Schedule, syllabus and examination date
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.
Lecture 1 Inferences About Causal Effects and Causal Mechanisms
This lecture addresses the philosophy of science issues relevant to case study research.
- Alexander L. George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development, preface and chapter 7, pages 127-150.
Lecture 2 Critiques and Justifications of Case Study Methods
- Gary Goertz and James Mahoney, “A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Qualitative and Quantitative Research,” Political Analysis, Summer 2006, pp. 227-249.
- Bennett forthcoming book chapter “Drawing Contingent Generalizations from Case Studies;”
Lecture 3 Concept Formation and Measurement
- Gary Goertz, Social Science Concepts, chapters 1, 2, 3, and 9, pages 1-94, 237-268.
Lecture 4 Designs for Single and Comparative Case Studies
- George and Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development, chapter 4, pages 73-88.
- Jason Seawright and John Gerring, Case Selection Techniques in Qualitative Research: A Menu of Qualitative and Quantitative Options, Political Research Quarterly, 2008, available at: http://blogs.bu.edu/jgerring/files/2013/06/CaseSelection.pdf
- Gary Goertz and James Mahoney, “Negative Case Selection: The Possibility Principle,” in Goertz, Social Science Concepts, chapter 7, pages 177-210.
- Jay Seawright, Multi-Method Social Science, chapter 4, pp. 75-106.
Lecture 5 Typological Theory, Fuzzy Set Analysis
- Excerpt from Andrew Bennett, “Causal mechanisms and typological theories in the study of civil conflict,” in Jeff Checkel, ed., Transnational Dynamics of Civil War, Columbia University Press.
Lecture 6 Process Tracing, Congruence Testing, and Counterfactual Analysis
- Andrew Bennett and Jeff Checkel, Process Tracing, chapter 1, conclusions.
- Jacob Ricks and Amy Liu, “Process Tracing Research Designs: A Practical Guide,” PS: Political Science and Politics 51:4 (October 2018). At:
- Tasha Fairfield and Andrew Charman, “Explicit Bayesian Analysis for Process Tracing: Guidelines, Opportunities, and Caveats” Political Analysis vol. 25, no. 3 (July 2017) pp. 363-380
Lecture 7 Multimethod Research: Combining Case Studies with Statistics, Formal Modeling, and Natural Experiments
- Jay Seawright, Multi-Method Social Science, chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8.
Lecture 8 Field Research Techniques: Archives, Interviews, and Surveys
Complete reading list
- Cameron Thies, “A Pragmatic Guide to Qualitative Historical Analysis in the Study of International Relations,” International Studies Perspectives 3 (4) (November 2002) pp. 351-72.
Lecture 9 and 10 Student research design presentations
See the introduction for details.
Complete reading list
- Bennett, A. (2012). “Causal mechanisms and typological theories in the study of civil conflict,” Excerpt in Checkel J. (ed.), Transnational Dynamics of Civil War. Columbia University Press.
- Bennett A. and Checkel J., (eds.) (2014). Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool. Cambridge University Press.
- Brady, H. and Collier, D. (2010). Rethinking Social Inquiry. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 3-20, 36-50, 195-266.
- George, A. L. and Bennett, A. (2005). Case Studies and Theory Development. The MIT Press. preface, chapters 4, 7.
- Goertz, G. and Mahoney, J. (2006) “A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Qualitative and Quantitative Research,” Political Analysis, summer 2006, pp. 227-249.
- Goertz, G. (2006). Social Science Concepts. Princeton University Press. chapters 1, 2, 3, 7, and 9, pages 1-94, 237-268.
- Goertz, G. and Mahoney J. (2006) “Negative Case Selection: The Possibility Principle,” in Goertz, G. Social Science Concepts, chapter 7, pages 177-210.
- Seawright J. and Gerring J. (2008). Case Selection Techniques in Qualitative Research: A Menu of Qualitative and Quantitative Options, Political Research Quarterly, 2008
- Thies, C. (2002). “A Pragmatic Guide to Qualitative Historical Analysis in the Study of International Relations,” International Studies Perspectives 3 (4) (November 2002) pp. 351-72.
Optional Additional Readings
- Adcock, R. and Collier, D. (1999). “Democracy and Dichotomies,” Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 2, 1999, pp. 537-565.
- Adcock, R. and Collier, D. (2001). “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research,” APSR Vol. 95, No. 3 (September, 2001) pp. 529-546.
- APSA-CP: Newsletter of the APSA Organized Section in Comparative Politics, Vo. 9, No. 1 (Winter 1998) articles by David Collier, Tim McKeown, Roger Petersen and John Bowen, Charles Ragin, and John Stephens.
- Barrett, C. and Cason J. (1997). Overseas Research: A Practical Guide. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 90-105.
- Bates, B., Greif, A., Levi, M., Rosenthal, J. and Weingast, B. (2000). “Analytic Narratives,” pp. 3-18; reviews by David Dessler in International Studies Review 2000 2 (3) 176-179) and Andrew Bennett in Journal of Politics August 2001 63 (3) 978-980).
- Bennett, A., Lepgold, J., and Unger, D. (1991). Friends in Need. St. Martin’s Press. pp. 24-28
- Bennett, A. (2008). “Process Tracing: A Bayesian Perspective,” in Box-Steffensmeier, J., Brady, H., and Collier, D. (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology, Oxford University Press. pp. 702-721.
- Bennett A., Barth, A. and Rutherford, K. (2003). “Do we Preach What we Practice? A survey of Methods in Journals and Graduate Curricula.” PS, July 2003.
- Bennett, A. (2001). “A Lakatosian Reading of Lakatos: What Can we Salvage from the Hard Core?,” in Colin and Miriam Elman (eds.), Progress in International Relations Theory: Metrics and Methods of Scientific Change, The MIT Press.
- Bennett, A. (2005) “The Guns that Didn’t Smoke: Ideas and the Soviet Non-Use of Force in 1989.” Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 7, no. 2. pp. 81-109
- Berins Collier, R. and Collier, D. (1991). Shaping the Political Arena: Critical Junctures, the Labor Movement, and Regime Dynamics in Latin America. Princeton, University Press. pp. 27-39
- Bonilla, F. (1964) “Survey Techniques,” in Ward, R. et al., Studying Politics Abroad. Little, Brown, and Company. pp. 134-52.
- Brooks, S. and Wohlforth, W. (2000). “Power, Globalization, and the End of the Cold War: Reevaluating a Landmark Case for Ideas,” International Security (Winter, 2000-2001) pp. 5-53.
- Collier D. and Levitsky S. (1997). “Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research,” World Politics, Vol. 49, No. 3 (April 1997) pp. 430-451.
- Collier, D. (1999). “Data, Field Work, and Extracting New Ideas at Close Range,” APSA -CP Newsletter Winter 1999 pp. 1-6.
- Collier D. and Mahon, J. E. (1993). “Conceptual Stretching Revisited: Adapting Categories in Comparative Analysis.” APSR December 1993, pp. 845-855.
- Collier D., Mahoney, J. and Seawright, J. (2010). “Claiming Too Much: Warnings about Selection Bias,” chapter 6 in Brady and Collier.
- Collier, D. (1993). “The Comparative Method,” in Ada Finifter, (ed.), Political Science: the State of the Discipline II (Washington, D.C.: American Political Science Association, 1993), pp. 105-119.
- Collier, D. and Mahoney, J. (1996) “Insights and Pitfalls: Selection Bias in Qualitative Research,” World Politics vol. 49, no. 1 (October, 1996) pp. 56-91.
- Collier, D. (1995). “Translating Quantitative Methods for Qualitative Researchers: The Case of Selection Bias;” Ronald Rogowski, “The Role of Theory and Anomaly in Social-Scientific Inference;” and Sidney Tarrow, “Bridging the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide in Political Science,” in American Political Science Review vol. 89 no. 2 (June, 1995) pp. 461-474.
- Collier, D. (1998) “Comparative-Historical Analysis: Where Do We Stand?” APSA-CP Newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Summer, 1998) pp. 1-5.
- Cook, T. and Campbell, D. (1979.) Quasi-Experimentation. Rand McNally College. pp. 37-39, 50-91.
- Dessler, D. (1991). “Beyond Correlations: Toward a Causal Theory of War,” International Studies Quarterly vol. 35 no. 3 (September, 1991), pp. 337-355.
- Devereux, S. and Hoddinott, J. (1993). “Issues in Data Collection,” in Devereux S. and Hoddinott, J. (eds.), Fieldwork in Developing Countries (Lynne-Reiner Publishers) pp. 25-40.
- Elman M. and Elman, C. (2001) “Introduction,” and "Lessons from Lakatos," in Colin and Miriam Elman, Progress in International Relations Theory: Metrics and Methods of Scientific Change. The MIT Press.
- Ertman, T. (1997). Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1-34, 317-334.
- Evera, V. (1997). Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. Cornell University Press. pp. 49-76.
- Geddes, B. (1990). “How the Cases You Choose Affect the Answers You Get: Selection Bias in Comparative Politics,” Political Analysis vol. 2 (1990).
- Gerring, J. (2008). “Case Selection for Case-Study Analysis: Qualitative and Quantitative Techniques,” in Janet Box-Steffensmeier, Henry Brady, and David Collier, eds., Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology, pp. 645-684.
- George, A. and Bennett, A. (2005). Case Studies and Theory Development. The MIT Press. Chapters 1, 2, 9, 10, 11.
- Gerring, J. (1999). “What Makes a Concept Good?” Polity Spring 1999: 357-93.
- Goertz G. and Levy, J. (2002). “Causal Explanation, Necessary Conditions, and Case Studies: The Causes of World War I,” manuscript, Dec. 2002.
- Goldthorpe, J. (1997) “Current Issues in Comparative Macrosociology;” Rueschemeyer, D., and Stephens, J. “Comparing Historical Sequences? A Powerful Tool for Causal Analysis;” Jack Goldstone, “Methodological Issues in Comparative Macrosociology;” and John Goldthorpe, “A Response to the Commentaries,” all in Comparative Social Research Vol 16 (1997) pp. 1-26, 55-72, 107-120, and 121-132, respectively.
- Harrison, H. (1992) “Inside the SED Archives: A Researcher’s Diary” Cold War International History Project Bulletin. 2 (fall 1992)
- Hopf, T. (2007) “Limits in Interpreting Evidence,” in Richard Lebow and Mark Lichbach, (eds.), Theory and Evidence in Comparative Politics and International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Katznelson, I. (1997) “Structure and Configuration in Comparative Politics,” in Lichbach, M. and Zuckerman, A. (eds.), Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure (Cambridge, 1997) pp. 81-111.
- King, G., Keohane, R. O., and Verba, S. (1994) Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton University Press. pp. 55-63, 91-95.
- Lebow, R. N. (2000). “Contingency, Catalysts, and International System Change,” Political Science Quarterly 115 (4) pp. 591-616.
- Lebow, R. N. (1999). “What’s So Different About a Counterfactual?” World Politics July 1999: 550-85.
- Levy, J. (2002). “Necessary Conditions in Case Studies: Preferences, Constraints, and Choices in July 1914,” in Gary Goertz and Harvey Starr, eds., Necessary Conditions (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), pp. 113-145.
- Lieberson, S. (1994). “More on the Uneasy Case for Using Mill-Type Methods in Small-N Comparative Studies,” Social Forces June 1994, pp. 1225-1237
- Little, D. (1998) Microfoundations, Method, and Causatio. Transaction Publishers. Chapter 11, pp. 215-236.
- Luebbert, G. (1987) "Social Foundations of Political Order in Interwar Europe," World Politics July 1987.
- Mahoney J. and Rueschemeyer, D. (2003). “Comparative-Historical Analysis: Achievements and Agendas,” in their Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. Cambridge University Press.
- Mahoney, J. (1999) “Nominal, Ordinal, and Narrative Appraisal in Macro-Causal Analysis.” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 104, No.3 (January 1999).
- Mahoney, J. (2000). “Path Dependence in Historical Sociology,” Theory and Society 29 (2000) pp. 507-548.
- Mahoney, J. (2003). “Strategies of Causal Assessment in Comparative-Historical Analysis,” in Mahoney and Rueschemeyer, Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. Cambridge University Press.
- Mahoney, J. E., Kimball, E., and Koivu K. (2007). “The Causal Logic of Historical Explanation.” manuscript, Northwestern University. (Pk) (updated version posted 12.20.07)
- McKeown, T. (1999). “Case Studies and the Statistical World View.” International Organization Vol. 53, No. 1 (Winter, 1999) pp. 161-190.
- McKim, V. and Turner, S. (eds.) (1997). Causality in Crisis? Statistical Methods and the Search for Causal Knowledge in the Social Sciences. University of Notre Dame. pp. 1-19.
- Meckstroth, T. (1975). “'Most Different Systems' and 'Most Similar Systems:' A Study in the Logic of Comparative Inquiry.” Comparative Political Studies July 1975, pp. 133-177.
- Munck, G. (1998). “Canons of Research Design in Qualitative Analysis.” Studies in Comparative International Development, Fall 1998.
- Munck G. and Verkuilen, J. (2002). “Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: Evaluating Alternative Indices,” Comparative Political Studies Feb. 2002, pp. 5-34.
- Njolstad, O. (1990) “Learning From History? Case Studies and the Limits to Theory-Building,” in Olav Njolstad, ed., Arms Races: Technological and Political Dynamics. Sage Publishers. pp. 220-246.
- Page, S. (2006) “Path Dependence,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2006, 1: 87-115.
- Pierson, P. (2003) “Big, Slow Moving, and Invisible: Macro-Social Processes in the Study of Comparative Politics,” in Mahoney, J. and Rueschemeyer, D. Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. Cambridge University Press.
- Pierson, P. (2000) “Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics,” American Political Science Review, June 2000, pp.251-268.
- Powell, R. (1999) In the Shadow of Power. Princeton University Press. pp. 23-39.
- Przeworski, A. (1995). Contribution to “The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics: A Symposium,” World Politics October 1995 pp. 16-21.
- Ragin, C. (2008). Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond. University of Chicago. pp. 1-10, 13-68, 71-105, 109-146, 147-175, 176-189 (190-212 optional).
- Ragin, C. and Zaret, D. (1983) “Theory and Method in Comparative Research: Two Strategies.” in Social Forces, Vol. 61, No. 3 (March 1983), pp. 731-754.
- Ragin, C. (1997). “Turning the Tables: How Case-Oriented Research Challenges Variable-Oriented Research.” Comparative Social Research Vol. 16, 1997, pp. 27-42.
- Sartori, G. (1970). “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics,” American Political Science Review, December 1970.
- Sil, R. (2000). “The Division of Labor in Social Science Research: Unified Methodology or ‘Organic Solidarity,’” Polity Vol. 32, no. 4 (Summer, 2000) pp. 499-531.
- Tarrow, S. (1999) “Expanding Paired Comparison: A Modest Proposal,” APSA-CP Newsletter Summer 1999: 9-12.
- Taylor, C. (1988). “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man,” in Paul Rabinow and William Sullivan, Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look. University of California Press pp. 33-81.
- Thelen, K. (2003). “How Institutions Evolve: Insights from Comparative-Historical Analysis,” in Mahoney and Rueschemeyer, Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. Cambridge University Press.
- Waldner, D. (1998). State Building and Late Development. Cornell University Press. pp. 230-240.
- Yee, A. S. (1996). “Effects of Ideas on Policies.” International Organization vol. 50, No. 1. pp. 68-82.
- (“Validity and Reliability Issues in Elite Interviewing), pp. 665-682.
- Lieberman, E. (1995). “Nested Analysis as a Mixed-Method Strategy for Comparative Research,” American Political Science Review August 2005, pp. 435-52.
- Ragin C. (2004). “From Fuzzy Sets to Crisp Truth Tables.” Compasss Working Paper Series 2004:26
- Sagan S. (1993). The Limits of Safety. Princeton University Press. pp. 1-14, 45-52.
- King, G., Keohane, R. O., and Verba, S. (1994). Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton University Press. pp. 3-33, 46-48, 76-91, 99-114, 118-121, 124-149, 208-230.
- Dunning, T. (2010) “Design-Based Inference: Beyond the Pitfalls of Regression Analysis?” in Brady and Collier, pp. 273-312.
- Bennett A. (1999). Condemned to Repetition: The Rise, Fall, and Reprise of Soviet? Russian Military Interventionism 1973-1996. The MIT Press. pp. 12-29, 104-112.
- Symposium on interview methods in political science in PS: Political Science and Politics (2002). Articles by Leech, B. (“Asking Questions: Techniques for Semistructured Interviews), Goldstein, K. (“Getting in the Door: Sampling and Completing Elite Interviews”), Aberbach J., and Rockman B. (“Conducting and Coding Elite Interviews”), Woliver, L. (“Ethical Dilemmas in Personal Interviewing”), and Barry, J. (“Validity and Reliability Issues in Elite Interviewing), pp. 665-682, 163-175.
- Schultz, K. (2001). Democracy and Coercive Diplomacy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1-20, 120-122.
- Ann Shola Orloff, The Politics of Pensions: A Comparative Analysis of Britain, Canada, and the United States.
- Brian Downing, The Military Revolution and Political Change, pp. 1-18, 239-55
- Peter Evans, Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation
- Jack Goldstone, Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World
- Jeff Goodwin, States and Revolutionary Movements
- Peter Hall, Governing the Economy: The Politics of State Intervention in Britain and France, pp. 3-22, 229-284.
- Gregory Leubbert, Liberalism, Fascism, or Social Democracy (related to his article above)
- Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation
- Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disupted Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank Gaza, pp. 1-51, 439-53
- Paul Pierson, Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment
- Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work
- Dietrich Reuschemeyer and Evelyn and John Stephens, Capitalist Development and Democracy
- Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions
- Hendrik Spruyt, The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change
- Charles Tilly, The Formation of National States in Western Europe
- David Waldner, State Building and Late Development
- Timothy Wickham-Crowley, Guerillas and Revolution in Latin America
- Selections from Jaber Gubrium and James Holstein, eds., Handbook of Interview Research (Sage, 2002): Carol Warren, “Qualitative Interviewing,” pp. 83-101; John Johnson, “In-Depth Intervewing,” pp. 103-119; Patricia Adler and Peter Adler, “The Reluctant Respondent,” pp. 515-535; Teresa Odendahl and Aileen Shaw, “Interviewing Elites,” pp. 299-316; and Anne Ryen, “Cross-Cultural Interviewing,” pp. 335-54.
- Marc Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History (Princeton, 2006), esp. chapt. 5 on working with documents.
Students have the option of presenting a 3500 - 4000 word case study research design in the final sessions of the course on Friday for constructive critiques by course participants as well as the lecturers. Presumably, students will choose to present the research design for their PhD thesis, though students could also present a research design for a separate project, article, or edited volume. Research designs should address all of the following tasks (elaborated upon in the George-Bennett chapters in the assigned readings below):
- specification of the research problem and research objectives, in relation to the current stage of development and research needs of the relevant research program, related litteratures, and alternative explanations;
- specification of the independent and dependent variables of the main hypothesis of interest and alternative hypotheses;
- selection of a historical case or cases that are appropriate in light of the first two tasks, and justification of why these cases were selected and others were not;
- consideration of how variance in the variables can best be described for testing and/or refining existing theories;
- specification of the data requirements, including both process tracing data and measurements of the independent and dependent variables for the main hypotheses of interest, including alternative explanations.
For the students presenting their research designs, you do not actually need to prepare a presentation, since we will all read your research designs in advance. You may want to make a few very brief (one or two minutes at most) introductory remarks. These should focus on identifying the issues on which you would really like suggestions or feedback. The rest of the time (we will have about 30 minutes for each research design) will focus on suggestions from the other students and from the faculty member leading the session. During this time you should mostly take notes, and ask clarifying questions as necessary, rather than engaging in defending or discussing your design, as we want to maximize the feedback you get from everyone.
Students interested in presenting their research design on the final day of the course should submit a one-page summary of their research design. The deadline for submitting the summary is 10th of June. This will allow Bennett to provide initial feedback and schedule the research design presentations in the course.
Students also have the option of writing a 3500 to 4000 word essay within eight weeks after the course. However, students are strongly encouraged to present their research design paper on the final Friday of the course, rather than eight weeks after the course, to receive more immediate feedback and to hear feedback from fellow students as well as faculty.
Whether students write a research design for presentation in the final day of the course, or do so within eight weeks after the course, if the paper receives a passing grade the student will receive 8 ECTS.
Essential books for preparation to the course
Students must obtain and read these books in advance of the course. The two books marked with asterisk are first priority.
- *Alexander L. George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences, (MIT Press 2005).
- *Andrew Bennett and Jeffrey Checkel, eds., Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool, (Cambridge, 2014)
- Jason Seawright, Multi-Method Social Science: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Tools, (Cambridge, 2016)
- Gary Goertz, Social Science Concepts: A User’s Guide, (Princeton, 2005).
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.