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How to write an effective case study

As Aromatherapists, it is our job to carefully document each session with our clients, as well as any follow up information. Documentation of our observations from our practice provide valuable information to be shared with others who endeavor to learn from our experiences and practices.  Whether to pass on information in general, or to share our knowledge with those who intend to replicate our efforts to see if they obtain the same effect, or produce an adverse effect that can be shared as a warning to other Aromatherapists. Whatever the outcome, it is beneficial to all and the growing body of knowledge.
 
Case studies, while not at the top level of the pecking order of research, they are notably valuable since they play a major role in alerting professionals in our industry to possible adverse reactions and form a integral part of safety in our treatments. Sharing your experience through case studies can be a valuable contribution to the development of the practice of Aromatherapy and may help to inspire additional research that moves Aromatherapy forward with the introduction of new therapeutic  theories and protocols.
 
How well you articulate your findings will influence the benefit of your report. You need not fill it with a  lot of scientific, complex or “heady”  vocabulary. You are likely to garner more interest if your case study is clearly written and well-reasoned.
 
The intention of this article, and the format contained herein, is to help you plan and report.  The template provides a checklist to ensure that all essential information has been included in your documentation.
 
Case study outline
When planning a case study report, consider the “Recommended Layout” as shown below.  This should not be regarded as a rigid structure, but is intended to help the Aromatherapist plan and report, and act as a check list that all essential information has been included.
 
Case study format  
Description of the case                                         
Since case reports are highly individual, and may be re-published in the general media or on the internet, there is the possibility that someone who knows the client may see the report and recognize the client. Confidentiality must be assured and clients must be made aware of your intention to publish their case.     

Client information:
  • State the age of the client and give relevant health history; including medications, herbal, dietary supplements and homeopathic medicines.
  • Previous experiences with CAM and purpose for treatment should be clearly written.

Treatment protocol
The aims and objectives need to be stated with clear thought and understanding.
  • The selection of essential oils, vegetable oil and  hydrolats requires both botanical and common name when first mentioned; rationale as to their selection and formulation should be provided.  Formulations and dosages should ideally be expressed in terms of percentages.
  • The method of essential oil application must be documented, as well as any techniques described, as applicable.
  • The duration of sessions and frequency of treatment sessions should be noted.
 
Client response to treatment
  • Observations during treatment.  Note immediate client responses and those followed up at subsequent treatment sessions.
 
Evaluation
  • State here the assessment of the treatment from the client’s perspective; what did you learn from your experience and the results (or lack thereof) by the treatment from the protocol of treatment you used.
  • Be careful about drawing a ‘conclusion’ that there is a link between the Aromatherapy treatment and the effect in a single case:  it could just be a coincidence.
  • Remember it is only a record of your experience so ideally include an assessment of how far it can be regarded as reliable.
 
References
  • Where rationale is given regarding essential oil   selection, application method/technique selected, the source that influenced your selection should be   referenced. All statements, opinions,  conclusions, etc taken from another writer’s work should be   acknowledged, whether work is directly quoted, paraphrased or summarized.
  • The report should use the Harvard method of referencing.  This is a system in which names and dates are given in the body of the text and the references are listed alphabetically at the end of the report.  For more information on Harvard referencing visit http://education.exeter.ac.uk/dll/studyskills/harvard_referencing.htm  There is also a referencing tool located at: http://www.neilstoolbox.com/bibliography-creator/index.htm
 
Notes regarding writing style:
  • Keep sentences short. Use short paragraphs.
  • Avoid complex sentence structures that bore or confuse readers.
  • Design a case study to be read by someone who wants to grasp the main points easily.
  • Lay it out clearly. Avoid large sections of text.
  • Demonstrate clear thought and reasoning.
  • Avoid jargon, abbreviations or colloquialisms.
  • Obtain feedback from a friend or colleague.
 
Recommended Layout for a case study:
  • Title:
  • Author(‘s), credentials, addresses and affiliations
  • Description of the case
  • Treatment protocol
  • Treatment methods
  • Client response
  • Evaluation
  • References
 
Case study writing tips   
  • Keep sentences short.  Use short paragraphs.
  • Avoid complex sentence structures that bore or confuse readers.
  • Design the case study to be read by a busy reader, who wants to grasp the main points easily.
  • Lay it out clearly; avoid large areas of text.
  • Demonstrate clear thought and reasoning.
  • Avoid jargon, abbreviations and colloquialisms
  • Obtain feedback from a colleague or friend.
 
Share your experience   
  • The IJPHA encourages the submission of case studies from students and practitioners throughout the year.  Send submissions to: editor@ijpha.com 

Reference
Buck P. (2008).In Essence. 7 (1).




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