Author: Christine Farr



1.     Read the Case. The first step is to get acquainted with the situation. Read through the case quickly, getting a general feel for what is going on. Who are the main players? What types of information are available to you? Go back and reread the case carefully, paying particular attention to case facts, figures, and diagrams. Be careful to separate symptoms and problems. Case writers will often flag important issues by italics, headings, or questions at the end of the case.
2.     Define the Problem. Put yourself in the place of the decision makers in the case (managers, investors, debt holders, banks, employees, etc.). What are the critical issues? Does one problem stand out as primary, with other problems secondary or contingent upon it? Establish a time dimension to the problems; which problems demand immediate action, and which are long-term or strategic in nature? What critical assumptions are being made by the decision makers in the case, and how do these assumptions influence their chosen strategies? Try to state the problems so as to identify (a) who must take action, (b) why action must be taken, and (c) when should action be taken.
3.     Build your Analysis. Gather the important facts and concepts in the case, and discard unimportant or fringe issues and data. Build a theme for your analysis, and establish the importance of the problems you have identified. Incorporate your knowledge of cultural impact on the situation, financial analysis, accounting techniques, marketing methods, economics, and human behavior into your analysis. Put theory to work in your paper, by using concepts from the readings and module overviews to analyze the problems and issues and explain why they require responses by management.
4.     Develop Alternatives. Examine the alternative courses of action that are available to the firm. Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Don’t use “straw-man” alternatives (those that are patently unfeasible or undesirable). Develop a few well-reasoned responses that could solve the problems, and critically evaluate them.
5.     Make a Recommendation. Based on your analysis of alternative courses of action, choose the best and recommend course of action. Be specific in your statements. How will your recommendation be implemented? Circle back through the case to identify possible points of inconsistency between your recommendation and case facts. What potential problems might crop up? How will internal constituencies (e.g., management, employees) and external constituencies (e.g., competitors, stockholders) react, and how will you handle their responses? What assumptions have you made in developing your recommendation?
Read this Example of Case Analysis Writing for an example of a case analysis report from Illinois State University.
Since most cases used in the class require a composite of careful thinking, conceptualization, quantitative analysis, and some form of decision making, your comments will be evaluated based on breadth and depth of your thought process demonstrated in your discussion. While you should put the problem in a context, you should not merely repeat case facts. You will get credit for only meaningful and high quality analysis.


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