ENGL215: English Composition II
Guidelines for Writing a Case Study


Primary vs. Secondary Research Researchers attempt to answer questions about things they are interested in by studying available resources and attempting to discover what these sources are saying. Often researchers rely on the published work of other researchers. An individual might want to find out whether lower speed limits really do save lives. To answer this question, the researcher studies statistics covering accident rates in the United States before 1973 when the speed limit dropped to 55 on all major highways and interstates. This kind of information represents secondary research. The researcher refers to sources compiled and arranged by someone else. When you conduct library research, you are probably doing secondary research.

But suppose that the same researcher wants to know whether a street light would save lives at the intersection of Kephart and Old 31, between the Taco Bell and the McDonalds restaurants. This time the researcher can't look at statistics that someone else has compiled, so she sets up a chair in front of McDonalds and counts the number of kids trying to cross the street between the two restaurants and the number of near misses and the number of actual accidents. This time the researcher is conducting primary research. The information she wants to know doesn't exist anywhere because no one else has thought to do this study yet, so she has to start from the beginning. Researchers who read original documents, do original observations, or conduct original clinical research are doing primary research.

Rationale for Case Studies One type of primary research is the case study. The researcher identifies someone who knows something important to the researcher's study and interviews this person to see what can be learned. Much of the world's knowledge exists not in books but in the minds of people who know about the researcher's area of interest. The case study allows the researcher to gather first-hand information about a topic by talking directly to someone who has had experience in this area. While the case study by itself provides useful information only about one person's experience, many case studies together are useful in showing what may be happening across a whole discipline. Linda Flower and John Hayes, for instance, have interviewed hundreds of writers about their writing practices. Each individual case study provides one experience of a writer writing. Together, all of the case studies helped Flower and Hayes identify many of the differences between skilled and unskilled writers.
Assignment Your assignment is to conduct an in-depth interview with someone who has had experience in the health care field, either as a patient or as a care giver. You will write up your interview in a case study, then you will publish your case study on the web where others will be able to use your research in future research of their own. Directions appear below.
Directions for writing a case study Follow these steps in writing your case study:

  1. Identify someone you know who has had experience either as a patient or as a care giver in a health care institution or clinic or hospital of some kind. Arrange to interview this person to learn about his or her experiences. You'll be asking questions about this person's impressions regarding the industry's ability to provide compassionate, sympathetic health care. If you can't conduct your interview in person, a telephone interview is acceptable.

  2. Read through any of the articles I have provided you on bedside manners. Decide, based on your reading, what questions you would like to ask your subject. If you do not have the packet of articles, let me know and I can make you another copy for the cost of the photocopying. I copied several shorter articles, but I do have one or two longer articles you may want to read and will be glad to make copies for you for a small fee of 3 cents / page.

  3. Conduct your interview with this person about his or her experiences as a patient or care giver. Ask the questions you prepared in advance. Take careful notes. Tape your interview if your subject gives you permission. Determine whether or not this person wishes to have his/her name used in the essay. If not, use a pseudonym.

  4. Organize your case study according to the outline provided below.

  5. Use signal phrases to introduce borrowed information in your review. See pp. 233-236 of your hand book for samples.

  6. Cite journal articles and interviews in APA style as indicated below. Additional documentation guidelines are available in your hand book, starting on page 236.

  7. Submit your review according to the directions in the syllabus regarding font size, margins, use of a cover page, length, etc.

  8. In addition to a hard copy, submit an electronic copy of your review to me in Word or WordPerfect either on a floppy disk or by attaching it to an e-mail to me at closserb@andrews.edu.
Case Study Outline Case studies, like many other research projects in the health care field, include the following sections. Typically, the section headings actually appear in the paper. Note: The introduction and Review of literature sections are often combined.


Open up your essay with a statement about the importance of strong patient-care provider relationships. This could be done in a paragraph or two.

Review of Literature

In this section describe what is known about patient-care provider relationships. Think of this section as a mini-research paper where you explain what the research is saying. This section provides the background or the explanation for the questions you want to ask your interview subject. It helps readers understand why your case study is important. This section will probably be from 1 to 2 pages long.


In this section identify who you selected to be your subject. Explain why you selected this person and tell what experience he or she has had with the health care industry. Mention any background about this person which might help the reader understand the significance of his/her experience. Explain what sorts of questions you asked this person, Even list the questions you asked. Also tell when and where you conducted your interview with this person, whether you taped the interview, and whether you had permission to tape. This section could probably be done in one or two paragraphs.


In this section tell how your subject answered the questions you asked. This section doesn't require you to comment on the answers, but only to report what they were. Summarize or paraphrase your subject's responses to each question. Don't simply type out each answer verbatim. This section is likely to be around a page or two in length.


In your conclusion section discuss the significance of your research. What important things have you noticed? Do you think that the results of your interview suggests that the health care profession is doing an acceptable job of providing sympathetic care to its patients? If your subject was a patient, does his or her comments lead you to believe that he or she was satisfied with the care he or she received? If your subject is a health care provider, is he or she satisfied with the quality of the care provided? What general comments might you make about the health care industry based on your conclusions? Do you feel confident about the state of the health care industry's ability to provide compassionate health care? What concerns do you have for the future based on your interview? This section will be no longer than a page.


List here, in APA format, each source you mention in your paper. See below for documentation instructions.

Documenting Your Sources Document journal articles like this:
Smith, B. (2003). The history of bedside manners. Journal of Nursing History, 45(3), 45-59.

Document interviews in the text of your essay like this:

The patient said that the nurse never took the time to "talk to me about my feelings" (R. Jones, personal communication, September 25, 2005).

APA doesn't document personal correspondence, telephone calls, or interviews in the Reference list.

If you have questions about how to document anything else in APA style, see pp.236 and onward in your textbook.

Due Date The final draft of this project is due on Monday, October 3. Note: This is a change from the syllabus. It gives you an additional weekend to work on this project.
Writing Center Don't forget that it's a good idea to get someone from the Writing Center to have a look at your draft before you revise and submit it. Drop by Nethery Hall 203 or call 3358 to make an appointment. The Writing Center is open from 2-8 pm, Monday through Thursday and 4:30-8 pm on Sunday.