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Case Dissertation

Prof Martyn Denscombe, author of "The Good Research Guide, 6th edition", gives expert advice on using a case study for your master's dissertation.

Case studies can be a good basis for a master’s dissertation. There are two main reasons for this. First, a case study provides a platform that allows you to study a situation in depth and produce the level of academic inquiry that is expected in a master’s degree. In the context of any master’s programme the dissertation operates as something of a showcase for a student’s abilities. It can easily make the difference between getting a merit and a distinction in the final award of degree. It is important, therefore, to base the work on an approach that allows things to be explored in sufficient depth and detail to warrant a good grade.

Second, case studies can be useful in a practical sense. It is possible to complete a case study in a relatively short period of intense study and so it is the kind of research that is feasible in terms of the kind of time constraints that face master’s students as they enter the final stages of their programme of study. Added to which a case study can also be a rather convenient form of research, avoiding the time and costs of travel to multiple research sites.

The use of case studies, then, would appear to be an attractive proposition. But it is not an approach that should be used naively without consideration of its limitations or potential pitfalls. To be a good case study the research needs to consider certain key issues which, if they are not addressed, might considerably lower the value of the case study as part of a master’s degree.

For instance, a good case study needs to:

• Be crystal clear about the purpose for which the research is being conducted
• Justify the selection of the particular case being studied
• Describe how the chosen case compares with others of its type
• Explain the basis on which any generalizations can be made from the findings

This is where The Good Research Guide, 6th edition becomes so valuable. It not only identifies the key points that need to be addressed in order to conduct a competent questionnaire survey, it gets right to the heart of the matter with plenty of practical guidance on how to deal with the issues. In a straightforward style, using plain language, this bestselling book covers a range of alternative strategies and methods for conducting small-scale social research projects and outlines some of the main ways in which the data can be analysed.


Read Prof Martyn Denscombe's advice on using a questionnaire survey for your postgraduate dissertation

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All PhD and Master's (Thesis) degree candidates must submit an Electronic Thesis/Dissertation (ETD) as part of their graduation requirements. This page provides general guidance on how to format, convert, and upload your ETD. The process involves converting a successfully defended and approved thesis/dissertation in final form into a Portable Document Format (PDF) file for subsequent upload(s) to OhioLINK.

Publication style is governed by the academic specification of your program. In the absence of a program-specific determination, the style manual for dissertations at CWRU will be limited to the latest version of one of the following: A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Thesis and Dissertation by Kate L. Turabian, published by the University of Chicago Press; The MLA Style Sheet, published by the Modern Language Association of America; or the APA Publication Manual, published by the American Psychological Association.

Order of Contents [+]


The organization of the dissertation must follow the order below:

Title page

Committee Approval Sheet

Copyright page (only if copyrighting)

Dedication page (optional)

Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures

Preface (optional)

Acknowledgements (optional)

List of Abbreviations (optional)

Glossary (optional)





Typeface and Font [+]


Any standard typeface is acceptable; font size should be 12. The font size may be reduced for captions on figures and tables.

Margins [+]


The margins on the left side of all pages should be at least 1.5 inches. Top, bottom and right margins should be at least 1 inch. All photographs, charts, tables, graphs, drawings, etc. must fit within these specified margins. Double check margins for accuracy.

Spacing [+]


Double space all text. Long quotations, captions, footnotes, and endnotes may be single-spaced.

Pagination [+]


The numbering of pages should, at the very latest, begin with the Table of Contents. Roman numerals (iii, iv, v…) are acceptable for the front pages. However, Arabic numbers (3, 4, 5…) should begin no later than the first page of regular text. You should number consistently throughout the document; for example, page numbers should be all at the top or all at the bottom.

Title Page [+]


The title page must contain the following information: Title, Name, Degree, Department, University Name, Month and Year of Graduation. The month of graduation will either be January, May or August. See the sample title page.

Tables and Figures [+]


If you use tables, figures, and/or illustrations, you must include an itemized/numbered list of each. Please separate these lists on different pages.

References/Bibliography [+]


You must include a complete bibliography at the end of the ETD that includes all works cited. Please follow the format most commonly used by your department.

Proofing [+]


You must have the format of your thesis/dissertation checked and approved by the School of Graduate Studies before you upload to OhioLink. You can do this by emailing a copy of the entire PDF file to etdsubmit@case.edu. Include your department or program name and the words "format check" in the subject line. Notice of approval or corrections will be returned via email. Any ETD uploaded to OhioLink without prior approval will be deleted.

Graduation Fee [+]


The School of Graduate Studies does not assess a graduation fee.

Publishing [+]


It is a requirement of Case Western Reserve University to publish all doctoral dissertations through UMI/ProQuest. Please note that electronic dissertations will be submitted to UMI/ProQuest on behalf of CWRU by OhioLink. The doctoral graduation packet contains a form with detailed information about electronic publishing.

Copyrights [+]


Authorship automatically and implicitly confers a copyright to the author, without any additional fee. However, a copyright can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, which will provide additional legal protections for your rights regarding your dissertation, for an additional fee. The School of Graduate Studies is no longer processing these requests. If you choose to formally copyright, please insert a "copyright page" into your document. If you are not copyrighting, then leave out this page.

Copies [+]


Although you will submit your thesis/dissertation electronically, you may need to make printed copies for the members of your defense committee. It is the student's responsibility to deliver, to each committee member, a copy of the thesis/dissertation at least ten days prior to the defense examination date. Some departments may also require a copy of the thesis/dissertation for deposit in the department. Students should consult their advisors or department chairs concerning departmental requirements.


Some students wish to have copies bound for their own use. Contact the University Bookstore at 216.368.2650 for information on its binding service.

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