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Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 21 June 2024

Multicausality and Equifinalitylocked

Multicausality and Equifinalitylocked

  • Johann Wolfschwenger
  •  and Kevin L. Young


This chapter evaluates multicausality and equifinality, which refer to a research situation whereby an outcome is explained by more than one causal factor. The term ‘equifinality’ stems from systems analysis, and refers to a situation in which ‘the same final state may be reached from different initial conditions and in different ways’. ‘Equifinality’ also appears in related disciplines such as psychology, archaeology, or environmental studies, while ‘multicausality’ is often used in literature on social science methodology. Ultimately, multicausality and equifinality are important reasons why social phenomena are particularly challenging to study. Multicausality and equifinality are often explored by research traditions and methods of social inquiry that approach causal processes through a ‘causes-of-effects’ approach, rather than an ‘effect-of-causes’ approach.

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