Case Study - Preliminaries
Guidelines for Choosing and Researching an Issue
- Start early!! Choose an issue of interest to you. Look for issues that are important and complex or ambiguous.
- One source of issue ideas is the DAILY GRIST. Regional newspapers like the New York Times or Boston Globe and local papers like the Saratogian or your hometown newspaper are also sources of ideas.
- Complete a literature search of the traditional, print-based resources on-line, as well as a search of on-line resources. On-line databases or indexes of traditional literature include FirstSearch and Lexis/Nexis. Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe is an on-line service that can be used to locate newspaper, magazine, and journal articles on any subject, by conducting a keyword search. These and other databases are available at: Electronic Resources A to Z.
- Other useful websites include:
- International Institute for Sustainable Development This is a website that can be used to access current and previous issues of Earth Negotiations Bulletin, an online newsletter which provides detailed day-to-day coverage of major international negotiating sessions on a variety of environmental problems. This also provides a link to the electronic Linkages Journal which has short articles on a wide range of international environmental topics, brief summaries of past meetings, lists of forthcoming meetings, and abstracts of recent literature in the environmental field.
- Environmental Resources This is a page set up by the Skidmore library. It includes links to books, electronic indexes (databases), electronic references, journals, and www resources.
- As soon as you have appropriately narrowed your issue, and your instructor has approved your issue, submit interlibrary loan requests if necessary.
Guidelines for Choosing an Interesting Question
A good question for your ES 100 case study will have the following characteristics:
- It is truly interesting to you.
- You believe it is an important question and the future of the area you are studying will depend on the answer chosen by the individual or individuals in a position to make the decision.
- You believe that your classmates will also find it interesting and important or that you can demonstrate to them that it is interesting and important.
- Prior to conducting the research for your case study, you did not know the answer to your question.
- You need to rely on several sources to adequately understand and answer your question.
- A good question doesn't lead to a simple, airtight argument. You will need to acknowledge ambiguity and complexity.
- A good question is limited enough for you to provide a focused answer to the assignment in 6 to 8 pages.
Remember to research and analyze your question using interdisciplinary perspectives. That is, examine the way in which the interplay of these various perspectives influences the possible answers to your question. You will then make recommendations for how individuals or groups of individuals should deal with this question.
Case Study Outline Guidelines
- At the top of the page write your tentative title, your issue and your question.
- List the main ideas that your audience will need to understand the perspectives involved.
- Describe why the question you are addressing arises. Why is it important? What factors contribute to the problem? What factors contribute to the possible solutions? What solution are you proposing? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this solution? What factors are you using as evidence to support your conclusions?
- Just as a paper needs a thesis or a question to be addressed, a paragraph needs a topic sentence. In your outline, try summarizing each of your main supporting ideas in one sentence. These one-sentence summaries can serve as your topic sentences.
- Outlines like this not only help us to see the distinctions among our various ideas, but they also allow us to visualize the relationship of one idea to another. Look back over your outline and try to discover the natural groupings. Which ideas cluster together? Within each cluster, which idea is the most important? By answering such questions you will discover the hierarchy of ideas, and this will help to develop the most logical order and movement of our argument.
- Finish your outline with a clearly articulated conclusion. This will probably be the topic sentence for your concluding paragraph. You should definitely make a case for the significance of the question your paper addresses. You might also help your reader see that your question is really part of a larger question that applies to different environmental issues.
Remember, your outline should use full sentences and include complete references (see citing sources).