2016 PSA-APSA Process Tracing Short Courses

Tasha Fairfield, London School of Economics

Exciting advances have been made in recent years on process tracing in case study research, an approach that is widely used, although not always well understood, in political science.  Andrew Bennett and Jeffrey Checkel’s 2015 volume, Process Tracing in the Social Sciences: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool, addresses both methodological debates and best practices in process tracing.  Bennett’s appendix in this volume makes an important contribution by introducing readers to the Bayesian foundations of causal inference in process tracing. Tasha Fairfield and Andrew Charman’s current research, “Explicit Bayesian Analysis for Process Tracing,” builds on Bennett’s work by providing step-by-step guidelines for explicitly applying Bayesian probability in case study research and evaluating both the advantages and drawbacks of this approach in terms of improving inference and analytic transparency.

Andrew Bennett, Georgetown University

With support from the PSA-APSA Specialist Group International Engagement initiative, Andrew Bennett (Georgetown University) and Tasha Fairfield (London School of Economics) taught two short courses introducing scholars to these new methodological developments in process tracing, with an emphasis on the Bayesian perspective.  The first short course was held in London on March 18 in advance of the PSA annual conference.  The second short course took place on August 31 in conjunction with the APSA annual meeting in Philadelphia, with Jeffrey Checkel (Simon Fraser University) participating as a co-instructor.  Both events were well attended, with roughly 40 participants in London and 58 in Philadelphia from a broad range of subfields (e.g. international relations, comparative politics, public policy).

The short course sessions concluded by discussing debates on how best to improve inference and analytic transparency in process tracing, and how explicit Bayesian analysis might contribute to that end.  Analytic transparency has become a critical issue in the context of Data Access and Research Transparency (DART) initiatives.  Scholars who conduct qualitative research are invited to participate in the current round of the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations, a forum organized by APSA’s Qualitative and Multi-method Research Section to debate how transparency could best be promoted in qualitative research.  Andrew Bennett, Tasha Fairfield, Ingo Rohlfing, and Hillel Soifer welcome comments on the Comparative Methods and Process Tracing blog, which they are coordinating as members of the QTD working group.