How to Write a Great Case Study

By Heather Maietta posted 05-15-2018 08:27


Last spring, after many years as a senior administrator in career services, I (re)entered the ranks of the faculty. One of my first publication goals was to work on a case studies book for the profession because as a career professional I never really felt I had real problem-based examples to guide my own strategy and decision-making. Sure, I had colleagues in the field I called upon and brainstormed with in times of need, but everyone is busy, and has their own set of unique challenges. I find our industry lacks an economically feasible, desktop resource that provides a snapshot into real world cases and possible solutions available at our fingertips. My interest in case studies came from the conviction that, as a leader, I face unique problems every day, and my ability to solve these problems depends not only on my awareness of the theories and practices of the field for which I am proficient, but also on creativity and innovative thinking. I know there are career services offices out there changing our industry, but it is hard to keep up with best practices and a lot of great ideas are never shared! Through case studies, career service leaders can read established practices and innovative strategies, and then tailor and apply similar solutions to their own environments. 

New Resource. In partnership with the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a group of extremely talented authors are contributing their expertise and experience to a new publication: Cases in Career Services: A Working Guide for Practitioners (Fall, 2018). A select number of topic areas are still available, so if you are a career professional with expertise in the field, please keep reading for information on how you can be part of this exciting project. If you’re a career services professional in need of a desktop reference of best practices and innovative solutions, look out for Cases in Career Services: A Working Guide for Practitioners coming Fall 2018! 

What exactly is Cases in Career Services: A Working Guide for Practitioners? This publication is a reference guide that presents career service practitioners with real-life scenarios they might face in the field. The case studies in this publication are written by career experts who are leading our industry NOW. These authors are practitioners who have already had these experiences and want to share their experiences with other practitioners as an educational tool to help others solve problems, explore situations from different viewpoints, and receive advice on how to process and deal with issues in the workplace. 

Steps to Writing a Good Case Study. A case study is not a case without a problem to solve. Authors of Cases in Career Services: A Working Guide for Practitioners present the reader with a relevant, real world problem, and through their case walk the reader through the stages of investigation or examination. Not all cases are the same—they will differ depending on the case situation. For example, cases might:

  •  Identify a problem in the field of career services
  • Introduce a new working practice in career service
  • Explore a new theoretical framework in career development
  • Evaluate a career education program’s effectiveness
  • Highlight a recent challenge your career department has overcome 

Below is a helpful chart that outlines the basic framework of case writing. Not all of the questions within the chart will apply to every case, but these examples will give both author and reader an idea of the case writing journey from inception to completion. 

Writing a Case Study Guiding Questions

guide to writing a case study

Seeking Authors. Many authors are busy preparing their cases; however, we are seeking experts in the industry specific topic areas below. If you are interested in contributing your knowledge to Cases in Career Services: A Working Guide for Practitioners, please reach out to me directly at for more information. 

-Campus Politics

-External Reviews/Consultants 

-Fraudulent Employer

-Virtual Internships       

-Athletic Dilemma

-Non-Traditional/Adult Learners

-Risk Mgmt/EAP for Students on Internships/Coop

-Illegal Hiring Practices

-Allocation of Resources/Funding 

NACE Conference. If you are attending the NACE Conference in New Orleans this June, we will be discussing the publication Cases in Career Services: A Working Guide for Practitioners in more detail, giving author updates and answering any questions you may have. Please come see us in the exhibit hall at the NACE booth while you’re enjoying the conference! 

As always, thanks for all you do for the career services profession!