HOW TO STUDY A CASE
The purpose of case studies is to present you with realistic situations in which managers have to make decisions. All of the cases in this class deal with HR issues. You should find the material in the texts and the lectures helpful in preparing for the cases. You also will probably need to apply material you have learned in other classes, along with your own knowledge and experience.
Learning from a case depends much more on interchange among students and the professor than it does upon solitary study. It is a participatory method of learning; both students and the instructor bear a responsibility to the entire class to share their insights and points of view. Careful preparation is essential for the learning of yourself and others; it also will help your grade. Here are some suggestions about how to prepare a case:
1. Read the case quickly to get the big picture.
2. Read the case a second time very carefully; pick up as many of the details as you can. Some suggestions -- write out the cast of characters; develop a chronology of events; identify the basic issues about which decisions need to be made; develop a list of options for dealing with those issues; evaluate the options to the best of your ability.
3. Give yourself enough time so that you can mull things over during a quiet period of the day, e.g., while jogging or walking, showering, commuting, etc. You often get your best insights 24 hours after you have prepped the details.
4. Think about how the material in the case relates to lectures and the texts.
5. Talk about the case with others in the class. If at all possible, form a study group.
6. Remember there is usually not a single right answer.
Everyone in the class is either a professional or aspires to be one. You should behave as a professional at all times and try to make the best possible impression on everyone in the classroom. Because of the size of the class, I will sometimes have to regulate the distribution of airtime by calling on people. Inevitably someone will raise your point before I recognize you; when this happens, please be patient. Everyone will get adequate opportunities to participate over the course of a semester.
1. When you have the floor, push your ideas and be willing to give reasons for them.
2. Listen to others. Evaluate their ideas and how well they are expressing them.
3. Keep an open mind.
4. Have fun!
This is perhaps the most important part of a case study. Compare your original ideas on the case to the points raised in class. Ask yourself what you learned. If you are confused on some points, find out how to learn more. Think about your own participation -- what good points did you make and what can you do to improve?
Acknowledgement: A large portion of this memo is based on notes by Professors M. B. Handspicker and M. Thomas Kennedy distributed by the Intercollegiate Case Clearing House, Soldiers Field, Boston, Mass. 02163