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Process Tracing Methodology II – Evidence and Empirical Testing in Practice

Derek Beach
derek@ps.au.dk

Aarhus Universitet

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.

  @beach_methodman

Course Dates and Times

Monday 8 to Friday 12 August 2016
Generally classes are either 09:00-12:30 or 14:00-17:30
15 hours over 5 days

Prerequisite Knowledge

The course requires that one has already had some form of introduction to Process-tracing, either by taking the week 1 ECPR Summer School course, the course in PT at the ECPR Winter School, or another introductory course on Process-tracing.


Short Outline

This course is a more practical, hands-on course in using Process Tracing (PT) methods in one’s own research, complementing the more theoretical PT I ECPR Summer School course held in the first week, which focuses on the research design aspects of the method. The course requires that one has already had some form of introduction to PT, either by taking the week 1 course, the course at the ECPR Winter School, or another introductory course on PT.

This course focuses on how we can use within-case evidence to make causal inferences about mechanisms. The course starts with an introduction to how we can make causal inferences using Bayesian logic, i.e. when we have no variation upon which to make inferences. We then turn to the practicalities of empirical testing and making causal inferences in days 2 and 3, focusing on how we can strengthen the inferences we can make by improving the empirical tests that we employ in our research. We will work on this topic using a combination of analysis of existing work and tests developed based on your own research. Day 4 discusses inductive theory-building using PT. The final day discusses how we can utilize PT in practical case study research.

The course requires active participation. It is expected that participants are able to use parts of their own research in the exercises and group work during the course.


Long Course Outline

This course is a more practical, hands-on course in using Process Tracing (PT) methods in one’s own research, complementing the more theoretical PT I ECPR Summer School course held in the first week, which focuses on the research design aspects of the method. The course requires that one has already had some form of introduction to PT, either by taking the week 1 course, the course at the ECPR Winter School, or another introductory course on PT.

In comparison to other research methods such as large-N correlation-based analysis and comparative methods, process-tracing as a distinct method involves research where, ‘The cause-effect link that connects independent variable and outcome is unwrapped and divided into smaller steps; then the investigator looks for observable evidence of each step.’ (Van Evera 1997:64). The promise of process-tracing as a methodological tool is that it enables the researcher to study more-or-less directly the causal mechanism(s) linking an independent variable (or set of variables) and an outcome, allowing us to open up the ‘black box’ of causality itself.

The first day introduces the Bayesian logic of inference, followed by hands-on exercises for how we can develop and improve empirical tests in ways that enable strong causal inferences to be made, using an example from a Sherlock Holmes story.

Day 2 introduces recent developments in empirical testing in PT, focusing on the Bayesian underpinnings of two dimensions of test strength (certainty and uniqueness). We utilize Tannenwald’s well-known article to illustrate Bayesian logic and empirical tests.

Day 3 introduces source criticism and the practical challenges in working with empirical evidence in PT. We focus upon archival material, elite interviews and secondary historical sources. This includes questions such as how we should evaluate bias, what a ‘good’ source is, and how we deal with bias in secondary historical material. We will utilize a set of materials from the Cuban Missile Crisis to discuss the challenges relating to evidence in PT.

Day 4 turns to a discussion of how we can use empirical material to build theorized causal mechanisms, using Janis’ study of Groupthink as an example.

The course concludes with a discussion of practical challenges in using PT, drawing on the exercises participants will be drafting during the week.

Day Topic Details
Monday Making causal inferences using within-case evidence – Bayesian logic
Tuesday Operationalization of tests
Wednesday Working with evidence
Thursday Building theorized mechanisms
Friday Using PT in practice
Day Readings
Monday

Making causal inferences using within-case evidence

  • Beach and Pedersen (2013) Process Tracing: Foundations and Guidelines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Chapter 5.
  • Howson and Urbach (2006) Scientific Reasoning: the Bayesian Approach. Third Edition. La Salle, Il: Open Court. Chapter 4.
  • Silver Blaze (will be provided)
Tuesday

Operationalization of tests

  • Beach and Pedersen (forthcoming) Paper on analytical transparency. To be provided.
  • Beach and Pedersen (2013) Process Tracing: Foundations and Guidelines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Chapter 6 (only pages 107-119)
  • Tannenwald (1999) ‘The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Normative Basis of Nuclear Non-Use’, International Organization, 53(3): 433-468.
Wednesday

Working with evidence

  • Beach and Pedersen (2013) Process Tracing: Foundations and Guidelines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Chapter 7.
  • Lustick (1996) ’History, Historiography and Political Science.’, APSR, 90(3), pp. 605-618.
  • Case material on Cuban Missile Crisis. Will be provided
Thursday

Building theorized mechanisms using empirical material

  • Beach and Pedersen (2013) Process Tracing: Foundations and Guidelines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Pp. 60-63.
  • Janis (1983) Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 1-71.
Friday

Using PT in practice

Discussion based on exercises during the week.

Software Requirements

None.

Hardware Requirements

None.

Literature

Beyond the above course literature, the following are cited above.

Recommended Courses to Cover After this One

<p>Process tracing methods II</p> <p>Advanced Process tracing</p> <p>Advanced Mixed-methods</p> <p>Qualitative Comparative Analysis</p>


Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.