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Stage 2: Research and link to theory


Research and link to theory

Begin your research with information from your course, for example: lectures, course notes and readings.

Research the specific issues you identified to find additional academic and authoritative sources to support your analysis of the case. As your understanding of the topic develops, your research becomes more focussed and effective.

For more information about using the library search tools and study guides, go to Getting started with the Library.

The next step is to link the identified problems to theory.

Integrating theory into your case study answer is vital. This allows you to:

  • establish how theory relates to the actual issues/problems
  • demonstrate your understanding of your course content.

How to map case evidence to relevant theory

Use a simple strategy such as a table to organise evidence from the case and link it to the broader problem or issue the evidence describes.

This will help you target your research to relevant theory, models or practice which are directly linked to your case evidence.

Your research will also help you select appropriate solutions to the problems that you first identified.

The example below uses information from a management case study.

Evidence Problem Relevant theory Solution
  • Office location on top floor
  • 'mythical figure'
  • Focussed on results
  • HealthCo is 'his baby'
CEO leadership style
  • 'autocratic'
  • Weber (Bureaucratic management)
    (Houghton 2010)
  • Taylor (Scientific theory of management)
    (Van Vugt et al. 2004
  • No respect for staff ('only a number)
  • No rewards ... only punishment ('super snoops')
  • No initiative allowed
    • staff leaving
Management culture
  • 'distrustful'
  • controlling
  • Mechanistic
  • Autocratic leadership style
    (Bass & Bass 2008)
  • Communication 'top down'
  • memos only
  • Impersonal communication style
    (De Hoog et al. 2015)

Activity: Example case study

The example from the Management case study below shows how the student has identified an issue based on actual examples from the case. They have then used theory to explain how this behaviour affects the organisation. Note how the student has used one issue per paragraph in their discussion.

Click on the buttons to explore each part of the case study.

2. Discussion

2.1 Identification of issues and problems

A major problem for HealthCo is its organisational culture, typified by the CEO's autocratic leadership style. This is demonstrated in HealthCo’s management of its frontline staff, which includes standardisation of work methods, enforced cooperation, and the belief that money is the only motivation for employees. This traditional leadership style, based on Taylor's scientific management theory, is characterised by control of decision making and domination (Bass & Bass 2008), and is most often found in organisations with a rigidly defined hierarchy (Van Vugt et al. 2004). Although Taylor believed that control and enforcement are required to ensure the most effective, and efficient, completion of tasks, this management style has been criticised as causing resentment, low morale and lack of innovation in employees (Houghton 2010). These are all issues that have led to the current situation at HealthCo and as a consequence, will limit the company's ability to remain an industry leader.

Another issue affecting HealthCo's competitive advantage is poor communication between management and staff. De Hoog et al. (2015) describe how impersonal ...

For more information see Paragraphs and Integrating references.

The next step is to develop solutions to the problems identified.