Last week’s blog post explained the purposes of the situation and challenge sections of a case study, and how to keep from putting information that should be in one section into the other. This week, Vendere Partners reviews the differences between the solution and results sections of a case study.
The Solution Section
The purpose of the solution section of a case study, which is to explain how an organization’s challenge was met, is simple enough. Nevertheless, people often make the mistake of putting facts that belong in the results section in the solution section.
Wanting to disclose final outcomes in the same sentence or paragraph in which you describe the implementation of solutions is natural, but when you’re writing a case study, it is critical to avoid mentioning final outcomes too early. Why? A case study is supposed to be a clear, no-frills story. If you jump to the end before you’ve completed your middle, your story gets muddled and loses its momentum. When you lose momentum, you lose readers.
An appropriate sentence in a solution section might be: “ABC Company conducted a thorough analysis of XYZ Company’s total transportation expense using historical data.”
An inappropriate sentence in a solution section would be: “ABC Company conducted a thorough analysis of XYZ Company’s total transportation expense using historical data in order to achieve 10 percent in annual supply chain savings every year for three years.” This sentence would be inappropriate in a solution section because it presents a final outcome.
The Results Section
The results section of a case study should do very little or no explaining, and a lot of telling. In this section, you should take what was outlined in the solution section and tell the reader what successes occurred as a result of your solution or solutions.
You might think that the inappropriate sentence example shown above would be a good fit for this section, but it’s actually inappropriate for the results section as well. Why? It explains too much.
If, in the results section, you catch yourself explaining how a solution resulted in a final outcome, stop. Look back at your solution section. You probably need to revise it. Likewise, if you’re writing the results section and you find yourself repeating numbers and statistics that are in the solution section, you probably need to remove those numbers and statistics (that directly reflect final outcomes) from the solution section and make a more conscious effort to make certain that your results section contains mostly new information and final outcomes or projections. The results section is only exciting if it offers proof that your solution was a success for the first time in your document. It shouldn’t merely regurgitate, summarize, or expand upon the content that came before it.
Just as many companies are now opting to eliminate the situation section from their case studies, many companies are now opting to eliminate the solution section from their case studies and skip right to the results. Hopefully, Vendere Partners has proven that it is prudent to include both of these sections in all case studies.
Click here if you missed last week’s blog post on writing the situation and challenge sections of a case study.