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Comparative Case Study Research
Course Description

The aims of this course consist in making students familiar with the basic rules of doing case study research that aims at drawing descriptive or causal inference with the goal of testing or developing theories. The definition of "case study research" used in this course comprises both comparative 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 political science publications that use a smaller-N comparative approach or a within-case approach and to design their own (comparative) case study research strategy. With its focus on drawing descriptive or causal inference based on systematic (qualitative or quantitative) empirical evidence, it is important to point out that this course is not about interpretivist, post-structuralist etc. understandings of doing "qualitative" research. Students interested in these important strands of political science literature are better served by taking the respective mandatory elective course offered at our department. Furthermore, while throughout the course we will read applied case studies and try to practice specific research tasks, this course does not focus on the 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 important needs.


The course proceeds as follows. In the beginning, we introduce some fundamentals of case study research that are relevant regardless of whether one is performing single or comparative case studies. In fact, most of these issues are so fundamental that they are relevant to any kind of empirical social research. In this part, we discuss different research goals (description vs. explanation; theory testing vs. theory developing; types of causes and how they can be inferred; scope conditions; concept formation strategies etc.). We then move on to the discussion of different types of cases and the analytic purposes that their intense study can and cannot serve. We focus on strategies of case selection and then move to comparative case studies. In the next sessions, we move from cross-case to a within-case perspective. Here we discuss the different logics of within-case analysis, with special focus on process tracing and a brief detour on Bayesian approaches. In the last week, we conclude the course with a session on how to graphically visualize findings from qualitative case studies and a wrap-up session.






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