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

Process Tracing  

Tracing the Causal Pathways between Independent and Dependent Variables

Jochem Rietveld and Seda Gürkan

This chapter illustrates process-tracing (PT), which is a qualitative within-case data analysis technique used to identify causal relations. Although there are several distinct definitions of the PT method, scholars largely agree that the process-tracing method attempts to identify the intervening causal process (or the causal chain or causal mechanism) between an independent variable and the dependent variable. The PT method can be used for theory testing and theory-building. When it is applied to theory testing, a hypothetical causal mechanism is tested against empirical evidence. The research goal is to test whether a theorized mechanism is present in a given case, or whether the mechanism functions as expected in the selected case. When tracing is applied to theory-building, the goal is to identify causal processes for which there is no available prior theoretical hypothesis in the literature. Here, the aim of the research is to develop theory.

Chapter

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

Regression Analysis  

Kamil Marcinkiewicz and Kai-Uwe Schnapp

This chapter evaluates regression analysis, which uses quantitative and sometimes also qualitative independent variables to explain or predict change in a quantitative dependent variable. To attain this goal, it relies on the principles of covariance and correlation. Its most basic form is linear regression, also known as ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. In addition, there are many other varieties of regression methods for different research questions and data characteristics, such as time-oriented questions or data with a limited range of values. Researchers use regression analysis especially to analyse complex patterns of correlation in situations with more than one explanatory variable. Often such patterns are interpreted in the context of causal theories. The concept of regression goes back to Francis Galton’s study on human height.