How to work on the case study
A directory of helpful information
Prof. Dr. Sebastian Stuetz [email protected]
Last update: 27 Sep 2022
Image Credits: © pixabay.com / ds_30
1 Dos and don’ts 2
1 Dos and don’ts
Just like there are recurring questions, there are recurring mistakes, ranging from fundamental misconceptions with respect to the task itself to formal or methodological issues. Drawing on this plethora of mistakes, some further recommendations can be derived. Here is an incomplete list:
• Make sure you have all necessary guidelines at hand: case study description and the formal requirements. All is available on myCampus (cf. Chapter 5).
• Check your text against the requirements document and use this guideline. It is helpful to set up a
personal checklist of what to do so you can tick it off when a specific requirement has been
• Keep the page limit and justify your paragraphs
• Use the correct units when setting the page margins: The margins are not given in inches, but in
• Use a formula editor for any formula, also for those embedded in a paragraph of text. Proper
typesetting facilitates understanding. Talking about formulas:
– This is a Greek letter: α . But this ∝ is a symbol indicating a proportionality.
– This is a symbol to indicate a multiplication: ⋅ . But this ∗ is an asterisk which has a number
of uses in mathematics, but it is not the symbol to represent the multiplication of two real numbers.
– Copying formulas as images from your sources is not helpful.
– Justified paragraphs could rip formulas apart or stretch them rendering them unreadable.
• Revisit your material on academic writing before jumping into action.
• Get a (digital) book about academic writing as a guideline.
• A book on academic writing will certainly tell you to keep a neutral or detached impersonal style.
Some brief hints what that may mean in practices:
– Beware of pronouns:
☑ Limit the use of personal pronouns like I, you, he/she, we/they to the bare minimum.
☑ Possible way around #1: “it” instead of “I/he/she”: “it can be derived from ….” instead of
“from… I calculate”
☑ Possible way around #2: nouns: “The measures taken eventually led to decrease in costs…”
instead of “They succeeded cutting costs by…”
☑ Possible way around #3: passive voice: “From XYZ can be concluded that…” instead of “I
1 Dos and don’ts 3
– Beware of adjectives and adverbs
☑ 2nd: You present your reasoning. If, for instance, you show that e-commerce has grown
with about 10% p.a. while the GDP has only grown by 2% p.a. and you conclude that ecommerce shows a robust or remarkable upwards trend, nobody will object to that.
☑ 1st: your judgement is based on something you found in literature. In this case, providing
a source is sufficient. You could even go a step further and emphasize it in your text: “According to Smith (2020), Hammad (2019), or Lindholm (2006), the concept XYZ is very
problematic when it comes to carbon emissions”.
☑ For aspects which are not necessarily so clear, you have two options to “sell” your text to
☑ There are, of course, trivial cases which do not count here. For example, facts corresponding to common sense like ants being smaller than horses.
☑ If you are using adjectives and adverbs to characterize something or some conduct, make
sure you can justify your judgement. Never characterize something without a clear reason
or state something which a reader cannot reproduce.
• Use the following steps as a guideline:
– Make up your mind and set up a meaningful structure before writing.
– Search and collect material first and read.
– Conceive in brief phrases, bulleted lists or as a picture what you want to say and how – when
you have gathered enough material!
– Turn your notes into written text.
– Apply formatting when the written text is finished.
– Get yourself a critical proof-reader and take the quality assessment seriously.
• Here is a (very brief!) instruction how to write an academic text in general:
– Clearly describe the objective. What are you aiming at? What issue/problem are you discussing?
– Make clear from where you are starting. What data will you be using? Are there some limitations or additional assumptions to consider?
– Argue which method you will be using. In general: How will you be turning data into results?
– Give a concise overview of your results. What did you end up with?
– Discuss the results. Are there insights? Are they surprising or did they show something new or
– Discuss the methodology and be critical of yourself. Was the methodology adequate to solve
the task? Did it display weaknesses? Which? What did you/could one to to work around the
1 Dos and don’ts 4
difficulties? Where did you run into surprising issues, positively and negatively, i.e.: What
went much easier than initially announced and what caused unexpected trouble?)
– Give an outlook. What now? You have achieved some results and what would come next now
the results are there. This is, of course, beyond the scope of your document.
• Always provide sources for the information you collect from others. If you do not do so, one has
to assume that the aspects are completely yours. And if one can actually prove you wrong, we
have a case of plagiarism. For a thesis, this would be a complete no-go!
• Use your literature base. Many submissions use one source only once or (rarely) twice. You can,
of course, use a source more frequently. Just make sure that you present a variety of sources when
elaborating on a certain subject. This illustrates that your text is standing on solid ground, given
you are using sources of decent quality. If you are continuously using one source throughout the
document, it will certainly result in a myopic text.
• Sort your bibliography alphabetically!
• If you need more information or clarity related to the guidelines, feel free to ask.
• Please do not submit other file types than PDF, no PowerPoint or Excel or Word or other document types. PDF makes sure that the document looks as you wanted it to look like. Any other
document will look different on every computer, remember that. Making your layout robust
means using the PDF-format.
• If you are not familiar with text processing, I can personally recommend the free software package “LibreOffice” (cf. Chapter 5).
• Don’t forget: The basic structure of an academic text comprises of
– main text
• If you ask yourself, “Which percentage of possible plagiarism is acceptable?”, you have not (yet)
understood what studying and academic work are about. See above: Get information about how
to write academic texts!
• Don’t assume internet sites are generally a good choice for a source. In most cases, you will be
• Don’t use direct quotes.
– Direct quotes are only acceptable for extraordinary, truly unique or well-known phrases that are
commonly associated with a specific person.
☑ “Gott würfelt nicht.” (English: “God does not play dice.”) Einstein.
• This quote is unique because Einstein wanted to make a certain point crystal-clear.
1 Dos and don’ts 5
• In a letter to a colleague, he used this simple phrase to reject a certain view on physics
which emphasizes randomness. Einstein refused to accept that randomness plays such
an important role in nature.
☑ “We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes.” Jack Tramiel.
• This quote from businessman and microcomputer pioneer Jack Tramiel is unique because Tramiel had a clear vision for his company (Commodore Computers) which
was to make computing affordable for many (“the masses”).
• This quote and the attitude behind it characterized a radical change in the way computers were marketed to end-users. Competitors like IBM and Apple charged prices
two or three times higher than comparable Commodore machines.
☑ “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall
fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength
in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the
beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the
streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!” Churchill
• Wiston Churchill, British Prime Minister, said these famous words in parliament
(House of Commons) in 1940 right after British and French troops had been evacuated from Dunkirk, Belgium, pulling back facing clashes with a superiority of German armed forces.
• Churchill’s speech used the successful evacuation to turn this incident into a motivational momentum, to strengthen the morale of the British to keep resisting and fighting Nazi-Germany from conquering Europe.
– It should be apparent that the quotes above are rather unique and closely connected to the respective person who wrote or said them. Sources describing techniques for problem solving
like forecasting or optimisation or presenting facts or research results rarely justify direct
quotes. An exemption is, of course, if a concept is closely related to a specific person (just like
before). If a brief phrase from Thomas Saaty is used to describe an assumption or specific aspect of the AHP-concept (which he developed!), this is, of course, possible. However, it is not
• Citing course material: Don’t do it. Period.
• It is not required to put a lengthy link behind all your online sources. Try to work with DOI-links,
• Do not include unused sources in your bibliography and avoid duplicate entries.
• Do not leave room for speculation: Always facilitate it for your audience to understand what you
• Don’t even think about speeding up the process of writing by copying material from the internet
and don’t assume you are able to outsmart plagiarism detection techniques.
1 Dos and don’ts 6
• Do not glue together fragments of verbatim quotes. Find your own wording and train of thought.
Think about yourself being a neutral observer who is, like a reporter or a news anchor describing
and structuring findings.
• For case #1: Less bare calculation, more argumentation and analysis: Don’t just calculate and
spread your calculations with each and every detail over numerous pages.
• I have read numerous submissions for case #2 up to this day in which the respective author has
obviously just googled “Zara, Benetton, H&M”, found two or three websites or pdf files, created
a patchwork of these and changed the wording here and there. This is not academic writing, this
is plagiarism. If you submit a paper written this way, you will have to do it again because you
will fail due to plagiarism and not meeting the minimum standards of academic writing.
• Don’t take criticism as a personal insult. I personally know that this may be not easy at times.
2 Frequently asked Questions 7
2 Frequently asked Questions
F Do I need to write an abstract?
A No. This is not required.
F What about a title page?
A Yes, please.
F What should be included on the title page?
A In a nutshell, all information making it clear to a reader who has written which type of document at which university and when, i.e. it needs your name, the date, our university, and
what the document is (case study in our course Operations and Information Management).
F And how should the title page look like?
A As long as the necessary information is included (cf. previous question), you may freely
choose the design of the title page.
F How do I handle the task itself when it comes to source, citation, etc.?
A Relax. You can assume the task and all information in there as given. No need for citations
or references for the task itself.
F I have observed that many academic documents are talking about methodology first. Do I
have to do this as well?
A First of all some background information: The reason why academic texts are discussing
methodological aspects is acceptance. They want to illustrate that they have chosen a suitable and reasonable approach to solve the problem that they are addressing. Given reliable
information as the input along with a suitable and generally accepted approach one can
safely assume a good quality from the results (output). In short and more specifically: it is
always good at least to briefly explain how your submission is structured and where your information is coming from. Since the page limit of 7-10 pages is not much space, it should be
clear that lengthy methodological discussions are not required. Remember: Producing a
transparent and comprehensible text is certainly supported if you briefly explain how you
2 Frequently asked Questions 8
F Can I refer to the course script or other course scripts?
A No. Course books are not an expedient source.
F Huh? But they are good enough for teaching?
A They are! But the thing about course books is: As teaching material they are only accessible
for IU’s staff and students, not to the public. Sources that you are using must be available to
anybody (be it through purchase of a book, visiting a library, visiting the website of a library, opening a website…). This has to do with verifiability. Readers (and the examiner!)
must be able to verify the text. And to do so, access to the respective sources is pivotal. Another argument against course books is the following: a course book is material written to
help you to learn certain subjects. If is subject to the requirements of a course handbook and
directed at certain learning objectives. It is never meant to be a comprehensive book on a
certain subject! As a consequence, a published text book on a certain subject will give you
much more information and insights that a course book. Not because a coursebook is inferior, but because it is focused and specialised on particular bits and pieces of a certain
field. This means that even if you found a university course book that is publicly accessible,
it will still have the distinct features of being directed at certain learning objectives and,
therefore, not be covering all relevant aspects with the same scrutiny and balance as a text
book. Finally, since a text book is published and available to anybody with free access to
books in general, publisher and author(s) will make sure that it meets high quality standards
to improve the publisher’s and the author’s reputation. To put it another way: a badly written
textbook would surely negatively impact the author’s reputation – who would take this risk?
F But what qualifies a good source?
A First, a good source has to be publicly available (to allow it third parties to reproduce your
train of thought). This does necessarily mean that it has to be available over the internet.
Printed sources like books or scientific journals are also publicly available, at least through
libraries. Second, the publication itself required a quality check. This is particularly true for
scientific journals with a review procedure. Only contributions meeting the quality expectations of the journal are accepted. The double-blind peer review can be regarded as the “gold
standard” of quality checks. PhD theses have also to undergo a quality check because two or
three professors have to judge and to accept the thesis and require refinements or improvements in case of deficiencies or reject it in case of a thesis not meeting academic standards.
Similarly, research reports usually require formal approval by the funding body or external
juries before they are released to the general public. Finally, an academic textbook usually
has to meet certain quality standards set by the publisher and checked by the editor.
2 Frequently asked Questions 9
F Too long, didn’t read. Can you tell me which type of source is preferred?
A OK, here’s a brief list, in descendent order
☑ Scientific journal papers (reviewed papers)
☑ PhD theses
☑ Research reports from publicly funded research
☑ Academic text books
F But what about other sources? Are they not permitted? What do I have to keep in mind?
A We have got to differentiate
☑ Academic publications
• Bachelor thesis/Master thesis/Diploma thesis: these are usually quality checked,
but rarely publicly available. But most importantly, they should not be used because
there are usually much better quality sources available. In only very rare and exceptional cases, such a piece can be used as a reference. In general, don’t provide them
as a source.
• Discussion papers: Scholars can publish interim results of their research through
their university to receive feedback from their colleagues using the format of a “discussion paper”. These are (on purpose!) only quality checked by the author(s) because
this type of document is published in order to receive feedback on the way towards a
higher quality publication (journal, PhD …). In many cases, there might be a better
and more recent publication from the same author(s) which should be used. In exceptional cases, a discussion paper can be used. This is also due to the fact that scholars
are usually keen not to spoil their reputation with badly written or bogus discussion
papers. In short, rather look for a more recent higher quality publication from the
☑ Other publications
• Newspapers: Newspapers (printed and online) are targeted at the general public. The
information contained in newspapers can in many cases also be found in higher quality publications. However, to motivate a more recent development or to illustrate the
relevance of a problem, mostly in the introduction, such a publication might serve as
a source, but not throughout a complete text. When using newspapers, referring
to tabloids is a bad idea.
• Magazines: Just as newspapers, they are targeted at the general public. Yet, there
might be non-scientific publications for a specific audience like managers or logistics
managers or other practitioners. When looking for practical examples to illustrate a
certain development or concept, these special interest publications might provide
interesting information. But since they do not strive for the same quality standard as
2 Frequently asked Questions 10
scientific journals, one has to treat the information with care – especially when a
magazine obviously has turned a corporate press release into a news article. Finally,
just as tabloids for newspapers, pulp magazines should not be used.
• Public statistics bureaus are a good and neutral source of quantitative information.
EUROSTAT, for example, has a plethora of data publically available, well arranged to
find suitable figures for many purposes.
• Corporate or lobby groups’ statistics have to be treated with care. For many industries, lobby groups are effectively the only source of detailed data, for example the
German lobby group of parcel companies “BIEK” regularly publishes market figures
for which no substitute data from public and neutral sources exists. If no neutral
source with similar data exists, using data from companies might turn out as the
last resort. It has to be kept in mind using these reports and the data that there is no
neutral instance behind it and it may have been published to improve the image of a
corporation and/or industry.
☑ Web sources
• Authorities’ websites can provide neutral information when it comes to regulations
or political objectives. Keep in mind that there might be personal opinions and goals
from politicians or political parties in there which could then thwart the neutrality of
• Corporate websites are the primary source for information related to a certain company. If information from a certain company is required, there seems rarely to be a
way around this type of source. Keep in mind that publications, even those which are
legally required (like annual reports) are usally a means to embellish the public image
of a company. Be on your guard against greenwashing and the like!
• Blogs and social media have to be treated with utmost care because, by and large,
anybody can release any kind of information without quality checks from third parties
involved. Especially this kind of media has become a tool of distributing biased and
deliberately skewed information, sometimes with a certain ideology in mind (“fake
• Wikipedia: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Encyclopedias (online or printed) are a
good tool to get a quick overview over a subject. They can, therefore, only be used in
the rare case a term needs to be defined which is not such a special term that there is a
high quality source in order to define it. In short: You may use it to guide your research, but do not copy material from it and do not refer to it.
F Can you recommend an efficient way to find high quality literature?
A Yes, I can. Next question, please.
2 Frequently asked Questions 11
F Which would be an efficient way to find high quality literature?
A I suggest various ways which have their pros and cons
☑ To start research it might turn out helpful to get a brief overview using a common search
engine on the Internet like Google, Bing, or Yandex. Other search engines exist, but are
mostly relying on these three major players. Wikipedia can also be a source supplying you
with initial information about literature or search keywords.
☑ Google Books (http://books.google.com) allows you to find books containing certain
phrases which can be helpful before trying to acquire a certain book.
☑ Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com) is a search engine dedicated to scientific material and patents. Enter your search keyword and get a list of related papers. You might
perceive that certain authors seem to have a special research interest in a certain field so
that a search for this person (either on the web or on Scholar) might yield interesting publications. Moreover, each search hit has additional information about the references to the
respective source. In other words, with one click you can see which other sources are
building on the search hit you are currently looking at.
☑ A competitor of Google Scholar is Scniapse (https://www.scinapse.io). This Website
should also help you to identify papers of interest.
☑ Make use of the research conducted by others: there are often articles presenting an overview over a certain research field or which analyse the research field itself and the scholars’ specific focus. These articles are useful entry points to identify keywords for your
search or even suitable literature/sources to took into. Moreover, if you have found a good
source, scan through its bibliography or have a close look which sources are used for a
specific purpose. The references of an excellent source can speed up your own research
☑ Remember: Neither researchers nor search engines are omniscient. It is perfectly possible
that one engine yields different results than the other even if you are using the same search
terms. Likewise, one subject addressed by different authors will most likely be based on
individually selected sources – they also do not need to be identical!
F How to cite equations?
A Formulas are either embedded in a paragraph of text or claim one or more lines of text for
them exclusively. In the first case, just proceed as you would as if there was no formula: “As
the well-known formula E=mc2 puts it, energy and mass are equivalent (Einstein 1905)”.
In the second case, the formula will follow a paragraph of text that introduces it and to
which it refers. In this case, the citation would be in the text before the formula. “One key
formula for monetary economics is the equation of exchange (Mankiv 2000, Friedman
M⋅V =P⋅Q where M is….”
2 Frequently asked Questions 12
F Do I need an appendix?
A No, you don’t. You can have it safely removed.
F Seriously! Does my case study have to include an appendix?
A Again: No, but you may include one.
F Thanks for confusing me entirely. When is it required to include an appendix?
A Again: That is not required, but let’s clarify some issues here, first.
• An appendix is an extra chapter following your list of references containing extra material which does not fit in the main body of your paper. “Does not fit” does not mean that
an appendix is a tool to circumvent space limitations.
• The crucial aspect here is that the material to be put in the appendix could have been left
out without jeopardizing the train of thought in the main body of text. The latter does not
require it. Rather, inexhaustible thirst for knowledge of some readers keen to know more
or curios about certain details or just wanting raw data or more illustrations may be satisfied with an appendix. Of course, if you are writing a text and find that it should have an
appendix with details to meet your own quality aspirations, just go ahead.
• Some questions may help to sort out when some material may be moved into an appendix and when to keep it in the main body of text:
◦ Ask yourself: “Does my text rely on material I want to put into the appendix?”
▪ If your honest answer is “Yes”, it must not be in the appendix, but in the main
▪ Information essential for your main body must not be hidden in the appendix.
◦ Ask yourself: “Is the material entirely supplemental so that I could safely leave it
▪ If your honest answer is “Yes”, it can safely be moved into the appendix.
▪ The material is obviously not essential. One can understand your main body with
out the additional material.
◦ Ask yourself: “Will a reader definitely require the material to understand what I am
▪ If your honest answer is “Yes”, it must not be in the appendix, but in the main
▪ The material is obviously crucial for your argumentation.
2 Frequently asked Questions 13
◦ Ask yourself: “Is the material not strictly necessary to understand what I am saying,
but providing interesting details of what I did/found out?”
▪ If your honest answer is “Yes”, this is a clear candidate for the appendix.
▪ Here we have the purpose of the appendix again: interesting extra material for
readers who just cannot get enough.
F That sounds reasonable. What are typical examples for an appendix?
A Typical examples for appendices are:
• You have conducted a survey. The main body is summarizing and discussing the key
findings, but the appendix contains the survey questions as they were sent out.
• You have produced a lot of graphs and calculations and only present the key results and
the overall method of your calculations in the main body. The plethora of additional interim results, graphs, and details can go into the appendix when they are not essential to
understand your argumentation.
• Raw data, be it bare numbers, transcripts of interviews, or copies of e-mails.
F Any final remarks?
A In general, you are free to use whatever you want as long as you know how to judge the
quality, the reliability, and neutrality of the source. If, say, you are quoting the industry association of furniture producers to provide an insight what challenges or demand patterns or
trends a barstool-maker will face, that seems to be a reasonable idea. However, in such a
case, it is also helpful to write openly that this market outlook traces back to that association.
However, a neutral perspective on that problem, for example a dissertation or scientific article discussing the current state of the furniture industry should be used first. If it only
scratches the surface or just quotes the aforementioned industry association, you can safely
do so as well.
3 Specific information related to the cases 14
3 Specific information related to the cases
• Consider your document as a scientific text, not just a homework exercise. A scientific text like a
thesis (Diploma, Bachelor, Master, Ph.D., …) follows a certain structure and has to comply with
the standards of academic writing. It is recommended to get a textbook on academic writing
which can help you solving simple issues when working on the study (like how to deal with certain types of literature).
• If you are insecure how to write, you can relate to a book on academic writing. Also, you could
get yourself some academic texts which received good grades and see for yourself in which respect this grade was deserved. Use good examples as your role-models.
• You have to produce the study all by yourself, but getting yourself a proofreader is acceptable as
long as this person does not contribute to the study. Having a proofreader is not only useful for
grammar and spelling, but also helpful to let a third party give you feedback whether your text is
comprehensible. If a proofreader has issues following your train of thought, you should consider
rewriting the respective paragraphs.
• Keep a neutral standpoint. If you are using internet sources, for example for the research required
for Case #2, be aware that the respective source may not be interested in delivering objective information but is rather keen to paint a colourful picture of a certain company in order to let it
shine. Self-descriptions obtained from websites may offer polished phrases that are tempting us to
simply borrow their adjectives. Consider the example shown in table 1 below. H&M’s corporate
website contains a self-description highlighting individualism and sustainability. However, the
company is producing consumer goods and is a profit-oriented entity just like any kind of business. Hence, this self-characterization has to be taken with a grain of salt. Two fictional sentences
(“Version #1” and “Version #2”) just as they could have appeared in a case study submission are
obviously based on this sentence, but differ in a very significant detail. While Version #1 borrows
the wording from the original source it shares the self-description. In contrast, Version #2 makes
clear that this is how H&M wants to be perceived by the general public. In other words, Version #1 seems to have swallowed the claim that H&M’s purpose is to allow people to live in a
more sustainable way without any further ado. However, academic work is based on facts. The
only fact here is that H&M presents a certain self-description. This is what Version #2 reflects.
Table 1: Example case for a possible neutrality issue
|Original source||“H&M Group is a family of brands and businesses, making it
possible for customers around the world to express themselves
through fashion and design, and to choose a more sustainable
lifestyle.” (verbatim quote from https://hmgroup.com/about-us/)
|Version #1||H&M is a clothes company allowing customers to express
themselves and to pursue a sustainable lifestyle.
|Version #2||H&M presents itself as a clothes company that allows its customers
to follow a more sustainable lifestyle.
3 Specific information related to the cases 15
Specific remarks related to Case #1
• The Holt-Method mentioned in task A is not identical to the Holt-Winters-Method. They are
related but not identical.
• “Exponential smoothing” is a category to which different methods may belong. So, Holt’s
method is not identical to “second order exponential smoothing”, it is a procedure in which exponential smoothing is used twice. Similarly, “Holt-Winters” method is not identical to “third order
• The coordinates provided in task B are not real-world geo-coordinates. It makes no sense to look
them up using OpenStreetMap or Google Maps.
Specific remarks related to Case #2
• Of course, you will have to rely on various sources to find information about the different approaches. Yet, this does not mean that you are limited to information found on websites: for your
overall structure, scientific papers and/or textbooks might prove helpful.
Questions and answers related to the two cases
F The guideline document contains two cases? Do I have to work on both?
A No. You choose one of the cases entirely based on your personal preferences.
F Case #1 consists of three tasks. Can I also choose between them?
A No. If you go for case #1, you have to address all three tasks.
F I am confused. How long should the document actually be?
A The guideline document specifies a length of about 7-10 pages. This page limit applies to
the main body of text. It does neither include the front matter (title page, table of contents
etc.), nor the back matter (bibliography).
F I have chosen case #1 and calculated all the results. Is that all? Is there still something left
for me to do?
F You are not done, no. Calculating some values is not the the essential part. The case study is
not like homework exercise, rather a text offering you an opportunity to practice academic
writing as a preparation for writing a thesis. Instead of flooding the pages with a lot of calculations and formulas, it is sufficient to make it clear that the reader can actually understand
how you developed any detail of your results. It is sufficient to illustrate how a certain
concept/method works and you may demonstrate it exemplarily. And then present the overall results. Doing so will save you substantial space for other aspects.
4 Plagiarism 16
You all agree to an automated plagiarism check. This means, your text is funneled into “Turnitin”, a
digital service with access to various sources, i.e. it does not only crawl internet services but also
papers submitted to journals and different institutions of higher education like universities/colleges.
This also includes paid services like scribd.com. Purchasing a document online which is not simply
accessible through Google or other search engines will not keep Turnitin from performing its duty
F How do you track down plagiarism?
A This is not easy to answer since there are many indicators for plagiarism. First, Turnitin
provides its results and aggregates them into a percentage value (cf below). A high percentage is not the sole reason that a submission is rejected for reasons of plagiarism, rather it
helps the corrector to see whether there may be many fishy parts inside the document. Every
document is thoroughly assessed and a human is always the final decision-maker. If Turnitin
has found something suspicious or I have encountered something which I perceive as unusual, I begin to look at the sources and your bibliography.
F What are the ramifications of plagiarism?
A For the student, it means (s)he will fail. Maybe the university will take additional steps in
case of recurring plagiarism, but I am not aware of that. Note that according to German law,
cheating in an exam is an administrative offense. Eventually, it means more work because
the whole case study may have to be written again. For the corrector, it means work, because we want to provide clear evidence that there actually is plagiarism going on.
F What is the probability to get caught?
A Seriously, it is high. I have corrected a three-digit number of academic texts in my life and
have developed a good sense to find out whether an author is only parroting contents found
elsewhere or has developed a certain understanding. In case of the slightest doubt, I will
have a very close look at the sources. Even in case, a source has been omitted or “forgotten”,
I will do my part of the job.
F Is it sufficient to rephrase the text from a source?
A Short answer: No. Long answer: It will probably be an act of plagiarism. Consider the example in table 2 below, which illustrates typical mistake. Besides, “rephrasing” misses the
point of academic writing entirely. You collect aspects from various sources, make up your
mind, and create an argumentation or train of thought of your own and write it down in your
words. Of course, specific terms like “supply chain” or “inventory level” are not uniquely
tied to a certain author, so using them is not critical (how could it? and why on Earth should
it?), but do not try to re-arrange sentences from the sources you are using. Understand what
they have to say and write in your own words and style. Your content is inspired by a certain
4 Plagiarism 17
source or contains facts from it? No problem: at the end of the paragraph, when you have
reached a certain point or finished an aspect, you put the reference, and that’s it.
Table 2: A typical case of simple rephrasing
|Original source||Student’s rephrased version|
|An example of a local monopoly created
by regulation can be found in the Italian
city of Vicenza.
The city has granted Veloce (Vicenza Eco
Logistic Center) the exclusive right (with
only a few exceptions) to supply the city
center as a local monopolist.
In return, Veloce must operate with electric
As van Heeswijk et al. (2020) and Paddeu
(2017) note, to date there is no discernible
business model for such “consolidation
centers” that does not rely on public
The fact that Veloce is still operating since
its inception in 2007 will therefore be
related to the fact that the municipality of
Vicenza is the majority owner of the
Whether (voluntary or forced) cooperation
in white-label distribution has any positive
effects at all is questioned in a study by
Bogdanski (2019) commissioned by BIEK.
He concludes that, at best, minimal
positive logistical effects can be expected,
which are hardly noticeable in the last mile
|The Italian city of Vicenza is an example of
a local monopoly resulting from
To a limited extent, the city has allowed
Veloce (Vicenza Eco Logistic Center) to
act as a monopolist by giving it the
exclusive right to supply the city’s central
In return, Veloce must only use electric
According to van Heeswijk et al. (2020)
and Paddeu (2017), there is no discernible
business model for such “consolidation
centers” that does not rely on public
subsidies as of yet.
Since the city of Vicenza owns most of the
company, the fact that Veloce is still in
business after starting in 2007 makes sense.
Bogdanski (2019) questions whether
(voluntary or forced) cooperation in white
label distribution has any positive effects.
He concludes that, at best, minimal
positive logistical effects can be
anticipated, which will be barely noticeable
in the last mile transportation sector.
F But I could and will eventually still get away with that. Where is your God now?
A Sure, I may miss cases of plagiarism since nobody is perfect. Be aware, your personal development and the learning effect of plagiarism are marginal at best. If you achieve something
through cheating and you eventually end up in a professional role which expect you to have
certain competencies but which you have not properly developed – it will be you running
into trouble, careerwise. University studies serve the purpose to help you to refine your
knowledge and to prepare you for interesting and intellectually demanding jobs which depend on your competencies. Exams and case studies are only a means for us to make sure
you are on the right track, they are not an end in themselves.
4 Plagiarism 18
F Seriously: can you recommend a technique that helps me to avoid this problem from the
A Short answer: Rely on your very own words when writing sentences, write freely and do not
try to imitate the wording you found in your sources. If you feel you have to do this, it is a
clear indicator that you have not understood the content of the source. Longer answer: My
personal preference, briefly and roughly, is the following:
• I usually collect a bunch of material that might be interesting.
• Having in mind what I need for my purposes (for example, the specific properties of
Holt’s method or the procurement process of Benetton), I focus on every single
source and create a bulleted list for each of what is likely to be interesting and relevant. It is helpful to add page numbers at the end of each line.
• Once I have worked through my material, I turn to my planned document structure. If
I were to describe the particular characteristics of a certain method, I would look at
my bulleted lists, grab a felt-tip or marker pen to highlight aspects I want to use, i.e. a
bunch of statements from certain sources related to the method I am about to characterize.
• I collect and organize the aspects and try describe them using my own words. I let
myself inspire from the bulleted lists.
• I start writing a few sentences. At the end of sentences that are closely related, I add a
citation to indicate which sources I actually used. In most cases, I do not actually use
all of the highlighted ones since sources covering a similar subject may often overlap
and say similar things. I rather prefer to pick one or two that I think are the best.
F Any final recommendations?
A Please play fair, avoid simple copy-pasta, write down your own conclusions in your own
words. And never mess with the alligator!
5 Helpful links and pointers 19
5 Helpful links and pointers
• Exam guide: https://mycampus.iubh.de/course/view.php?id=5534
• Citation guideline: https://mycampus.iubh.de/mod/resource/view.php?id=206216
• Guideline for Avoiding Plagiarism:
• Guideline for the case study:
• APA-Style citations, a guide by Mendeley: https://www.mendeley.com/guides/apa-citation-guide
• For those of you using Microsoft Word, here is a tutorial: https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/word/
• Anyone who is either looking for an alternative to Microsoft Word should get her/his hands on
the free (as in “free speech” and “free beer”) software called “LibreOffice”, available here:
https://www.libreoffice.org/. It is a full-fledged office software package under active development. Guides can be found here:
Image credits: © pixabay.com / geralt