Raw vs. Cooked Cases
At the Yale School of Management cases come in two “flavors”: cooked and raw. Cooked cases are the traditional paper-based cases (transmitted in the form of a .pdf), consisting of about 2,500 to 7,000 words of text and variety of exhibits at the end of the case. Raw cases are online cases. In addition to text, raw cases present information in a variety of formats – reports, articles, interviews, videos, photographs, original documents, and links to other websites.
Both raw and cooked cases have their virtues and their drawbacks.
The Yale School of Management pioneered online, “raw” case studies. We developed these cases to provide a multidimensional approach to the analysis of management challenges. We often note that organizational dilemmas rarely present themselves in neat ten-page documents.
Raw cases mimic the real world, where information is voluminous, scattered, and sometimes contradictory. Raw cases also present information from multiple channels. Students gain information not only from text, but also from photographs, diagrams, and graphics. Videos are a key feature of raw cases, requiring students to develop their listening skills to understand what stakeholders in a particular dilemma consider important.
Part of the challenge of this kind of case comes from sorting through raw information to find what is important for reaching reasonable conclusions. In addition to expository text, raw cases provide links to key documents and supporting data and connections to additional reports and articles. Raw cases offer ‘teasers’ about these resources, allowing students to prioritize what they look at and read. Raw cases are good for student study groups, allowing students working in groups to divide responsibilities for what each person will examine and then report back to the group to synthesize everyone’s responses. The cases also allow instructors to highlight the interrelationship of various organizational and social factors.
Image of a Raw case (source: Shake Shack IPO, Yale SOM Case Study #16-021)
Raw cases are accessed via the web, since the internet allows for easy display of information from a number of sources. While it is certainly possible to read only the text of a raw case, much of the richness of the case comes in the links and videos. Therefore, accessing a case means having an internet connection – which may be difficult for some students to manage. Raw cases also require third-party software (like One Note or Hypothesis) for annotation if students wish to build their analysis directly within the case.
In addition, raw cases contain far more information than cooked cases, requiring longer prep times for both students and instructors. Their non-linear presentation also means that cases often refer to multiple organizational dilemmas, as well as multiple protagonists. This complicates analysis and teaching objectives.
The Yale School of Management also develops “cooked” cases, which differ from raw cases in both presentation of material and narrative framework. Cooked cases tend to be written from the point of view of a protagonist, and follow a more linear narrative. Nonetheless, cooked cases can deal with complicated problems. They just tend to be more focused than raw cases. This allows for easy categorization of cooked cases and allows instructors to fit them into their syllabus.
Image of a cooked case (source: Herman Miller, Yale SOM Case Study #14-020)
Cooked cases are more portable than raw cases. Students can easily print out all of the material, allowing them to read and analyze the problems presented wherever they may want. When printed to paper, cooked cases are also easy to annotate.
However, cooked cases can take on the feeling of being “word problems”. Students are told the information that the case writer considers to be relevant to the problem to be solved. The case, itself, provides little additional information about a situation and generally does not allow a student to do further research on a topic.