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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: 02 December 2021

p. 219Process Tracing

Tracing the Causal Pathways between Independent and Dependent Variableslocked

p. 219Process Tracing

Tracing the Causal Pathways between Independent and Dependent Variableslocked

  • Jochem Rietveld
  •  and Seda Gürkan

Abstract

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.

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