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Case Study Development Guidelines

The Development Guidelines outline the elements of a case study, including an abstract, learning objectives, perspectives, and analysis. The guidelines also provide submission requirements and recommendations on how to get started. In addition, if you are an educator or practitioner, please see the faculty guide or the firm participation guide, as appropriate. To return to the AIA Case Studies Initiative homepage, click here.

Elements of a Case Study

The Development Guidelines are designed to encourage the development of case studies on a variety of project types, practice issues, and selected topics. To facilitate consistency across a diverse range of subjects, the case studies format includes the following elements:

a concise abstract describing the most significant elements of the case and identifying key team members, including the client and user representatives. (no more than one-half page)

learning objectives that articulate the topics to be studied and provide a guide to understanding the lessons learned from the project (two pages)

perspectives, including protocols for decision-making, stories of practice, innovative ideas, and the value placed on innovation, measures of success, and graphic illustrations. Various “voices” should be considered, including client perspectives and those from the prime professional firm, consultants, contractors, and regulators. (approximately 10 pages)

analysis of and reflection on the specific relevant details of the case, focused on a particular topic or considering a series of practice issues. The analysis may include measures of success or difficulty, often reconstructing decision-making to understand a project’s flow. Client concerns, business issues within the practice, design considerations, project delivery issues within the firm as well as project delivery in the construction process are among the issues to be considered. The format for this section can parallel that of The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice. (approximately 10 pages)

Although flexibility is encouraged, each of these elements is recommended for all case studies. Emphasis should be placed on the analysis of the major points of the case. See worksheets (coming soon) for further explanation of each of the elements listed above.

How to Get Started

Initially, it is important to identify opportunities for collaboration with a school of architecture or a firm and to select a project or identify an aspect of the project to be studied. Factors to consider include the location of the firm or the school and access to information, the location of the project, and possibility of a site visit. The discussion on choosing a subject in the proceedings from the 2004 Cranbrook Teachers Seminar on Case Studies may also be helpful.

Then, it is helpful to outline the learning objectives of the case. A case study that documents a project from the initial concept through completion is particularly valuable for studying practice issues. A more focused study may be appropriate to examine a particular aspect of a project or a series of comparable projects.

Finally, it is important to establish a timeline. For example, it may be critical to complete most of the work within one semester, with some revisions the following semester. An estimated 200-person hours is required of student work together with 20 hours from the primary firm representative and about two hours from the firm principal.

Please see the faculty guide or the firm participation guide for further information.

Submitting a Case Study, Peer Review, and Publication

Submissions should consist of high quality graphic material and text in an 8-1/2 x 11 format, prepared for blind review; no indication of author(s) should appear on or within the case study. A cover sheet should provide the case study title, names and affiliations, e-mail, fax and phone numbers, and postal address. The submissions shall include two hard copies and one electronic copy in PDF.

Case studies are reviewed through a blind peer review process. Each submission is reviewed by two to three peer reviewers. Evaluation forms with feedback are returned to all authors. Cases and evaluations are then reviewed by a selection team, whose names will be published in advance. The authors of selected cases are invited to edit and prepare their cases for publication on the AIA Web site.

Selected cases will also be included in the AIA’s searchable, Web-based resource, along with papers, research, and essays on topics of relevance to practice. To assist users in accessing information contained in the case studies, a list of terms will be provided. Please identify relevant terms from the list and complete the index form provided. (coming soon)

Please note: At this time, the AIA is not coordinating a peer review process for this initiative.

Important Forms

The purpose of the AIA Case Studies Initiative is to share information on lessons learned from practice. In order to protect the interests of the parties involved and ensure the accuracy and objectivity of the information contained in the case, the following forms are required before publication of selected case studies on the AIA Web site:

Intern Declaration Form

Statement of Veracity and Objectivity

Concurrence Statement

Copyright Permission Form

Please see details below.

Intern Declaration Form
This form must be signed and submitted by an authorized representative of each architecture firm responsible for the case study.

Statement of Veracity and Objectivity signed by the responsible parties of the professional firm, the responsible academic officials, and students indicating that their work is a truthful presentation prepared without specific bias regarding its outcome. This form may also be signed by the owner/client, if appropriate.

Concurrence Statement, which is a signed permission statement by the client and/or other parties as appropriate regarding the use of the material for education and research as well as publication by the AIA.

Copyright Permission Form for Textual and Visual Works
The authors of the case study, supporting documents and other copyrighted material, including photographs or graphics, must sign AIA's Copyright Permission Form for Textual and Visual Works granting the Institute permission to reproduce and distribute the material on its Web site for access and use by AIA members and the public for educational and other knowledge-sharing purposes.

Individuals who own the copyrighted material submitted for use in the case study should sign the permission form and indicate how they wish the credit, which acknowledges the owner, to appear. Individuals who do not own the copyrighted material must have the owner, such as the photographer or other copyright owner, sign the form.

Anonymous Case Studies

In some instances, an anonymous case study may be appropriate. The AIA will consider anonymous case studies that meet the following criteria:

  • the identity of all parties involved is protected
  • the project is not identifiable
  • the story is of significance to the profession and sharing it could benefit others.

Cases should be submitted following the above submission requirements with required forms. However, no identification of the project or individuals involved should appear on the case study itself.

Ownership and Use of Case Study and Other Materials

The authors of the case study and supporting materials will own all rights, including copyright, to the materials and will grant the AIA permission to use, publicly display, and distribute them on its Web site and in hard copy to AIA members and the general public for informational and educational purposes only. The AIA will provide an appropriate credit to the authors. By submitting a case study, the authors warrant and represent that the material is original content, not in the public domain, and does not infringe an intellectual property or other right.


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