Process tracing in political science: What's the story?

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 62:6-13 (2017)
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Methodologists in political science have advocated for causal process tracing as a way of providing evidence for causal mechanisms. Recent analyses of the method have sought to provide more rigorous accounts of how it provides such evidence. These accounts have focused on the role of process tracing for causal inference and specifically on the way it can be used with case studies for testing hypotheses. While the analyses do provide an account of such testing, they pay little attention to the narrative elements of case studies. I argue that the role of narrative in case studies is not merely incidental. Narrative does cognitive work by both facilitating the consideration of alternative hypotheses and clarifying the relationship between evidence and explanation. I consider the use of process tracing in a particular case (the Fashoda Incident) in order to illustrate the role of narrative. I argue that process tracing contributes to knowledge production in ways that the current focus on inference tends to obscure.



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Sharon Crasnow
Riverside Community College

Citations of this work

Narrative ordering and explanation.Mary S. Morgan - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 62:86-97.
‘If p? Then What?’ Thinking within, with, and from cases.Mary S. Morgan - 2020 - History of the Human Sciences 33 (3-4):198-217.
Exemplification and the use-values of cases and case studies.Mary S. Morgan - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 78 (C):5-13.
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Mechanism-based theorizing and generalization from case studies.Petri Ylikoski - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 78 (C):14-22.

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