Evidence for a Case Study Report in Engineering

Evidence is essential in any report because it gives credibility to your findings and recommendations. Evidence is reliable information that supports and justifies your analytical processes, your findings and your recommendations. Essentially you are demonstrating how you know something.

What counts as evidence in a case study report?

1. The facts of the situation

Describe the situation clearly and objectively. If you are presenting the context, do not include your opinion or begin discussing why and how. Your comments/conclusions can be included during and after your analysis of the case (where more facts may be revealed). Here is an example of a writer presenting a summary of the context of the case study in his introduction. Notice how the writer has included the sources of the factual information as this conforms to academic conventions and allows the reader to judge the reliability of the information.

"Following Hurricane Andrew, which made landfall on the morning of August 25, 1992, questions arose in the state capital concerning whether Florida in conjunction with federal and local agencies had optimally prepared and then responded to one of the most destructive natural disasters in the history of the United States. Just three weeks after the onset of Andrew on September 11th, Governor Chiles issues Executive Order 92-242 establishing the Governor's Disaster Planning and response Review Committee under the chairmanship of former state senate president Philip D. Lewis to evaluate existing "state and local statutes, plans and programs for natural and man-made disasters, and to make recommendations for improvements to the Governor and the State Legislature" (Chiles, 1992:2). According to the executive order, the "Lewis Committee" was manted to submit its report of recommendations no later than January 15,1993, six weeks prior to the start of the regular 1993 legislative session. How the governor and ultimately the legislature dealt with this matter is the subject of this case study"

[Source of extract: Mittler, 1997. p.2]

2. Referring to published credible sources

Establish the credibility of a source by:

  • Checking the author's qualifications and experience in relation to the topic
  • Noting if the authors would have any bias on the topic
  • Noting the publishing date - is it out of date? Does time affect the quality of the information, or the case study?
  • Checking who published the information - has the information been peer reviewed by a professional body or institution?
  • Checking the content for plausibility and reliability. Is what is being said reasonable? What evidence is provided to support opinions?

Here is an example of a writer using credible sources of information (government department as author and specific acts/laws of government) to show evidence of processes related to the case study:

"Florida began to address coastal management, disaster preparedness, and hazard mitigation systematically during the 1970's in response to a growing awareness that the state was highly vulnerable to coastal storms and to several federal government mandates (Florida Department of Community affairs, 1981). Among the most important new federal laws were the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (P.L.92-583) which authorised the creation of state coastal management plans, the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-234) which provided incentives for participation in the National Flood Assurance Programs and sanctions for nonparticipation, …"

[Source of extract: Mittler, 1997. p.6.]

3. Examples of prior best practice, opinions and analysis from published credible sources.

Examples and opinions will most likely come from published sources and can be used to justify your approach. Here is an example of writers referring to a relevant best practice model to support their approach to the problem. The reference is in bold.

"We believe that three major categories of risk must be measured when considering migration as a digital strategy:

Risks associated with the general collection. These risks include the presence or absence of institutional support, funding, system hardware and software, and the staff to manage the archive. These are essential components of a digital archive, which the Task Force on Archiving Digital Information (1996) describes as 'deep infrastructure'. The collection and stakeholders who use the collection, will be affected to some degree by a migration of data. Legal and policy issues associated with digital information will produce additional risks.

…"

[Source of extract: Council on Library and Information Resources, 1993, p.5]

4. Credible methodology

One of the requirements of a good case study report is that it has 'dependability and 'procedures confirmability'. That is, the study must have gathered evidence by reliable procedures, must make its evidence and methods of analysis accessible to the reader and must be free of bias (Bell 1985, in John 1996). It is important to explain the methods you used and give reasons for choosing the methods. If there are any limitations to the methods, state these also and explain how you will account for the limitation. In many instances there will be assumptions you will have to make during your analysis and it is important that you state these also. 

Here is an example of writers stating the limitations of their methodology:

5.5 Limitations

The following limitations to the risk assessment were identified 

  • Risk assessment document based only - no stakeholder consultation
  • Reliability of information occasionally questionable — media bias& control
  • Budget did not allow for usage of political expert opinion
  • Cut off date for research and collection of data 30 April 2002
  • Analysis tools developed by the working group need to be validated by additional trials.

Due to the above limitations the working group has allocated the following confidence rating to the risk assessment.

10

9876*54321

*Scale:

10 =supreme confidence in assessment

1=no confidence in assessment

[Source of extract: Student assignment , authors Clarke & Puckering, 2002]

Contact for support

If you have questions about using evidence in a report, you can email Pam Mort: p.mort@unsw.edu.au