Short Course: Causal Case Studies: Comparing, Matching, and Tracing

qmm2Causal Case Studies: Comparing, Matching, and Tracing (QMMR2)

Derek Beach
Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Section, APSA Organized Section 37

9:00 am – 1:00 pm

After more than two decades after the publication of Designing Social Inquiry (King, Keohane and Verba, 1994), the field of qualitative, case-based research methods has reached a level of maturity where it is no longer necessary to define case study methods purely in terms of how they differ from quantitative, variation-based methods. Increasingly, the debate has shifted towards defining the nature and uses of different causal case study methods on their own terms. This short course aims to exploring the state-of-the-art, focusing both on debates about the ontological and epistemological foundations of different case-based methods, along with developing a set of more practical guidelines for their use in alignment with different foundational assumptions. Three widely used case-based methods are discussed in this course are: small-n comparative methods, congruence methods, and process-tracing methods.

The goal of this course is twofold: 1) to provide participants with a better understanding of the debate about the logical foundations of different case study methods, in particular the different understandings of the nature of causal relationships that different method aim to analyze; and 2) to provide a set of practical guidelines that will enable scholars to utilize each of the causal case study methods in their own research that also enables their combination in logical consistent ways.

The course exposes how case-based methods are similar and different to each other in ways that have not been widely recognized, both as regards their ontological and epistemological foundations relating to different types of causal relationships (counterfactuals or mechanisms), the research situations in which they can be utilized, and the guidelines and best practices for their use.

The course is split into three sessions. The first explores debates about the different understandings of causal relations in the three case-based methods and the methodological implications they have (Brady, 2008; Goertz and Mahoney, 2012; Beach and Pedersen, 2016). In particular, the course focuses on the differences and similarities between a counterfactual understanding in comparative methods, and mechanism-based understandings that many contend form the basis of process-tracing methods.

We next turn to the question of how we can make causal inferences using the three case-based methods, focusing in particular on the question of how inferences can be made when we do not utilize variation in case scores on X and Y as evidence. We will discuss the recent innovations in the use of Bayesian logic as a unifying epistemology for making inferences in case study research, debating whether and how we can utilize the logic to make both cross-case and within-case inferences (Bennett, 2014; Humphrey and Jacobs 2016; Beach and Pedersen, 2016).

The third part of the course discusses the methodological consequences that different ontological and epistemological building blocks have for research design in each of the three causal case study methods. We discuss the uses and limits of comparative designs, and within-case analysis using congruence and process-tracing methods in relation to each other

**All Short Courses will take place on Wednesday, August 31 at the APSA 2016 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA.