What Are Harvard Case Studies?


Quick Answer

Harvard Business School (HBS) case studies are educational tools that present business challenges for resolution with incomplete information and constraints that would be present in the real world. HBS faculty write 80 percent of the 350 case studies produced annually. Students are expected to provide answers by consulting with their peers in small groups before engaging with the entire class.

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Full Answer

Decision-forcing cases place students in the role of a protagonist facing a dilemma. The details of the dilemma are real, but the information given to students extends only to the decision-making point. Materials used include articles composed to promote discussion of the case, secondary evidence such as newspaper articles produced for other purposes, historical documents, corporate or cultural artifacts, and video and audio programs. One problem with the decision-forcing case is that students pursue a story line and thereby tend to dismiss evidence that doesn't fit. The use of case materials such as primary sources, data and exhibits helps prevent this "narrative fallacy." Harvard issues a disclaimer that a case is intended to serve as a basis for class discussion to avoid the acceptance of a case as proof of a real-world theory or doctrine. According to the Harvard Business School, students work on over 500 cases during their time at the school.

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