UPSC Courses


Case Studies

This topic is the final culmination point of all the other topics mentioned in Ethics syllabus. One is required to answer questions based on a given case study, the issue here is that there is no right or wrong answer when answering questions on case-study, but it is all about being reasonable and ethically-morally right based on one's thought process and experiences.

Important Sub-topics/Issues are:

  • Gender Issues
  • Mal-governance
  • Environmental Issues
  • Current Affairs Issues
  • Corruption
  • Human Development factors.
  • Ethical Dilemmas
  • Conflict of interest

One must be familiar with the common terminology used in the Ethics Syllabus and try to use those keywords while writing answer. It will not suffice to only memorize answers. You must be very good at the basics. It is very important to learn how to skim through contents. This will save you valuable time and effort and you can go through more content in a limited amount of time.

The candidate should understand that if he or she tries to read from too many sources, it won’t serve a purpose. Rather, one should stick to a single source, we recommend Ethical Case Studies: A Broad Dimension by Ankit K. Agarwal and focus on how s author have analysed a particular topic and formulated their theories.

What the examiner seeks?

From the examiner's point of view, the ethics-integrity-aptitude of ethics paper in UPSC seeks to gauge the candidate's basic understanding of topics like Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct, Work Culture, and Quality of service delivery and ability to analyze and form views on various conflicting socio-economic issues.

For the questions framed in this area, the candidates must answer in such a way that reflects his or her complete knowledge on the topic and the formation of the answer should be to the point and relevant to what has been asked.

Answer Writing Strategy for Case Studies

There is never a set answer for a case study. The idea should be to learn from the format:

  • Actors
  • Dilemmas
  • Answer Body
  • Points
  • Keywords
  • Theory
  • Diagram
  • Conclusion
  • Try to provide practical solutions. Ideal solutions, if unworkable, would not fetch you marks.
  • Give out-of-the-box yet practical solutions.
  • Try to provide specific solutions . Avoid generalized solutions:To illustrate, don’t say, “I would take steps to promote transparency. Mention how you would promote transparency.
  • When you are asked to give all the options available to you - give even the most undesirable course of action as one of the options . However, don’t choose that option: To illustrate, in a case that mentions the offer of a bribe to you, mention ‘acceptance of bribe’ as one of the options. But prefer the options that entail ‘rejection of bribe’.

Do not touch upon only core issues. Also, touch upon peripheral issues in a case study.

To illustrate, suppose a case study in which “you are the head of the committee investigating the irregularities of colleges. You are in the dilemma whether to recommend for de-recognition of college and spoil the career prospects of students or to recommend their regularization in the light of future of thousands of students. You have been offered a bribe of Rs. 5 crores.”

In this case study, a core issue is ‘whether to regularize colleges’. Most candidates would just address this issue in their answer. However, there is another issue, the ‘peripheral issue’, that is, the offer of a bribe. Try to address that issue as well. While addressing bribe issue, please don’t just say – “I won’t accept the bribe”. Also, say – “I would lodge a complaint against the person who has offered me the bribe”.

Let your solutions try to balance conflicting options as much as possible. (Caution – such balancing may not happen always).

For detailed understanding watch the Ethics Case Study UPSC 10 Year Paper videos on YouTube.

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