.  

Mine is in for 30K service now, and I have been experiencing a small thud, maybe like a really small speed bump from 0-15 mph. Seems to only happen when the car is cold, but could be early on and will continue to get worse over time. I don’t have many of the other symptoms I’ve read about hear, but sounds like it is the transfer case. Hope they can reproduce it, if not I’ll try the off-road suggestion. Thanks for that.  

Sounds like someone should be filing a class action claim on this... Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk  

It sad when the tyres outlast the transfer case. Where is the famous Porsche superior engineering,design, research and development. It seems we, the owners, are doing Porsche’s road testing. How long do we need to drive around waiting for this to happen before a permanent fix is produced by Porsche. Sadly for some it’s less than 3 months. Sure take the shine off a beautiful new car.  

I agree, it seems that this TC issue is not being dealt with by Porsche since the inception of the car. The dealer ended up diagnosing my car with a failed Transfer Case this week. I could feel that there was a problem before 1000 miles, and brought it in at about 2500 miles. Repair to be done on Friday when they get the new TC in, and then they will test drive the car to make sure that there is no other problem.  

And how long will this new transfer case last? So all the pre production Macans that we see pictures of being tested in deserts, in mountainous conditions, in heat ,in snow ,on racetracks for thousands and thousands of miles, none had transfer case issues, bulls**t. Porsche executives need to tour any Japanese or Korean factory to get some lessons on how to make a reliable and oil leak free product. Ever heard of a Honda CR-V with a transfer case problem or an oil leak before 200,000km? No Did the person who designed the transfer case get dismissed or get a big bonus for all the transfer cases Porsche will sell when warranties are done and the Macan is on its second or third owner.  

I think the transfer case problem started with Cayenne years ago. Now I start to suspect Porsche tired but couldn't fix it. Bummer!  

What are the symptoms of a faulty (or starting to fail) transfer case? I have a 2017 GTS with about 12K miles. The transmission has never been that smooth, but I always assumed it was something unique to PDK versus traditional automatic. I have noticed on a few occasions the transmission hesitating a bit (kind of like when a manual driver is riding the clutch). I have an appointment at the dealer to look after another issue (engine oil leak). But how should I describe this to the dealer to have them do a thorough test of the transfer case as well? Any suggestions?  

My PDK has been very smooth from day one. Get your car checked out and don’t take a No issues as an answer.  


It is indeed. Same mine did until transfer case replaced under warranty.  

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Supreme Court remains silent on Trump immunity and Colorado ballot cases

Donald Trump points while he speaks.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has still not acted as of Friday evening on two major cases involving former President Donald Trump .

The two cases, which concern Trump's his last-ditch effort to block his election interference trial and an attempt from voters to kick him off the Colorado Republican primary ballot, are ripe for action after being fully briefed, meaning both sides have made their arguments.

Decisions could drop at short notice.

Trump filed his emergency application seeking to put his election interference trial on hold on Feb. 12. Briefing was completed at the end of last week.

The court is considering whether to intervene over Trump’s claim that the indictment should be dismissed because he has presidential immunity for actions related to his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Oral arguments were held in the Colorado case on Feb. 8, with a ruling expected quickly on whether Trump is ineligible because of his role leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Section 3 of the Constitution's 14th Amendment bars people from office if they "engaged in insurrection."

While the court is considering Trump's request to block the election interference trial, lower court proceedings remain on hold, meaning no trial can take place.

The court has several options, such as denying Trump's request outright or taking up the case and hearing oral arguments so it can issue a full ruling on the immunity question.

Any further delay narrows the window for the latter option, with the court typically hearing the last oral arguments of its nine-month term by the end of April. Rulings are due by the end of June.

A swift ruling was expected in the Colorado case because the Colorado primary takes place on March 5.

Typically the court signals on Friday if rulings are likely the following week, but there is no indication of any being issued next week.

Based on the court’s normal calendar, there would have to be a change to the schedule in order for another ruling day to be added before the Colorado primary.

The Colorado ruling would be expected to be issued on a normal ruling day, while the immunity decision could come at any time.

In the meantime, Trump remains on the Colorado ballot. It appeared from the oral argument that he would win the case, so it may mean there is no urgency from the court to issue a ruling quickly if it merely affirms the status quo.

case issues

Lawrence Hurley covers the Supreme Court for NBC News.

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everything you need to know about the ford edge transfer case recall 4

Everything You Need to Know About the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by David Jon

In this detailed guide, I will clarify the subject of the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall, unpacking its implications, delving into necessary steps Ford vehicle owners need to take, and offering a clearer understanding for both DIY enthusiasts and professional mechanics. I am confident that this carefully gathered and thoroughly analysed information will provide invaluable insights, while ensuring you’re well-prepared to address this specific recall situation. The information that I provide aims to enable you to proceed with confidence when interacting with this recall—whether you are managing it yourself, or consulting with a professional mechanic.

Understanding the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Definition of a transfer case.

In the realm of four-wheel drive and all-wheel driver systems, the transfer case plays an integral role. This component is responsible for distributing power from the vehicle’s transmission to the axle to assure a smooth transition between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive modes. It contains a set of gears which facilitates this transfer of power.

Explanation of the recall

In August 2020, Ford Motor Company initiated a recall for certain versions of the Ford Edge Crossover SUV pertaining to an issue with the transfer case. The purpose of a recall is to identify and address potential safety risks or malfunctions, offering an opportunity for these problems to be rectified at no cost to the vehicle owner.

Models affected by Ford Edge transfer case recall

The models affected by this recall were specific 2020 Ford Edge vehicles, equipped with all-wheel drive. An issue was identified with the operation and potential durability of the transfer case, which led to the recall.

Issues That Led to the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Common problems with ford edge.

While the Ford Edge has been a popular option for SUV buyers, it has not been without its share of issues. Complaints have ranged from water leaks, to electrical system malfunctions. However, it was the transfer case issue that has been a particular cause for concern and led to a recall.

How issues with the transfer case were discovered

In the course of routine quality checks, Ford identified a potential issue with the transfer case. Specifically, a defect was discovered in the part that could cause it to freeze up and stop working altogether.

Hazards of the problem

A malfunctioning transfer case can lead to serious vehicular incidents. A sudden loss of power to the wheels can cause the driver to lose control, leading to the potential for accidents. These specific circumstances necessitated this recall.

Everything You Need to Know About the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

The Official Announcement of the Ford Transfer Case Recall

Date of announcement.

Ford issued the official recall in August 2020.

Details from official Ford announcement

Ford stated that the defect may result in unintended vehicle movement and might also prevent the transmission from holding the ‘Park’ function. They made a point to state that they were not aware of any injuries or accidents resulting from this issue at the time of the recall announcement.

Number of vehicles affected

It was estimated that the recall affected approximately 558,610 vehicles in North America.

What to Do If Your Ford Edge Is Affected

Steps to confirm if your vehicle is affected.

To check if your Ford Edge is affected by this recall, you can use Ford’s online recall tool. Inputting the vehicle identification number (VIN) will provide recall details specific to your vehicle.

Instructions from Ford Edge

Ford advised all owners of affected vehicles to have them checked and serviced at a Ford dealership as soon as possible.

Actions to take if you’re driving when the issue occurs

If you experience sudden loss of power while driving the Ford Edge, it’s important to merge to the right and make your way to a safe location away from the flow of traffic. Contact roadside assistance for a tow service to the nearest Ford dealership.

Everything You Need to Know About the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Repair Process for the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Process of repair.

The repair process involves taking the vehicle to a Ford dealership where the technicians will inspect the transfer case and replace it if it has the identified defect.

What the repair entails

During the repair, a technician will inspect the transfer case and replace it as necessary. Alternatively, the repair might involve a software update to the powertrain control module.

Duration of the recall repair

The duration of the recall repair can vary depending on the extent of the problem with the transfer case and the dealership’s work schedule. However, typically a recall repair may take a few hours to a day or two.

Cost Implications for the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Cost of the recall to ford.

There’s no publicized figure regarding the cost of the recall to Ford. However, recall repairs can be costly for manufacturers, due to the combination of parts, labor, and administrative costs.

Cost implications for the vehicle owner

For owners of the affected Ford Edge vehicles, the recall will not come at any cost. Ford is carrying the costs of the repair as the purpose of recalls is to rectify issues without burdening the consumer.

Potential reimbursement for previous repairs

Ford Edge owners who had repairs done for this specific issue prior to the recall announcement might be eligible for reimbursement. Owners should contact Ford’s customer support and provide proof of the completed work and expense.

Everything You Need to Know About the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Impact on Ford Edge Resale Value

Effects of recalls on vehicle resale value.

Typically, recalls can slightly diminish a vehicle’s resale value. However, this effect is usually temporary. The most important factor is that all recall issues are rectified before selling the vehicle.

Impact of transfer case recall on Ford Edge resale value

As for the impact of the transfer case recall on the resale value of the Ford Edge, it’s difficult to quantify. As long as evidence can be provided that the issue has been dealt with, it shouldn’t significantly affect the vehicle’s resale value.

Tips for selling a vehicle that was part of a recall

When selling a vehicle that’s been a part of a recall, ensure that the recall work has been completed and documented. Include this documentation as part of the vehicle’s service record.

Other Frequent Ford Edge Recalls

History of ford edge recalls.

While the Ford Edge is a popular vehicle, it has seen a few recalls over its lifetime. Notably, there were previously recalls for problems with the fuel system, air bags, and the driveshaft.

How the transfer case recall compares to other recalls

The transfer case recall is significant due to the volume of vehicles affected and the potential safety implications. Compared to some other recalls, this one touched on a critical moving part of the vehicle and thus required urgent attention.

Impact on consumer trust

While recalls, such as this one, might cause some loss of trust in the brand, Ford’s transparent handling of the situation served to minimize the potential negative impact. As long as recalls are managed effectively and responsibly, confidence can be retained.

Everything You Need to Know About the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Preventive Measures to Avoid Transfer Case Issues

Routine maintenance tips.

Regularly servicing your vehicle and adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule can help prevent vehicle issues. When it comes to the transfer case, ensure that it’s inspected during routine maintenance service.

Signs of potential transfer case problems

Signs of a potential transfer case problem include difficulty shifting gears, noises coming from under the vehicle, and the vehicle inexplicably shifting out of gear. If any of these symptoms are apparent, service should be sought immediately.

Importance of regular vehicle inspections

Regular vehicle inspections can identify issues such as faulty transfer cases early, before they escalate into larger problems or lead to unsafe driving conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

Common questions from ford edge owners.

Owners generally ask: What is the risk if my vehicle is affected? How will I know if my Ford Edge is part of the recall? What is the process of the recall repair?

Answers from auto experts

The risk is potential vehicle flaw that can cause sudden movement or inability to maintain ‘Park’. You can check if your vehicle is affected by visiting the Ford website and inputting your VIN in their recall tool. The recall repair process involves inspection and replacement of the faulty transfer case or a software update to the powertrain control module.

Where to find additional information

For more information on the Ford Edge transfer case recall or any other vehicle recalls, owners can visit the Ford website or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.

Everything You Need to Know About the Ford Edge Transfer Case Recall

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