Colchester, United Kingdom

Process Tracing Methods

online course
when 5 February 2024 - 9 February 2024
language English
duration 1 week
credits 4 EC
fee GBP 492

"Learn about when process tracing can be used and how it can be applied most effectively. Experience the key aspects of process tracing through practical, hands-on advice and techniques that can be applied in your own research project.

Need to know
Prior knowledge about the fundamentals of research design and (and an introduction to) qualitative research is recommended but not required.

Each course includes pre-course assignments as well as daily online seminar-type lectures totalling at least three hours. The instructor will conduct live Q&A sessions and offer designated office hours for one-to-one consultations.

In depth
Key topics covered
Day 1: Foundations of Process Tracing Methodology
The first part of the course focuses on the fundamental characteristics of process tracing methodology. You will be provided with the opportunity to discuss the ontological and epistemological foundations of the method, how process tracing differs from typical large N quantitative, frequentist methods and how it is related to other types of qualitative research methods (such as discourse analysis, congruence analysis and Qualitative Comparative Analysis). You will learn about the different types of process tracing and when they can be applied.

Day 2: Causal Mechanism: the Core of Process Tracing
On the second day, you will explore how a causal mechanism can be best defined in order to be used in a process tracing design, and how such a mechanism should be conceptualised and operationalised in a way that can be studied empirically. You will examine how mechanisms differ from other types of causal theorization.

Day 3: Case Selection in Process Tracing
In the third part of the course, you will study the characteristics of cases that are required in order to apply a process tracing methodology: which cases are (not) suitable to use in a process tracing research design? You will learn how process tracing can be embedded in a multi- and mixed-method research design.

Day 4: Collection and Evaluation of Evidence
The fourth day is dedicated to the collection and use of evidence in a process tracing research design: how can inferences be made using mechanistic evidence following the operationalisation of mechanisms by utilising Bayesian logic. You will deepen your understanding of how the strength of the empirical evidence can be assessed.

Day 5: Process Tracing in Practice
During the final day of the course, your research will take central stage. You will examine how process tracing can be applied in the research projects of fellow participants, and what the main pitfalls are in the development of a process tracing design. You will have the opportunity to explore contemporary debates on empirical tests and practical challenges of process tracing.

How the course will work online
The course uses a combination of pre-class assignments, such as readings and watching pre-recorded videos, as well as daily interactive live sessions on an online platform. This also includes small-group work, short, focused tasks and troubleshooting exercises to ensure engagement with the course content."

Course leader

Wouter Wolfs is a Lecturer and Senior Researcher at the Public Governance Institute of the KU Leuven. His research is focused on EU politics, political finance, the organisation of political parties and parliaments, and legislative capacity-building. He i

Target group

The course is designed for researchers, professional analysts, advanced students.

Course aim

"This course will provide an overview of the rationale and application of process tracing methodology, and give you the required knowledge and tools to use the methodology in your own research. Process tracing is a particularly suitable method to study causal mechanisms, i.e. how a trigger leads to a specific outcome, and allows us to open up the ‘black box’ of causality.

By the end of this course, you will have required insight into when process tracing can be used and how it can be applied most effectively. The aim is to introduce you to the key aspects of process tracing through practical, hands-on advice and techniques that can be applied in your own research project. You will gain the practical research skills needed to guide you through the steps to develop a process tracing research design. The course therefore requires active participation, and you’ll get most benefit from it if you can use parts of your own research in the exercises."

Credits info

4 EC
"You can earn up to four credits for attending this course.
3 ECTS credits – Attend 100% of live sessions and engage fully with class activities.
4 ECTS credits – Attend 100% of live sessions, engage fully with class activities and complete a post-class assignment."

Fee info

GBP 492: ECPR Member - check if your institution is a member on our website.
GBP 985: ECPR Non-Member


Funding applications for the 2024 ECPR Methods School Winter instalment are now closed. For more details on funding opportunities for ECPR's other events, please visit our website.