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‘Student writes’: The Case Project Guide

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Creating the guide

A desire to ‘mix things up a little bit’ led Brent Beal of the University of Texas at Tyler to involve his students in writing cases rather than simply studying them.

'Because I was teaching online at the time, I had to write out a set of instructions for the students. After using it in that first MBA class, I continued to use it, making adjustments and additions here and there over several semesters.’

Invaluable resource

Brent’s initial idea led a few years later to the creation of an invaluable resource for faculty and students: The Case Project Guide published by Ivey Publishing. It was developed with three collaborators: Karen MacMillan, Meredith Woodwark and Karin Schnarr, all of Wilfrid Laurier University.

The guide includes detailed advice for faculty on how to work with students who are writing their own cases, including how to grade students’ work and publication of their cases if appropriate.

Skills development

CaseProjectGuide2As the authors of The Case Project Guide explain, writing a business case offers students the opportunity to improve their skills in at least eight of the 16 learning dimensions identified by the Association of American College & Universities (AAC&U) which is dedicated to improving higher education.

Briefly, as explained in the teaching note that accompanies the guide, case writing requires:

  • creative thinking (synthesising ideas, integrating contradictory perspectives)
  • critical thinking (collecting evidence, analyzing assumptions)
  • information literacy (accessing and assessing different information sources)
  • inquiry and analysis (organising and synthesising evidence to reveal different insights)
  • integrative learning (transferring concepts and theories from one context to another to solve problems)
  • problem solving (articulating a clear problem statement and identifying remedial strategies)
  • reading (comprehension and analysis)
  • written communication (integrating context, audience, purpose, and adherence to required conventions and formats).

According to the authors, writing a case may also involve a number of the remaining learning dimensions, including civic engagement, ethical reasoning, foundations and skills for lifelong learning, oral communication, and teamwork.’

The Case Project Guide

The authors

Brent D. Beal, Associate Professor of Management, The University of Texas at Tyler
e bbeal@uttyler.edu

Karen MacMillan, Assistant Professor, Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management, Wilfrid Laurier University
e kmacmillan@wlu.ca

Meredith Woodwark, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University
e mwoodwark@wlu.ca

Karin Schnarr, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University
e kschnarr@wlu.ca

The benefits for students

Case writing is both enjoyable and intellectually stimulating for students. Here, the authors outline some of the main benefits:

Student engagement

Students enjoy it.  Because case writing has a history in business pedagogy and there are publishing opportunities students can pursue outside of the classroom, this project feels more ‘real’ to students than other projects that have little potential to extend beyond the classroom.

Problem framing

CaseProjectGuide3In our experience, business students, while often adept at proposing solutions to pre-packaged and clearly-defined business problems, often have a much more difficult time framing and identifying problems in real business environments. Writing a business case requires them to identify and frame a specific problem as a precursor to proposing solutions.

Bridge into the community

We believe that business schools should be active in the communities in which they reside. Encouraging local businesses to host student case writing teams can be an effective way to gain visibility and establish good will. Students can contribute by focusing on issues that are important to local businesses. These activities can serve as a bridge between business schools and local business leaders.

Introduction to academic writing

For students, working on a business case can be an effective way of testing their aptitude for scholarly work. It may help students decide whether or not an academic career in business is something they would enjoy. It may also be a useful accomplishment to highlight, for example, when applying for graduate school, a PhD programme, or a research-intensive consulting or advising position.



We’ve designed the Case Project Guide as a flexible and scalable project. It can be adjusted to challenge even the most capable graduate students or to be suitable for relatively inexperienced undergraduates.

Instructor case pipeline

Finally, for faculty interested in working with students to produce scholarly output, a student case writing project can create joint publishing opportunities.

Teaching note and materials

A comprehensive teaching note is available to complement The Case Project Guide. This walks faculty through the process of implementing a case writing project using the guide. 

Additional materials are also available from the authors. 

The Case Project Guide
Teaching note