Process-tracing as a tool to analyse discretion

Yf Reykers, Derek Beach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Despite the decades of theorization, the causal processes in-between acts of delegation and agency discretion and autonomy are still not developed theoretically, with much ambiguity about how the model’s elements are causally connected. This chapter shows that process-tracing is a useful methodological tool for improving our theoretical and empirical understanding of the causal processes underlying the pa model. Process-tracing, as a case-study method, requires explicitly theorizing the causal mechanism that connects delegation to agency costs and forces the analyst to unpack the process empirically. The added-value of process-tracing is illustrated on the example of the council secretariat’s facilitating leadership in intergovernmental negotiations. It is claimed that process-tracing confronts the principal–agent model to closer logical scrutiny, ultimately leading to stronger causal claims and better theorization.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Principal Agent model and the European Union
EditorsTom Delreux, Johan Adriaensen
Place of PublicationHoundsmills
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-55137-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-55136-4, 978-3-319-85576-9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesPalgrave Studies in European Union Politics

Cite this