Debra Ringold's Written Case Assignment Guidelines, Spring 2003

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Basic Steps in Case Analysis

Step 1. Effective case analysis begins with data collection. This means carefully reading the case, rereading it, and reading it again.

When you write your case memorandum: Provide a brief summary of your analysis of the situation. Include those facts relevant to the formulation of your problem statement and the description/evaluation of your alternatives. A successful case analysis makes a recommendation that is logically consistent with the situation analysis. Avoid rehashing the case facts. A solid introductory paragraph uses facts that are relevant to the problem at hand to make summary points of analysis. A poor introduction restates these facts for no apparent reason and without making summary comments.

Step 2. Once you have mastered the facts of the case, your next step is to identify the most salient issue or problem in the case, i.e., the problem or issue with the most potential to effect the organization (negatively or positively). Learning to separate problems from symptoms is an important skill to develop. Moreover, there will often be a number of related "sub-issues" or "sub-problems" which are related to the central problem or issue in the case. Sometimes, it is necessary for you to look for the common cause of related symptoms to ascertain the most compelling problem or issue. This problem or issue is the focal point of your case analysis; it is the problem/issue to which the executive you are advising must direct his/her attention and the organization's resources.

The critical issue is whether a successful marketing program can be formulated or whether a current marketing program needs to be altered in order to overcome the problem areas and/or take advantage of opportunities. It is often helpful to think about problems and opportunities in the context of organization goals and the extent to which goals have been achieved.

When you write your case memorandum: You must precisely state the problem and its selection must be motivated/justified by the situation analysis. That is, the reasons for your formulation of the problem should be briefly and carefully summarized and be logically consistent with your situation analysis.

Step 3. At this step you must identify alternative courses of action that, with a high probability, will result in solving the problem in a manner consistent with the organization's goals. Usually there are several plausible solutions to the problems in a case, and you should be careful not to lock on to one alternative before each of the most attractive alternatives has been thoroughly evaluated. Every alternative has pros and cons. Explicitly consider these in your memorandum.


When you write your case memorandum: Alternatives should be feasible, specific, carefully stated, and accompanied by a brief justification. Each should be evaluated in the context of the situation and the goals of the organization; each should be compared to other possible solutions.

Step 4. After each of the alternatives has been thoroughly analyzed, you must make a recommendation concerning the specific course of action the manager should take. You must clearly convey your reasoning and demonstrate how your chosen course of action will, with a high probability, "solve" the problem.

When you write your case memorandum: You should explicitly recognize the limitations of your recommendation, its relative strengths, and make the reader aware of how your recommendation, in a manner superior to the others, "solves" the organization's problem in the context of its goals. [Go Top]

Format Your case analysis will be presented in a standard business memorandum directed to the management of the organization featured in the case. It is to be single spaced, twelve (12) characters per inch, with one (1) inch margins all around.

Each case memorandum (which includes your situation analysis, problem statement, alternatives/evaluation, and recommendation) may not exceed two (2) single spaced pages.

Paginate the two-page document. Staple the document in the upper left hand corner. Make a copy of the document for your files. [Go Top]

Case Evaluation Each case will be graded on how well you identify the problem or opportunity in the case, develop and evaluate alternatives, and make recommendations.

The memorandum is to be of professional quality in terms of grammar, punctuation, spelling, style, etc. For guidance in these matters see:

Strunk, William and E.B. White (1979 or later), The Elements of Style, Third or later Edition, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company OR

Hodges, John C. and Mary E. Whitten (1972 or later), Harbrace College Handbook, Seventh or later Edition, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Its content and appearance should reflect a highly professional effort. Therefore, it must be typed accurately and neatly, etc. [Go Top]