The Hidden Potential in Case Studies

Martin Instructor British Columbia Posted   Latest   Edited  

Hi everyone. For myself, Diagnostic Network provides some food for thought, comparisons about tooling, insight about techniques and diagnostic approaches.

A veritable plethora of well-documented case studies on a wide range of topics since the outset, is a continual source of interest. Sometimes some complex methods or tools have been used to accomplish some actions that might have been achieved using less high tech tools. Perhaps discussion might focus on why a particular tool was used, either from the author of the post, or from respondents participating.

It certainly appears that there are many active participants here, with high levels of expertise and who spend considerable time to assemble the information to present it in case study format for the interest of all. As one who knows how much time and effort it takes to create useful posts, I can recognize potential when I see it from the perspective of both technician and educator.

Opportunities that I see, is that with some quite minor refinement, some case studies can provide excellent learning experiences as well as being interesting. I've been thinking about this for some time now and a few words of critique and recommendations that Mark Quarto put forth in Dmitriy's recent "Solenoid Quiz" post below, resulted in prompting me to post about how we might collectively improve posts to make them more valuable.

Essentially, case studies are founded on a successful diagnosis and repair. When composing these, often there is some piece of the puzzle missing, or rather intentionally omitted. Now, it may be in part due to attempting to be concise, or not leading the reader down a path that did not result in an accurate diagnosis. Mistakes or using a tool that did not lend itself well to a given diagnosis, can be useful learning experiences and opportunities to create discussion. Maybe it is intended to create discussion. We all have our motives for posting.

As a long time technician, I've been humbled on more than a few occasions over the past 50 years and am not too embarrassed to admit it to my peers. I'd like to encourage others to openly assess their case studies to identify where they/we wasted time or were otherwise errant. In other words, critique our diagnostic approaches and identify how we could have done a better job.

It might be that we did not have the best tool or equipment readily at hand and had to make do as is often the situation in the real world. The "hero" factor of a job well done, wears off very quickly as the next diagnostic challenge arrives with the potential to humble each of us, no matter how much knowledge and expertise we may have. So, while a little "chest puffing" might feel good for a short time, we all well know that the next job could "kick our butts" if we don't get it quite right.

Mark alluded to a need when posting quizzes or challenges, that the poster should provide all relevant information, so that those invited to provide an assessment, have enough information to develop an educated opinion. That is a great observation.

In the case of Dmitriy's post, in the absence of all of the facts, we were forced to make some assumptions about the waveforms and circuit behavior, based on knowledge of operation of similar components in similar systems. We all well know what "ASSofUandME" results in!

Mark made an excellent observation, that could make Dmitriy's post a more valuable learning opportunity for observers and create a better challenge experience for participants. Essentially, I will call this an "Analyze This" and "Here is everything that you need." type post. The creator may not be looking to create a string of "ping pong" responses to comments or requests, so absolutely everything is disclosed up front. It is an open and shut case, no need for much dialog or interaction.

Another type of case study exists that can provide onlookers and participants with a diagnostic challenge through a series of steps. Similar to the single step version, all information must be provided so that the participant can assess the vehicle as received, in order to predict the most applicable or valid subsequent diagnostic step. I have participated in a number of these and they can require access to some very specific resources to "play", because certain documents such as schematics may need to be assessed.

I have often composed diagnostic activities for my students in a repair order format, as they might expect to receive in their work place, with all relevant customer concerns documented, symptoms, DTCs, preliminary inspection findings (including bulletin and other info).

What I am looking for is a diagnostic direction that is efficient, uses the necessary information resources and appropriate tools. If I do not sign the RO, it is worthless and the technician must request authorization before proceeding. I need to see their thought process documented, a demonstrated understanding of systems and/or circuits and appropriate use of test equipment. The 3 "Cs" must be documented clearly, especially given their work environment and often warrantable repairs.

FYI, below is a modified version of a repair order that I use to provide the necessary information. Both sides of the RO are displayed so that the diagnostic steps, associated documents, tests and results can be listed and assessed. The condition on this RO is an actual concern and the document #s on the reverse side are valid GM SI documents used to complete the diagnosis. Scroll down the RO to see the reverse side.

The customer concern and additional information provides the necessary information to begin a structured diagnosis, that does result in identification of the fault.

I am wondering if something similar in a common format could be useful for those posting and viewing case studies, where all of the information is included, or a step by step based type diagnosis can be performed as each prior step has been discussed and results noted. In other words an RO type form would be filled to initiate the process. All of the waveforms, photos and other information would follow in sequence as it currently does.

Perhaps ROs could even be filed as a form of archiving. Thoughts and opinions are welcome. I have a thick skin, so don't be shy! Sometimes I have some unusual ideas that make perfect sense only to me!


Chris Diagnostician
Chris Default

Martin, I agree with the direction you are heading. I know for the few case studies I've posted, that I try to balance a step by step (including errant steps), with making the case study clearer and more concise. I know I am still playing around trying to find the best way to present a good case study in this format and bring them up to a level of professionalism that so many here

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Bob Owner/Technician
Bob Default

One thing I would like to see is all "update" posts be appended to the original somehow so all the relevant post can be viewed one after the other. Or have update posts highlighted so it's easy to pick them out from all the others.

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Scott Manager
Scott Default

Noted and thank you Bob.

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Martin Instructor
British Columbia
Martin Default

It makes absolute sense Bob and would ease navigation.

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