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Discover ECPR's Latest Methods Course Offerings

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Process Tracing Methods (week three)

Member rate £492.50
Non-Member rate £985.00

Save £45 Loyalty discount applied automatically*
Save 5% on each additional course booked

*If you attended our Methods School in July/August 2023 or February 2024.

Course Dates and Times

Monday 10 ꟷ Friday 14 August 2020
2 hours of live teaching per day
Courses will be either morning or afternoon to suit participants’ requirements

Derek Beach

Aarhus Universitet

This seminar-type course provides a highly interactive online teaching and learning environment, using state of the art online pedagogical tools. It is designed for a demanding audience (researchers, professional analysts, advanced students) and capped at a maximum of 12 participants so that the Instructor can cater to the specific needs of each individual.

Purpose of the course

Process tracing is a research method designed to learn how things work in real-world cases. Increasingly used across the social sciences and in applied policy evaluation, process tracing involves unpacking a causal process in a case and tracing how it worked empirically, enabling strong within-case inferences about causal processes.

The aim of this online course is to give you a working understanding of the core elements of process tracing as a robust case study method, enabling you to utilise it in your own research – either alone or in combination with other methods. 

ECTS Credits

3 credits Engage fully with class activities 
4 credits Complete a post-class assignment

Instructor Bio

Derek Beach is a professor of Political Science at Aarhus University.

He has authored articles, chapters, and books on case study research methodology, international negotiations, referendums, and European integration, and co-authored Process-tracing Methods: Foundations and Guidelines (University of Michigan Press).

Derek has taught qualitative case study methods at ECPR, IPSA and ICPSR summer and winter schools, and numerous workshops and seminars on qualitative methods throughout the world. He is an academic co-convenor of the ECPR Methods School.

Key topics covered

The course explores the three core elements of process tracing, focusing first on the theory-side of what we are actually 'tracing' (i.e. causal processes, aka mechanisms). In this section, we will discuss what constitutes a mechanistic explanation and how we can theorise them in practice, unpacking causal processes into parts composed of entities engaging in activities.

In the second section, we turn to how we can make evidence-based causal inferences using within-case, 'mechanistic' evidence, defined as the traces left by the operation of causal processes. We will work with Bayesian logic and how it helps us ask the right questions when evaluating what inferences found/not found empirical material enables us to make. 

The final session deals with case selection and how process tracing studies can be combined with comparative methods, including QCA.

How the course will work online

The course is designed to exploit the interactive capabilities of online technology, combining annotated readings, short pre-recorded lectures and activities, with group work and seminar-style discussions during the five-day sessions of the ‘live’ course.

You will have many opportunities to bring your own research into the course, both in the pre-class/after-class activities and during group work during class.

Prior to the course, you should complete the readings (annotated with comments and discussion fora), watch the pre-recorded lectures, and carry out small pre-class assignments on the three topics covered by the course. 

The live sessions over five days will consist of two days dealing with what we are tracing, two days on making inferences and working with evidence, and a final day dealing with case selection and overall design. They will be a combination of plenary discussions and group work, coupled with other interactive formats.

Some basic knowledge of case study methods and broader social science methodology is required.

Given that many of the activities relate to applying process tracing to your own research, you will get the most benefit from this course if you are working with a case study or are about to embark on one.