Comparative Case Study Research

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

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Course Description: 

The aims of this course consist in making students familiar with the basic rules of doing casestudy research that aims at drawing descriptive or causal inference with the goal of testing ordeveloping theories. The definition of ”case study research” used in this course comprises bothcomparative and single case studies and it can be situated at the cross-case and at the within-case level. The course will help students to evaluate the methodological merits of those politicalscience publications that use a smaller-N comparative approach or a within-case approach andto design their own (comparative) case study research strategy. With its focus on drawing descriptive or causal inference based on systematic (qualitative or quantitative) empirical evi-dence, it is important to point out that this course is not about interpretivist, post-structuralistetc. understandings of doing ”qualitative” research. Students interested in these importantstrands of political science literature are better served by taking the respective mandatory elec-tive course offered at our department. Furthermore, while throughout the course we will readapplied case studies and try to practice specific research tasks, this course does not focus onthe hands-on principles and practices of data collection, such as interviewing, archival research,field work etc. Again, other courses offered at the department are catering to these importantneeds.The course proceeds as follows. In the beginning, we introduce some fundamentals of casestudy research that are relevant regardless of whether one is performing single or comparativecase studies. In fact, most of these issues are so fundamental that they are relevant to anykind of empirical social research. In this part, we discuss different research goals (descriptionvs. explanation; theory testing vs. theory developing; types of causes and how they can beinferred; scope conditions; concept formation strategies etc.). We then move on to the discussionof different types of cases and the analytic purposes that their intense study can and cannotserve. We focus on strategies of case selection and then move to comparative case studies. Inthe next sessions, we move from cross-case to a within-case perspective. Here we discuss thedifferent logics of within-case analysis, with special focus on process tracing and a brief detouron Bayesian approaches. In the last week, we conclude the course with a session on how tographically visualize findings from qualitative case studies and a wrap-up session.

Learning Outcomes: 

During the course work, students are asked to write one take-home paper, take multiple quizzes,and to actively participate during in-class discussions and group work. The take-home paper isexpected to help develop the ability to synthesize the information gathered from the mandatoryreadings, determine a focus point, and to develop a coherent line of argumentation. The quizzesaim at solidifying the knowledge on concepts, procedures, and practices addressed during thevideo lectures and the mandatory readings. The emphasis on in-class participation and collectivereading and commenting on the mandatory readings is meant to foster the skills of expressinginformative reflections ’on the spot’, to decrease potential fears of speaking in front of others,and to engage with the input provided by fellow students.



Grade composition for MA students

Participation (in class and/or on Perusall)15%

Group exercises 20%


Final exam paper45%

The grading follows the standard scale adopted by Central European University:

A: 100-96; A-: 95-88; B+: 87-80; B: 79-71; B-: 70-63; C+: 62-58; F: 57-0 


Students who audit the class are expected to be present at all sessions, to do the mandatoryreadings, and to actively participate in class discussions. Auditing students do not have tosubmit any written assignment.

Late submission:

In case of late submissions, three grade points from the final grade of the assignment arededucted for every 12 hours of delay. For instance, submitting 15 hours late leads to a deductionof six points.

Word-limit violation

A violation consists in writing more words than the upper limit or less than the lower limit.In case of violations of word limits, one grade point from the final grade of the assignmentis deducted for every 5% of word limit violation. For instance, if the lower limit is 3000 andsomebody writes 2400 words (= 20% below word limit), four points are deducted.