This course on PT aims to give the participants an understanding of the foundations of PT-methods, and should enable participants to use PT in their own research by providing the them with practical insights and research tools.
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) to an outcome, allowing us to open up the ‘black box’ of causality itself. Within political science methodology, PT is arguably the only method that allows us to study causal mechanisms, allowing us to understand how an X (or set of X’s) produces Y instead of simply studying correlations and associations, and therefore is an ‘…invaluable method that should be included in every researcher’s repertoire.’ (George and Bennett 2005:224).
The course starts, on day 1, by differentiating PT from other methods; including both large-n quantitative, frequentist methods but also other small-n methods such as analytical narratives, comparative case studies, congruence etc. Here we define PT by the interest in studying causal mechanisms in single case studies, and we discuss the three variants of PT: theory-testing, theory-building, and explaining outcome PT.
On day 2 we will look closely at what causal mechanism are and go into some detail about the ontological and epistemological assumptions underlying PT. Most importantly however, we will talk about the causal mechanism as made up out of entities engaging in activities ensuring the productive continuity that we are interested in.
We will use day three to talk about 'concepts' and their causal attributes in PT. To give you an idea of the type of question we will aim to answer this day, think about the following in relation to the Democratic Peace theory: What is it about democracy that causes peace (i.e. what are the causal properties of this concept)?
Day 4 is dedicated to causal mechanism in practice. We go into more detail about how to draw a causal inference on the basis a of single case study and how to execute a PT-project.
On the last day we will make time for some presentations (max. 5) of your own causal mechanisms and PT-projects, as well as go into detail about case selection, generalisation, and the (im)possibilities of combining PT with other methods.
In short: the course provides insights into the recent debate of the role of causal mechanism in political science and provides the participant with all the basics regarding the PT-method