What is a case study?
A case study is a description of a situation that involves a dilemma faced by an organization. Students in higher education use case studies (i) to practice analyzing relevant data, tease out facts, and make a practical yet theoretically-grounded decision as if they were the decision-maker, or (ii) to critique the path chosen by a decision-maker and to develop alternative paths. We strive to create cases that engage collaborators from various academic backgrounds and to provide a richly textured context for the dilemma. In all likelihood, students will disagree about what the appropriate course of action is for the organization, but they will be given an opportunity to practice making a decision based upon information that includes ambiguous or uncertain elements while working within a complex system.
We produce two types of case studies: (i) “raw” case studies and (ii) “cooked” case studies. The written narrative for both cooked and raw case studies will support the introduction of facts and theories relevant to the dilemma or dilemmas, publicly available information, and information communicated by third parties.
- A raw case study uses delivery methods that are meant to replicate real-world situations by mixing written elements with other raw data sources directly from a corporation, an NGO, or a governmental agency. A raw case study presents multiple perspectives, and forces students to make decisions about what information to prioritize. It is web-based and will often include video interviews, sound files, academic articles, press articles, images (such as photographic work), charts, maps, links to websites, and other online content.
- A cooked case study is a written narrative that more completely summarizes the information made available to a decision-maker. Cooked case studies also include some raw data in the form of exhibits, but they will generally not exceed 15 pages total in length, including pictures and exhibits.
Yale SOM team
A team consisting of a faculty member, case editor, multimedia producer and business development manager is involved in the production of a case study. Where a raw case is being developed, a producer and video editor will also be brought in to oversee the development of multimedia for delivery via the web.
- Each case must have a Faculty Sponsor - this is typically the first professor to teach the case in their classroom and someone with deep domain expertise on one or more areas of the case. The faculty sponsor provides input, shares feedback, and helps steer the case in a direction that is relevant to her/his teaching objectives.
- The Case Editor is a member of the Case Research and Development Team (CRDT) charged with overseeing case writing and delivery; the Case Editor is the primary point of contact for all partners.
- The Director of CRDT supervises the delivery of case studies developed at Yale SOM;
- The Multimedia Producer leads the development of any original interactive media, as well as coordinates on-site interviews and provides final editing of segments.
- The CRDT Business Development Manager coordinates all access and distribution activities for the final case study.
The case writing process is fluid, but will generally proceed as follows.
Our partners commit to 1-2 conference calls each lasting up to an hour in length. We begin to discuss the nature of the dilemma, teaching objectives, and the administrative process. Appropriate interview subjects and data sources are identified. A timeline (typically 2-6 months) is created.
Data gathering and review
Our partners will start the process of sharing relevant data, generally by email or via a secure file sharing site as required. Data may include internal discussion threads, emails, proposals, financials, reports from stakeholders, shareholders, users or clients, white papers, scientific reports, methodology documentation, etc. Organizations may decide to share information that they wish to keep private but that in their opinion would help inform our understanding of the narrative. The case outline may change during this phase and is often used to identify a list of outstanding questions.
CRDT coordinates 60-minute phone interviews and 90-minute video interviews with key figures of the case. If necessary, additional interview subjects are contacted. Interviews may take place either at the Yale School of Management (New Haven, CT) or onsite at the partner’s location. Interview questions are provided beforehand so that participants have time to prepare thoughtful answers. Interviews are informal; interview subjects can request to start over or pause for clarification as needed. The default language for interviews is English, although other arrangements may be made under special circumstances, particularly where a key person for the case study is not able to conduct the interview in English.
Writing and review process
During this phase, the team at Yale proceed with writing the case study and, if relevant, will develop original content based on the data that’s been collected. All interviews are mined for data and video interviews are edited into short four to five-minute segments. An initial draft is shared with the partner in order to identify factual inaccuracies early in the process. Organizations generally take up to three weeks to review the material and provide feedback, often via email and followed by a phone conversation. Information that is not included in the review will not be used in the case study, any future case studies, or any derivative work without a similar review and approval by the partner organization.
The case release event is the date on which the case is first taught by the Faculty Sponsor. Nothing is required from the partner organization at this stage, however, it is not uncommon for key figures within the organization to attend this class and to interact with students.
Access, use, and distribution
Case studies are available for free to all Yale faculty, students and staff with a valid Yale ID as well as to our partners within the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) - a network of more than two dozen business schools around the world. For all others, we charge a nominal fee to access the case study through one of our distribution partners, such as SAGE publications or Study.Net. In special circumstances, the case may be used to facilitate a case competition. In such an event, teams of students and judges participating in the case competition will have access to the case.
Partners may use their case study at no cost for internal purposes (e.g., training, onboarding), but may not use it externally. We will discuss what uses are acceptable on a case-by-case basis in order to remain in compliance with our publishing agreements.
Yale University owns the copyright on all case studies, raw and cooked, developed by our team. Partners agree to our using their names in any case listing referencing the case study, such as in our online directory, and in other Yale SOM online content. We will not, however, use the names or trademarks of any partner organization or of any of their affiliated entities in any advertising, publicity, endorsement, or promotion unless such organization has provided prior written consent for the contemplated use.
Why work with us?
Case study partners benefit from engaging with Yale SOM in a number of ways:
- Gain exposure for your organization to elite MBA students from across the globe;
- Access Yale-developed case materials, including video content where relevant, that can be repurposed for internal training programs, such as training of staff or management;
- Develop a relationship with faculty members whose research may be interesting to the organization;
- Earn media exposure from when the case is first released on the Yale SOM website;
- Participate in the class and gain insights; listen to the discussion surrounding your organization’s dilemma- and perhaps in the process uncover something new.