Case Study Analysis

I have taken research methods courses before, but this one was much more helpful. — participant from Singapore

The aim of this course is to provide participants with a set of methodological tools that enable them to use small-n case study methods in their own research. A constant theme throughout the course will be on debating the strengths and limitations of different small-n methods, illustrating the types and scopes of inferences that are possible, and whether and how they can be nested into mixed-methods research designs.

To fully benefit from this course, participants should be in the early to mid-stages of their research with their research question already defined.


This course was offered in 2012.


Derek Beach (picture), Aarhus University

Detailed Description

The course starts by introducing the debate on whether there is a divide between quantitative, large-n and qualitative, small-n methods. This is followed by sessions on working with concepts and theories and discussions about case selection principles in different case study methods. We discuss causal inferences and causal relationships in small-n methods, how we can develop strong empirical tests of our causal theories, and how existing tests can be improved. The comparative and Bayesian logics of inference are introduced, showing how they differ from the frequentist logic of large-n research.

The course then turns to individual case study methods, including cross-case, comparative research designs (i.e., Mill's methods, structured-focused comparisons, typological theorization) and such within-case methods as congruence/pattern-matching, and process tracing. Particular emphasis will be given to process tracing as a core case study method that enables the research to open up the black box between a cause and outcome by tracing causal mechanisms.

In the final part of the course, we discuss different case selection strategies and debate when and how small-n studies can be nested into mixed-methods designs.


While there are no formal prerequisites for this course, participants are encouraged to arrive with a 2-3 page description of their research question and tentative research design that can be presented and discussed during study group sessions and turned into a 5-7 page research design paper over the course of the Methods School.


Participants are expected to bring a WiFi-enabled laptop computer. Access to data, temporary licenses for the course software, and installation support will be provided by the Methods School.

Core Readings

George, Alexander L., and Andrew Bennett. 2005. Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Beach, Derek, and Rasmus Brun Pedersen. 2013. Process Tracing: Foundations and Guidelines. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Suggested Readings

King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry. Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., Henry E. Brady, and David Collier, eds. 2010. The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goertz, Gary. 2006. Social Science Concepts. A User's Guide. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.