Process Tracing: Making Single Case Studies Transparent and Convincing

Ferdi De Ville, Niels Gheyle, Yf Reykers, Thijs Van de Graaf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Process tracing is a single case-study method that allows students to use within-case evidence to explain a specific outcome that they are interested in and/or to test a theory for some general phenomenon or relationship in the social world. The method offers the tools to either test the explanatory value of a given causal theory or to develop a causal theory. The unique advantage of process tracing is that it enables the transparent and convincing development of a causal explanation, translate this explanation into expected empirical observations, and critically assess the explanatory value of empirical observations. These features of process tracing significantly increase the confidence that students can have in their case study work. Process tracing is a method that is increasingly used in qualitative social science research, especially in the fields of comparative politics, international relations and political economy. After having read this chapter, students should be able to: understand and discuss the objectives and key features of process tracing;• outline a basic process-tracing research design;• develop a causal mechanism for some outcome of interest; operationalize a causal mechanism into expected observations and tests; and• critically assess empirical observations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQualitative Data Analysis
Subtitle of host publicationKey Approaches
EditorsPeter A. Stevens
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSAGE Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9781529787047, 9781529785067, 9781529789027
ISBN (Print)9781529730418, 9781529730425
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023


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