MAKING YOUR OWN CASE STUDIES

Russell E. Conner
1992 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


There will be times when you will want to introduce a topic in a case study format but don't have one already available. This may be a topic of special interest to your community or school or it may be a recent news item which piques your interest or the interest of one of your students.

It isn't difficult to identify those topics which will elicit the most discussion. They are often controversial, with two or more groups or individuals holding strong opinions on opposite sides of an issue. They can also be topics about difficult problems or concerns which have no obviously right or wrong solution. Do not choose topics in which the solution is too obvious. These provide for little if any discussion.

Look for the moral or ethical dilemma(s) involved in the situation. These conflicts will usually center around the following prima facie duties:

  1. Avoiding doing evil
  2. Doing good
  3. Promoting justice
  4. Keeping promises
  5. Telling the truth
  6. Respecting autonomy
  7. Making reparations for past wrongs
  8. Promoting self improvement

Remember that if you can't decide what the conflict is, your students probably won't be able to decide what it is either.

Case studies should be relatively short (about a page double spaced). If a given article is too long, you can condense it by retyping the most important points rather than copying the entire article.

Allow the students to read through the article. They should be sure to keep in mind what is factual information versus what is offered in the article as opinion.

The following is a typical list of questions which students should consider as they work with the case study.

  1. What individuals or groups are or could be affected by this situation?

  2. What are the moral or ethical values in conflict?

  3. What are the possible resolutions to this situation?

    How do they affect each of the participants?

    How do the resolutions satisfy each side in light of their ethical or moral positions?

You can modify this format by asking more direct questions specific to the topic. An example would be "Should Jane be allowed to do (blank)? Why?"


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