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Is teaching with cases new to you, or are you looking for a way to improve your current methodology? Are you considering submitting a case you have written, or do you have a case to write? Ivey Publishing offers a variety of tips and tools to get you started.

Ivey has a long history as a case writing institution.  We are a leader in producing business cases with an international perspective and Ivey is the largest producer of Asian cases in the world.  We’ve compiled helpful, general information on business case studies, their usefulness to students, as well as information for companies who want to participate in the case writing process.

What is a business case study?

A business case study “is a description of an actual situation, commonly involving a decision, a challenge, an opportunity, a problem or an issue faced by a person (or persons) in an organization.”1  Cases contain relevant data about the issue available to the key person in the case, plus background information about the organization.  Cases may vary in length from one to more than 40 pages, but normally range between three and 20 pages of text, and one to 10 pages of pictures or exhibits.

Why are cases used?

A “case allows (the student) to step figuratively into the position of a particular decision maker.”1  The strength of the case method of teaching is that students have to apply business principles to the issues raised and defend their recommended course of action to their fellow students.

Cases enable students to put themselves in the place of actual managers. Students analyze situations, develop alternatives, choose plans of action and implementation, and communicate and defend their findings in small groups and in class. Cases are used to test the understanding of theory, to connect theory with application, and to develop theoretical insight. Cases are still one of the best ways to enable students to learn by doing.

What value is there for a company to participate?

High quality cases cannot usually be written from public sources. They require the consent and cooperation of the organization and the individual manager about whom the case is written. It is reasonable to ask why this consent should be forthcoming.

A case is a donation to the process of continuing improvement in management education.  A company’s willingness to share its successes and failures, and the difficulties it has worked through, create a learning environment that is very difficult to convey otherwise. 

  1. There may be publicity-related benefits. For example, if an organization’s name remains undisguised, the organization might raise its name and brand awareness among students (and prospective employees and customers). 
  2. The organization could use the case in internal training programs.
  3. Intangible benefits often come from working with faculty — their questions and comments, and the company’s answers and explanations may point out a new strategy to follow or lessons to learn from the situation. However, case writing is not consulting, and guarantees of tangible benefits cannot be given, other than the gratitude of the School, its faculty and business students around the world.
  4.  

What resources does a company have to commit?

While the faculty member and / or case writer will need background information, the real strength of a case comes from including the perspective of the key decision-makers in the company.  Hence, it is vital to interview senior company officials.  The normal first interview lasts 1 - 2 hours and is intended to help define the potential issue around which the case will be written. If tentative agreement is reached to proceed with the case, the author will then need access to relevant data (background information, reports, etc.). A second shorter interview is then scheduled to help fill in remaining details.  With the material in hand, the case writer will finish drafting the case. It will then be sent to the company for verification, correction of any errors, and eventual release.

What makes a good case?

The best cases convey the ambiguity present in business situations.  The perspective of the key decision-makers in the company brings realism (or personality) and a tension to the case.  There are usually at least two apparently viable alternative solutions to the case which forces students to recommend a course of action with imperfect information.

Will business competitors benefit from information in the case?

Case writers strive to present real life situations and to use accurate data wherever possible.  Often by the time a case is publicly available, the information presented is widely known.  If not, the case writer may use disguised information.  All cases contain the phrase “The authors may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality.”

Throughout the case writing process, case writers maintain strict confidentiality with all information provided by the organization. If preferred, anonymity of the organization, individuals and data can be assured.  The draft case will be submitted to the organization to verify the accuracy of the case content. When satisfied, a designated person in the organization signs a "consent to use" (release) form permitting the use and distribution of the case.

What is consent to use?

To ensure that the case writer and faculty member have accurately described the business situation, the company is asked to sign a “consent to use” (release) form.  This form contains wording that allows Ivey to correct or modify the case without the Company’s consent for minor errors or to add modest amounts of information to correct misunderstandings discovered when the case is taught.  The form gives the company the option to review more substantial changes or (as most companies do) to allow the case author to make other changes without seeking further approval.

What is the timeline for writing a case?

Every situation is different.  A typical case takes two months to write and revise.  The case is professionally edited, reviewed by the subject company, converted into secure Portable Document Format and submitted for registration; this generally takes another month.  Usually the case is then taught; based on the class experience, the case may be fine-tuned to address areas where more clarity or information is needed.

What is typically included in a case?

A typical case starts with a paragraph describing the problem facing an executive.  The case often then gives background information on the industry, the company and the executives involved.  Much of the background information for a case is in the public domain.

The case then typically returns to the dilemma faced by the manager.  At this point, it is desirable to include comments from company executives.  Their perspective, management style and deliberations bring realism to the case.

The case concludes with a re-iteration of the problem addressed at the outset of the case.  Depending on the focus of the case, it may include financial statements, organization charts, process flow charts and similar information.

Who writes the case?

Cases are written by an experienced faculty member who is trained in case writing.  Often a case writer assists the faculty member by compiling the basic case information, locating needed background data and putting the case into draft form.

Who owns the case?

The Ivey case collection is owned by Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation, a federally incorporated not-for-profit corporation.  Proceeds from the sale of cases are used to fund case writing and faculty research, and to hire faculty.

What is a teaching note?

Typically, a case author will prepare a teaching note to assist other academics teaching the case.  The teaching note sets out the important issues in the author’s mind, outlines a suggested allocation of class time to these issues and sometimes describes the decisions that were actually made.

While the teaching note is prepared early, often as the case is written, it frequently is revised after the case has been formally taught in a classroom environment to add information and details that will be helpful to an instructor.

Can I or my company make copies of the case?

Once a case is written, the case author will provide the company with a copy of the case.  Thereafter, permission to reproduce will be granted by Ivey Publishing; a modest fee will apply.  Contact Ivey Publishing for further details.

Can my company financially sponsor the writing of a case?

Many companies believe in fostering business education by financially supporting case writing.  Ivey welcomes this support and, with a minimum donation level, is pleased to recognize a company’s contribution on the case.  Contact Ivey Publishing for further details.

1Erskine, J.A. and Leenders, M.R., Learning with Cases, © 1997, Richard Ivey School of Business.

Improve your case writing skills, and prepare to write a case with these instructional videos and documents from Ivey Publishing:

"So You Want To Write a Case..." by Professor Charles Dhanaraj

"What is Not a Case" by Professor Charles Dhanaraj

"Three Core Elements of a Good Case" by Professor Charles Dhanaraj

"The Case Triangle" by Professor Charles Dhanaraj

Submission guidelines for Ivey cases and teaching notes

A number of current Ivey faculty members, emeritus professors, and PhD program graduates are available for workshops on case writing and case teaching, and should be contacted directly.

Workshop DescriptionContact NameContact EmailTelephone
In China, in Chinese Language

Prof. Shih-Fen Chen
Prof. Ruihua Jiang
Prof. Jing'an Tang
Prof. Changhui Zhou

sfchen@ivey.ca
jiang@oakland.edu
tangj3@sacredheart.edu
changhui.zhou@gmail.com

(519) 661-3039
(248) 370-2832
(203) 371-7960
86-10-62755089 

In India Prof. Nicole Haggerty  nhaggerty@ivey.ca
(519) 661-4025 
In French Language Prof. Jean-Louis Schaan jlschaan@ivey.ca

(519) 661-4198

Focusing on quantitative content
(management science, business
statistics, production / operations)
Prof. Peter Bell pbell@ivey.ca

(519) 661-3288

In Emerging Markets Prof. Paul Beamish pbeamish@ivey.ca

(519) 661-3237

In Africa Prof. Oana Branzei
Prof. Nicole Haggerty
Prof. Elie Chrysostome
obranzei@ivey.ca
nhaggerty@ivey.ca
chrysoev@plattsburgh.edu
(519) 661.4114
(519) 661-4025
(518) 564-3876

Case Writing or Teaching Workshop in
London, Ontario
Prof. James A. Erskine and
Prof. Michiel R. Leenders
jerskine@ivey.ca or
mleenders@ivey.ca

(519) 661-3240
or
(519) 661-3284

The Business Plan PresentationDeborah Compeau, Yves Plourde
This complimentary case has been written to help students understand the importance of class management and illustrate the challenges associated with English as a Second Language (ESL) students and how to best approach these students to ensure their language difficulties do not limit their learning. It also emphasizes the need for instructors to be clear about course objectives and class requirements. The case can be used in a course on teaching, ideally in a section on class management, teaching ESL students or teaching in a cross-cultural context. It can also be used as preparation for participants in student-run initiatives in developing countries. Registered academics can Log In to download the accompanying teaching note. Message from the author.

Plagiarism and DisciplineDeborah Compeau, Liliana Lopez Jimenez
When a professor finds out that one of the groups in her Management Information Systems (MIS) MBA class had plagiarized part of their assignment from other sources, she did not know what to do. Plagiarism was not an unusual situation to her; in the past, she had always reported it. Her university also took plagiarism seriously; students who were caught were expelled from the university. But this situation seemed a little different, and she wondered whether reporting the students and having them expelled was the sensible approach this time.

This complimentary case is designed to support workshops and teaching on the subject of teaching and learning with cases. This case emphasizes issues of dealing with student plagiarism on a case analysis assignment. 

Learn more about writing, teaching, and learning with cases through these books which are available for purchase:

Learning with Cases, 4th edition
This soft cover book is a concise handbook written specifically for students to enhance their learning with cases. Numerous and helpful suggestions cover the complete case learning process including individual reading and preparation, small group discussion, large group (classroom) discussion, making case presentations and writing case exams and reports ...
 

Writing Cases, 4th edition
The fourth edition of this best seller sets a new milestone on how to write good cases quickly. Case writing is identified as a three-phase process, and the book guides the reader through each phase. New ideas in this edition include the Case Origin Grid, The Case Shopping List, action triggers, and the story line and decision frame cuts. Another addition is the class testing of the new case ...
 

Teaching with Cases, 3rd edition
This set of soft cover books is written for those interested in participative learning. It is designed to make life easier for all new case teachers and to expand the horizons of those more seasoned. Coverage includes preparation for class using the case teaching plan, classroom management, evaluating student performance and case use variations ...
 

Teaching with Cases/Writing Cases/Learning with Cases (3-Book Set)
The most recent editions of Teaching with Cases, Writing Cases, and Learning with Cases are available as a three-book set.

Aprende con casos (Learning with Cases, Spanish Translation)
This is a Spanish translation of product IM1013 - Learning with Cases. This soft cover book is a concise handbook written specifically for students to enhance their learning with cases. Numerous and helpful suggestions cover the complete case learning process including individual reading and preparation, small group discussion, large group (classroom) discussion, making case presentations and writing case exams and reports ...

Apprendre cas par cas (Learning with Cases, French Translation)
This is a French translation of product IM1013 - Learning with Cases.This soft cover book is a concise handbook written specifically for students to enhance their learning with cases. Numerous and helpful suggestions cover the complete case learning process including individual reading and preparation, small group discussion, large group (classroom) discussion, making case presentations and writing case exams and reports ...

Teaching with Cases/Writing Cases/Learning with Cases (3-Book Set), Chinese Translation
This set of three integrated texts on the case method is written for those interested in participative learning. Written by Ivey professors James A. Erskine, Michiel R. Leenders, and Louise A. Mauffette-Leenders, the texts are now available in simplified Chinese translations published by the Beijing Normal University Publishing Group.