Casual Mechanism vs Pile of Facts:
How to Evaluate Casual Links in Case Study Research
Cand. Sci. (Pol. Sci.), Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, European University at St. Petersburg, email@example.com
elibrary_id: 821906 |
Senior Researcher, Laboratory for Comparative Social Research, National Research University Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, firstname.lastname@example.org
elibrary_id: 787846 |
This article speaks to methodological aspects of the ways to use a popular research technique – process tracing. The latter has gained momentum as a compromise between neo-positivist and interpretative approaches. Authors provide a brief overview of the method’s role in current political research; carefully describe the peculiarities of method’s procedure; compare process tracing with other research tools and discuss its advantages and shortcomings. Process tracing is a type of within-case analysis that aims at inferring causal mechanisms that bring about outcomes in question. The main strengths of the approach are 1) possibility of falsification tests, 2) rigor of analytical procedure, based on Bayesian logic and related empirical tests, 3) getting the most of in-depth knowledge of the case, 4) compatibility with quantitative research as the auxiliary method. Apart from that, process tracing serves as a powerful remedy against a-theoretical narratives and turns the case study into a genuinely captivating detective storyline. Among the weak points one should mention 1) lack of parsimonial explanations, 2) lack of generalizability, 3) time-consuming process of data collection. To demonstrate how process tracing can be used in real-world research the article provides one example based on study by Ahmed which devoted to electoral reforms in Europe at the end of the 19th century. It is shown how Ahmed based on process tracing falsified the influential theory by Rokkan-Boix and put forward the solid argument for her model of explaining the logic of electoral system reforms in Europe at the time of the franchise expanded.
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