Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2010

Case Study Research Methods

Professor Andrew Bennett,
Department of Government,
Georgetown University, USA

Main disciplines: Political Science, Sociology, Research Methods

Dates: 2 - 6 August 2010
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants

The central goal of the seminar is to enable students to create and critique methodologically sophisticated case study research designs in the social sciences. To do so, the seminar will explore the techniques, uses, strengths, and limitations of case study methods, while emphasizing the relationships among these methods, alternative methods, and contemporary debates in the philosophy of science. The research examples used to illustrate methodological issues will be drawn primarily from international relations and comparative politics. The methodological content of the course is also applicable, however, to the study of history, sociology, education, business, economics, and other social and behavioral sciences.

The seminar will begin with a focus on the philosophy of science, theory construction, theory testing, causality, and causal inference. With this epistemological grounding, the seminar will then explore the core issues in case study research design, including methods of structured and focused comparisons of cases, typological theory, case selection, process tracing, and the use of counterfactual analysis. Next, the seminar will look at the epistemological assumptions, comparative strengths and weaknesses, and proper domain of case study methods and alternative methods, particularly statistical methods and formal modeling, and address ways of combining these methods in a single research project. The seminar then examines field research techniques, including archival research and interviews. 

Students have the option of presenting a 3,000 word case study research design in the concluding session(s) for constructive critiques by course participants as well as the lecturer. If only a few students choose to present research designs, we will critique the research designs of published books and articles. Presumably, students will choose to present the research design for their PhD or MA thesis, though students could also present a research design for a separate project, article, or edited volume. Research designs should address all of the following tasks (elaborated upon in the George-Bennett chapters in the assigned readings below): 1) specification of the research problem and research objectives, in relation to the current stage of development and research needs of the relevant research program, related literatures, and alternative explanations; 2) specification of the independent and dependent variables of the main hypothesis of interest and alternative hypotheses; 3) selection of a historical case or cases that are appropriate in light of the first two tasks, and justification of why these cases were selected and others were not; 4) consideration of how variance in the variables can best be described for testing and/or refining existing theories; 5) specification of the data requirements, including both process tracing data and measurements of the independent and dependent variables for the main hypotheses of interest, including alternative explanations.

Students also have the option or writing a 6,000 to 10,000 word essay within eight weeks after the course to receive a course certificate and earn credit for a PhD program. Students who fulfill this requirement with a passing grade will receive 10 points in their PhD account in the ECTS system.


Essential books for preparation to the course
Students should obtain and read these books in advance of the course.



Lecture 1:  Inferences About Causal Effects and Causal Mechanisms
This lecture addresses the philosophy of science issues relevant to case study research.



Lecture 2: Critiques and Justifications of Case Study Methods



Lecture 3: Concept Formation and Measurement



Lecture 4: Designs for Single and Comparative Case Studies


Brief Examples:


Lecture 5: Typological Theory, Fuzzy Set Analysis



Lecture 6: Process Tracing, Congruence Testing, and Counterfactual Analysis



Lecture 7: Multimethod Research: Combining Case Studies with Statistics and/or Formal Modeling



Lecture 8: Field Research Techniques: Archives, Interviews, and Surveys



Lecture 9 & 10: Student research design presentations
See the introduction for details.




The lecturer
Andrew Bennett earned his Ph.D. in Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1990. He has written about case study research methods, military intervention, foreign policy learning, alliance burden sharing, and American foreign policy.  His publications include Condemned to Repetition? The Rise, Fall, and Reprise of Soviet-Russian Military Interventionism 1973-1996 (1999), and, with Alexander L. George, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. He is President of the Consortium on Qualitative Research Methods, which sponsors an annual two-week institute on qualitative methods at Syracuse University each spring (Google “CQRM” for information on the institute), and a former president of the Qualitative Methods section of the American Political Science Association.  He teaches international relations theory, the U.S. foreign policy process, and qualitative research methods at Georgetown University. Professor Bennett is currently at work on a book examining how members of the Bush Administration, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, and pundits and academics who supported American intervention in Iraq explain why the intervention did not prove as easy or as successful as they had hoped.


Optional Additional Readings

Additional examples:

Brian Downing, The Military Revolution and Political Change, pp. 1-18, 239-55
Peter Evans, Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation
Jack Goldstone, Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World
Jeff Goodwin, States and Revolutionary Movements
Peter Hall, Governing the Economy: The Politics of State Intervention in Britain and France, pp. 3-22, 229-284.
Gregory Leubbert, Liberalism, Fascism, or Social Democracy (related to his article above)
Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation
Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disupted Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank?Gaza, pp. 1-51, 439-53
Ann Shola Orloff, The Politics of Pensions: A Comparative Analysis of Britain, Canada, and the United States
Paul Pierson, Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment
Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work
Dietrich Reuschemeyer and Evelyn and John Stephens, Capitalist Development and Democracy
Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions
Hendrik Spruyt, The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of Systems Change
Charles Tilly, The Formation of National States in Western Europe
David Waldner, State Building and Late Development
Timothy Wickham?Crowley, Guerillas and Revolution in Latin America

Selections from Jaber Gubrium and James Holstein, eds., Handbook of Interview Research (Sage, 2002): Carol Warren, “Qualitative Interviewing,” pp. 83-101; John Johnson, “In-Depth Intervewing,” pp. 103-119; Patricia Adler and Peter Adler, “The Reluctant Respondent,” pp. 515-535; Teresa Odendahl and Aileen Shaw, “Interviewing Elites,” pp. 299-316; and Anne Ryen, “Cross-Cultural Interviewing,” pp. 335-54.

Marc Trachtenberg, The Craft of International History (Princeton, 2006), esp. chapt. 5 on working with documents.

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