OSS9090 – Case Study Research Methods

Course description

Course content

The central goal of the seminar is to enable students to create and critique methodologically sophisticated case study research designs in the social sciences. To do so, the seminar will explore the techniques, uses, strengths, and limitations of case study methods, while emphasizing the relationships among these methods, alternative methods, and contemporary debates in the philosophy of science. The research examples used to illustrate methodological issues will be drawn primarily from international relations and comparative politics. The methodological content of the course is also applicable, however, to the study of history, sociology, education, business, economics, and other social and behavioral sciences.

The seminar will begin with a focus on the philosophy of science, theory construction, theory testing, causality, and causal inference. With this epistemological grounding, the seminar will then explore the core issues in case study research design, including methods of structured and focused comparisons of cases, typological theory, case selection, process tracing, and the use of counterfactual analysis. Next, the seminar will look at the epistemological assumptions, comparative strengths and weaknesses, and proper domain of case study methods and alternative methods, particularly statistical methods and formal modeling, and address ways of combining these methods in a single research project. The seminar then examines field research techniques, including archival research and interviews.

The lecturer

Andrew Bennett earned his Ph.D. in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1990. He has written about case study 

research methods, military intervention, foreign policy learning, alliance burden sharing, and American foreign policy.  His publications include Condemned to Repetition? The Rise, Fall, and Reprise of Soviet-Russian Military Interventionism 1973-1996 (1999), and, with Alexander L. George, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences.

He is President of the Consortium on Qualitative Research Methods, which sponsors an annual two-week institute on qualitative methods at Syracuse University each spring (Google “CQRM” for information on the institute), and a former president of the Qualitative Methods section of the American Political Science Association.  He teaches international relations theory, the U.S. foreign policy process, and qualitative research methods at Georgetown University. Professor Bennett is currently at work on a book examining how members of the Bush Administration, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, and pundits and academics who supported American intervention in Iraq explain why the intervention did not prove as easy or as successful as they had hoped.

Facts about this course






Every summer

Teaching language