Case Study Guidelines


Authors are asked to submit a two-page abstract that briefly describes the scope of the case study and the pedagogical purpose of the case to ISD will notify authors as soon as possible whether the proposed case is appropriate to the library’s needs.

Be sure to include the following in your proposal:

  • A brief summary of the main events you will analyze in the case study.
  • The key decision points and turning points in the case study, with a focus on how the policymakers involved attempted to overcome obstacles and reach decisions.
  • The overall structure of the case study, as well as any reference to primary documents or resources you plan to include.
  • The ways in which you think instructors could use the case study in the classroom, and the broader topics to which the case study would be applicable. 

Once the proposal is accepted, authors are requested to read and follow the following guidelines. These are guidelines, not rules. Authors should adapt as necessary to suit the case at hand.

Learn more about the case writing process:


A good case study will:

  • Tell a clear, compelling story of an event, negotiations, or situation that illuminates the conduct of diplomacy. It need not be U.S.-centric and may focus on the dynamics among a range of conventional practitioners and non-state actors, as well as the impact of other outside forces.
  • Be coherently organized and engaging, and provide sufficient historical context, examination of players and interests, formal and informal dynamics, options and limitations on actions, outcomes and ramifications.
  • Emphasize the practitioner perspective within a conceptual framework.
  • Promote student discussion of options, decision-making and problem-solving skills, including exploration of alternative courses of action and resultant outcomes, even within the context of a concluded event.
  • Be concise, given the compressed time frame of most courses. A good target length is 7,000-8,500 words, plus footnotes. Cases may also be broken down into multiple parts that reflect major break points in the action or the passage of time and reemergence of the issue.

ELEMENTS to include in the case study:

  • A compelling introduction.
  • A brief background section to introduce the topic, issues and interests, historical context and previous efforts at mediation or resolution.
  • A narrative, with subsections as needed, to detail the context, key data, decision-makers and key players, and policy choices and constraints.
  • A conclusion that explains decisions made and ramifications of that outcome.
  • Footnotes at the bottom of each page, including links to online sources. We prefer Chicago Manual of Style format.
  • Appendices, chronologies, tables, charts, suggested outside reading, and other supplemental material, as necessary.
  • Maps of the area/areas being discussed.

TEACHING NOTES (in addition to the case study) will: 

  • State a clear pedagogical purpose and utility for the case, spelling out the topics or theoretical issues to be explored.
  • Provide additional analysis and background that would help the instructor understand and teach the case.
  • Suggest additional readings and related sources, including other case studies.
  • Relate the narrative to theory and describe its practical applications.
  • Suggest open-ended questions or role-playing exercises for classroom use.
  • Explain how the case has been used in course(s), if applicable.
  • List the courses for which the case is intended, including relevant geographic and thematic keywords.
  • ISD staff is available to assist and advise on teaching notes.


In addition to the case study narrative, teaching notes, and supplemental materials, please provide a one-paragraph abstract of the case for the master list of summaries on the ISD website. This abstract should succinctly describe the case’s contents and its pedagogical purpose. 

Please email the case study materials to: as a Word document or other format that allows edits and revisions. All submissions will be acknowledged upon receipt. They remain the intellectual property of the author until accepted for publication.

ISD strongly encourages submissions from authors from underrepresented backgrounds across a diverse range of topics in diplomacy and international relations. 

Cases are matched with an academic reviewer whose areas of expertise are similar to those the case addresses. After that review, the author will be informed if the case has been accepted for publication and, if so, ISD will advise on necessary revision for style, format and content.

Once published, arrangement will be made for payment of previously agreed upon honorarium. The Institute will hold the copyright to the case study in perpetuity.