Ivey Publishing

Fresh Perspectives & Experienced Insights: Authors Discuss Case Writing

Whether it’s your first case or fiftieth, creating impactful student learning experiences remains at the core of case writing. We sat down with two authors at very different stages of their publishing journey to discuss their experiences with case writing: Ivey Professor Mary Crossan, a seasoned and award winning case author, and Assistant Ivey Professor Felipe Restrepo, a first-time case author. Crossan has been publishing cases since 1993 and has written over 50 cases, including Ivey Publishing’s all-time best selling “Starbucks” case. She is also the recipient of this year’s Ivey Publishing “Career Achievement Award”. Restrepo is in the process of completing his first case with Ivey Publishing, “Harley-Davidson, Inc. 2018”, which is set to be published early 2020.   

Mary Crossan
Professor, General Management and Strategy 


Ivey Publishing: What do you like most about case writing?

Mary Crossan: I love the opportunity to create the best possible learning experience for the students. I am always on the look out for a better way to enhance their return on learning investment. Creating a learning experience that is insightful in the moment and memorable over a lifetime is my primary aim.

IP: Has your approach to field research changed since you began case writing?

MC: Case-writing and field research are entirely different for me. Conducting field research arises from a different paradigm around research rigour not just practical relevance. However, case-writing has amplified my understanding of organizations and that enriches my research.

IP: What is the most important thing you have learned about case writing since you began?

MC: A case has a life of its own. Often what you start out to do is not how the case ends up and it is not until you engage with students in the dynamics of the classroom experience that the true co-creation of the case emerges.

IP: What advice would you give a new case author?

MC: Like any R&D decision, it is important to choose your cases wisely given the time it takes to develop cases. Some case opportunities hold an enormous amount of learning and others are interesting but light on the return on learning investment. I typically find that sketching out the teaching note helps me understand whether the case has potential.

IP: How do you see cases evolving?

MC: I have evolved a great deal of my case writing to more vignettes and videos rather than comprehensive written cases. Back to my point about return on learning investment, the best scenario is where the students need minimal case prep coming into the classroom and the learning experience unfolds before them. Designing innovative ways to engage students in the learning process is critical. I still adhere to the underpinnings of case learning in terms of decision focus in real life situations that generate maximum insight. A great case learning experience should reveal depth of theory that is practically relevant.

Felipe Restrepo
Assistant Professor, Finance


Ivey Publishing: What made you interested in case writing?

Felipe Restrepo: As someone who has leverage on great cases to enhance students’ learning experience, I wanted to further improve the engagement and the achievement of learning outcomes in one of the key topics taught in one of my courses (the Dividend Discount Model).

IP: What is the biggest challenge in case writing?

FR: Finding real-life settings that allow for a case that is both engaging for students and that reasonably facilitates the discussion of the key conceptual and analytical tools that are to be discussed through the case.

IP: What makes a good case in your opinion?

FR: A case that strikes a good balance between being interesting for students irrespective of their backgrounds and personal interests (i.e., that is appealing and engaging), and that allows the instructor to achieve its fundamental learning objectives by providing a challenging yet clear analysis to be performed by students.

IP: Was case writing easier or more challenging than you expected?

FR: Case writing is a challenging endeavour. However, I think that leveraging on your own capabilities (e.g., past industry experiences, connections with practitioners, own research, etc.) can make the process of writing good cases a more natural one. Like most things in life, I think it takes time and effort (and thus trial and error) to become an excellent case writer.

IP: Is there anything you would do differently in future?

FR: Not necessarily, again, it will naturally take time for anyone to become an excellent case writer, but it’s the trial and error that will get one there.

IP: How did you find the publishing experience at Ivey and the type of support you receive from working with us?

FR: Overall the experience has been very positive, and we were provided constructive and helpful feedback throughout the process. 

Looking to perfect your case writing skills? Join us at an upcoming Ivey Publishing Case Writing Workshop or host a workshop at your institution.