Process Tracing Case Study Methods

Derek Beach, University of Aarhus


 The aim of this course is to introduce process tracing case study methods, enabling participants to use them in for their own research. At the core of process tracing is the in-depth analysis of causal mechanisms (process) and how mechanisms function in real-world cases. Process tracing therefore attempts to unpack and study the arrow that links causes and outcomes together in causal models, shedding light on how things work. The course will discuss process tracing’s relative strengths and limitations, and how the method can be combined productively with other methods in multi-method designs.

The course develops the two core elements of process-tracing, focusing first on the theory-side by assessing what we are actually 'tracing' using process-tracing methods (causal mechanisms), and second, how we are able to make evidence-based causal inferences using within-case, 'mechanistic' evidence. The final session deals with how process-tracing can be combined with other case-based designs like small-n comparative methods.


This course runs January 22-26, 2018.


Natália Calfat


The course is intended for participants who have some knowledge of case-based methods. Ideally, participants should be mid-stage in a research project, enabling you to draw on theories and empirics from your own research to be refined during the course.

The core of the readings will be a 2016 book on causal case studies co-authored by the instructor.

The course covers the following topics:

- Day 1 – what is process tracing actually tracing?

- Day 2 – how can we make inferences in process tracing research?

- Day 3 – evaluating evidence

- Day 4 - case selection and process tracing

- Day 5 - designing process tracing research in practice

The course will contain lectures and discussions in the morning sessions, followed by group exercises in the afternoons. Many of the exercises will utilize aspects of your own research projects. 


Each student should arrive at the summer school with a 3-5 page description of their research question and tentative research design which will be presented and discussed during the course. The Process Tracing course is for participants who have either followed the Basics of causal case studies or have working experience with using case studies and knowledge of recent developments in case-based methods. 




Online Applications will be received starting May 15, 2017.
Applications are due by October 9, 2017.
Notifications of acceptances will be sent by October 16, 2017.
Applicants must pay registration fee by November 3, 2017.