Causal Mechanisms and Process Tracing
Frank Schimmelfennig, ETH Zurich
27 July - 7 August (two week course / 35 hrs)
Frank Schimmelfennig is Professor of European Politics at ETH Zurich and a member of the Centre for Comparative and International Studies. His main research interest is in European integration and, more specifically, EU enlargement, differentiated integration, and democratization. He has published, inter alia, in Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of International Relations, European Union Politics, International Organization, Journal of Common Market Studies, and Journal of European Public Policy. In addition, he has co-edited a book on Research Design in Political Science (with Thomas Gschwend, Palgrave 2007) and authored “Efficient Process Tracing: Analyzing the Causal Mechanisms of European Integration”, in: Andrew Bennett and Jeffrey T. Checkel (eds.): Process Tracing. From Metaphor to Analytical Tool. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 98-125.
- This course covers process tracing as a technique for causal inference in qualitative case studies. There is a particular focus on the importance of causal mechanisms and temporality for process tracing. We first discuss causal mechanisms for causal inference in comparison with alternative regularity and counterfactual accounts of causality. Two sessions focus on the specification of causal mechanisms, first in analytical social science in general, and then with regard to social processes over time.
- We then move on to situate process-tracing within qualitative and case study methods. Process-tracing is contrasted with comparative qualitative analysis and then with the other important designs of within-case analysis: the congruence or pattern-matching method. Subsequently, the course deals with the logic of causal tests and inferences in process-tracing analyses, the various usages of process-tracing (explanatory, inductive, and deductive/theory-testing), and the collection of data for process-tracing. We will also see how process-tracing can be combined fruitfully with other types of qualitative as well as with quantitative research in mixed-methods designs. Finally, there is ample space for presenting and discussing the participants’ process-tracing research.
- The course introduces the participants to process tracing. They thereby gain from this course in three related respects. First, participants are equipped with knowledge that enables them to read empirical process tracing studies from a methodological perspective and to identify those studies’ strengths and weaknesses. Second, participants utilising process tracing in their own research learn how to craft and implement sound empirical research. As this course takes a comprehensive perspective on research goals one can pursue in qualitative research, it is relevant for participants who do exploratory process tracing and those that engage in the testing of hypotheses. The course is particularly well-suited for participants who are at the beginning of their research and still must make important decisions about their research design.
- Questions the participants should be able to answer before the course are (questions are specifically addressed at people engaged in empirical research):
- 1) What is or could be the causal mechanism in my study?
- 2) What role does temporality play in my study?
- 3) What is or could be the function of causal process tracing in my study?
- Bennett, Andrew (2008): Process-Tracing: A Bayesian Perspective. Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., Henry Brady and David Collier (eds.): Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 702-721.
- Hall, Peter A. (2008): Systematic Process Analysis: When and How to Use It. European Political Science 7 (3): 304-317.
- The following text will be included in the coursepack and used throughout the course:
- Beach, Derek and Rasmus Brun Pedersen (2013): Process-Tracing Methods. Foundations and Guidelines. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.