Technical Case Study

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Technical Case Study Project

In this project, you'll work with one or two peers to research a successful application of some form of technology (software, Web-based application, or social networking, for example) used by an organization to solve a real world problem or achieve its goals. The organization may be a nonprofit or for-profit company, an on-campus group, or a community with which you may be affiliated. Your finished case study will provide background information on the organization, a description of the problem or goal, a detailed overview (supported by visual content) of the steps taken to solve the problem or achieve the goal, and then a discussion of how well the solution has worked. You'll be asked to complete a Collaborative Project Evaluation Form at the end of the project. (Collaborative; 14% of course grade, or 140 points.)

Prompt

Working with one or two peers collaboratively, write a case study following the format and guidelines described in the "Writing Effective Case Analyses" reading, which you'll find in Box: 314 Technical Writing > Readings folder (Case Analysis.pdf). The "case" should be an example of an organization's or company's successful application of a technology to solve a real world problem or achieve an important goal. The length of your case study should be about 750-1,000 words, not counting images or screenshots, but including all sections, references, captions, and descriptive headers (be concise, in other words, but very precise as well; see Social Media Examiner examples below for examples of concision).

Topic Selection

You should chat with your collaborator(s) promptly to settle on a topic and approach. The key will be to pick an organization or company with which someone in your group has a connection that will give you insight into their operations. It's okay if you choose an organization or company with which one or more of you is associated.

  1. To choose your topic, rely on expertise, experiences, and interests you already have.
  2. Read through some of the examples below to get an idea of what you'll be writing about.
  3. Choose a topic you care about and that you have a reasonable chance of learning a lot more about, both through research (online or even onsite) and (if possible) interviews with participants.
  4. Discuss possible topics with your collaborator(s) by email, phone (e.g., Skype), chat (e.g., Google or Facebook chat), or some other method that allows you to exchange ideas quickly and easily.
  5. Once you've settled on the focus of your case study, one person in your group should post a title, description, and list of team members (by first name or user name) in a blog post (see Step 1 below for details)

Some Examples

These examples include both images and text in good proportion, and each describes the successful application of some technology to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Some of them are longer than yours will need to be, and some much more technical, but they will still give you a good sense of the genre. Notice how the writers articulate problems and then show you how they approached solving them.

MAPC Theses (Clemson Students)
Matt Russell, "From Analogue to Digital Updating and converting print training content to an effective web resource for Choice University"
Jack Butts, "The Happy Berry Website Redesign"

Drupal Case Studies (Website development; entrepreneurship; lots to choose from; about the right length)
https://drupal.org/case-studies

Case Study: Find Your Way to Oz (computer game development; highly detailed)
http://www.html5rocks.com/en/tutorials/casestudies/oz/

Seven Creative Social Media Marketing Mini Case Studies (short, but well presented; yours could be a bit longer than the minis)
http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/7-creative-social-media-marketing-mini-case-studies/

Social Media Examiner (lots of great ones here, so just pick a topic you like; about the right length, with good use of visuals)

Startup Company Eliminates the Cold Call With Twitter (at Social Media Examiner)
http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/startup-company-eliminates-the-cold-call-with-twitter/

Steps in the Process

1. Topic Proposal. In a blog post (tag: case study topic) identify your topic and a working title (like those above) and then describe in about 100 words why it's an interesting case. Also list the members of the team by first name or user name. Due: Friday, July 1 (by midnight). All team members should read the post and comment to add details as needed.

2. Research. Find out everything there is to know about your topic:

  • Read any existing company or organizational documents relevant to your topic.
  • If possible, write some interview questions and ask someone in the organization if he or she would be willing to answer them briefly. Important: Follow these Ethical Guidelines for Conducting an Interview with a Client. Given the time constraints, you may have to do this by email or phone.
  • Read the replies to your topic proposal written by your peers.

In a blog post (tag: case study research), one member of the team should summarize in 150 words what you and your collaborators researched and what you've learned that you didn't know before. Due: Tuesday, July 5 (by midnight). All team members should read the post and comment to add details as needed.

3. Collect Assets. As with the documentation project, you'll need images and screenshots for your project, ones that you create yourself (with a camera or screencapture software) or that you use from other sources. If you use images from another source, you must have permission to use it in your project, which means that you'll want to use Creative Commons licensed, public domain, or royalty-free content. Here's a page with Sources for Photos, Illustration, and Content. Due: On your own, but suggested completion by July 5.

  • Asset Collection: Using authentic content, produce samples and screenshots that you'll use later to illustrate key steps in the case study.
  • Screen capture: (Repeated from the documentation project): Install the Google Chrome browser add-on for making screenshots. Try "Screen Capture" by Google or "Awesome Screenshot: Capture and Annotate" by Diigo. Practice using it to create annotated images. Or use GrabIt (a pre-installed app in Mac OS) or check out this list at The Best Screen Capture Tool for Windows at LifeHacker.
  • Create your own Dropbox folder to store your assets and if you are working collaboratively or need Dr. B.'s assistance, share the folder. (Be sure to give it a name that clearly identifies what it is and who owns the folder, e.g., YourLastNames Case Study Assets.)

4. Plan and Compose Your Case Study. Draft due by midnight on July 6, posted to a team member's blog as a PDF file (or URL, if relevant). Provide some notes that elicit good responses from peer reviewers. (Tag: case study draft)

  • Your case study should have clearly defined sections (some of which are described in the "Features of a Case Analysis" section of the "Writing Effective Case Analyses" handout):
    • Clear "Statement of the Problem" (can be called "The Scenario," "The Challenge," or another appropriate header)
    • Summary of the Context (background on the organization, nature of the problem, the goal; what do readers need to know in order to understand the solution/case?
    • Proposed solution or actual solution (described as a series of steps that were taken); also called "Steps in the Process" (broken into discrete steps), supported by visual examples and samples; all images and screenshots should have explanatory captions and be numbered sequentially (e.g., Figure 1. Adjusting brightness level on a Kindle Paperwhite).
    • Recommended Solution or "What We Learned," a section that summarizes what was learned by the developers (people who tried to solve the problem, not you the writers)
    • Sources used and/or resources for additional help; imagine that you're writing this case study for someone who wants to learn about X (your topic). What resources can you point them to?
    • Authorship information (writers of the case study).
  • Compose your case study in a word processor (e.g, Google Docs preferred so that you can share it easily), Adobe InDesign (highly recommended), Dreamweaver or similar Web authoring tool (using simple HTM)L, or (if you're adventurous) a program like Prezi, Keynote, or Haiku (Windows app).

5.Complete Peer Review: Each person should write peer reviews of two (2) other case study drafts. Dr. B. will identify who should review which cases on the course calendar (July 6). The peer response form will be attached to the calendar for July 6 also. Each team will receive two peer reviews on July 6 and should then incorporate suggestions.

6. Polish the Case Study. Using the results of user-testing, revise and polish the case study.

Your final document(s) should be submitted to the "Case Study Deliverables" subfolder in the "314 Technical Writing" folder in Dropbox. Your project submission should consist of a single PDF document or (if you use another media for your presentation, such as HTML) a folder with supporting files, images, etc. The file or folder should be named as follows: Lastname1-Lastname2_CaseStudy (put the last name of each team member in the file name for easy identification). The person submitting the file in Dropbox should then send an email to Dr. B and team members verifying that the final version has been submitted, no later than midnight on Friday, July 8 (the last day of class).

Collaboration

Please complete the Collaborative Project Evaluation Form at the end of the project and submit it to Dr. Blakesley separately by email no later than July 10, 2015 (the last day of class). The form is also available in the class's Box folder.

Grading

Your project will be graded based on the quality and accuracy of your case study, as well as its presentation and usability. You are expected to be a good collaborator, someone willing to do his or her share and to make sure that everyone is involved and productive. You must complete all steps in the process on time, including the collaborative evaluation form, to earn a passing grade on the project. The project counts for 20% of your course grade.