How to Write a Case Study What Is a Case Study?

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Diplomatic Case Studies

How to Write a Case Study

What Is a Case Study?

A case study is a puzzle that has to be solved. The first thing to

remember about writing a case study is that the case should have a problem

for the readers to solve. The case should have enough information in it that

readers can understand what the problem is and, after thinking about it and

analyzing the information, the readers should be able to come up with a

proposed solution. Writing an interesting case study is a bit like writing a

detective story. You want to keep your readers very interested in the situation.

Step 1: Research the topic for details and facts to use in your description.

Step 2: Arrange the information in order of usefulness.

Step 3: Formulate the case problem in a few sentences.

Step 4: Prepare information on the real life situation the case study is based upon. Use the following questions to guide you in making sure the case study has all the relevant material to help the group in their response.

What are the main facts of the case?

What problems do you think are presented?

Explain the goals of the group(s) involved.

What do you think the reactions of the different people involved might be?

What are the cultural, political, and economic outcomes of the incidents?

How do you think the government responded?


A popular movement against a national leader leads to his overthrow and exile. When this leader seeks medical attention in a country that had supported him in the past, there is a backlash. Followers of the new leader target citizens of that country, seizing them and holding them hostage. The government of the captives attempts a variety of diplomatic measures to secure their release. The top diplomat in the administration believes that the use of military force could jeopardize the lives of the hostages and lead to increased tensions in the region. Others in the administration begin looking into military options. When it appears that a hostage rescue mission is inevitable, the diplomat tenders his resignation.

Case Study A: Background

A popular movement to remove Muhammed Reza Pahlevi, the Shah of Iran, led to his ouster and exile in early 1979. Relations between Iran and the United States--already strained as a result of American support for the Shah--deteriorated even further when he entered the United States for medical treatment in October 1979. On November 4, 1979, thousands of Iranians seized American diplomats and held them as hostages in Tehran.

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance advocated the use of diplomacy to end the crisis, while others in the administration of President Jimmy Carter advocated a more aggressive response. Vance argued that the situation might actually deteriorate if military force was used. He believed that as long as the hostages were unharmed and not in imminent danger, a strategy to build political, economic, and legal pressure on Iran was the best way to secure the release of the hostages.

The slow pace of these measures, coupled with Carter.s plummet in the polls, led the administration to formulate a plan for a helicopter rescue mission. Vance.s vehement opposition to this plan compelled him to submit his letter of resignation on April 21, 1980.

The Response

Carter’s frustration with the crisis led him to sever diplomatic relations with Iran and impose a complete economic embargo. On April 24, 1980, Operation Eagle ended in disaster. Three of the eight helicopters failed before reaching Tehran, causing Carter to abort the mission. During the withdrawal of U.S. forces, a plane and a helicopter collided, killing eight Americans.

The Outcome

The Iran hostage crisis ultimately cost Jimmy Carter the 1980 presidential election. Ironically, it was behind the scenes diplomatic negotiations during his administration that led to the release of the hostages on January 20, 1981, the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration.

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