Process tracing : defining the undefinable

In Harold Kincaid & Jeroen van Bouwel (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Political Science. Oxford University Press (2022)
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A good definition of process tracing should highlight what is distinctive about process tracing as a methodology of causal inference. I look at eight criteria that are used to define process tracing in the methodological literature, and I dismiss all eight criteria as unhelpful (some because they are too restrictive, and others because they are vacuous). In place of these criteria, I propose four alternative criteria, and I draw a distinction between process tracing for the ultimate aim of testing a start--end hypothesis versus process tracing as an ultimate end in itself. Although it is clear enough how the former method works, there is still much methodological work to be done in understanding the latter method as a distinctive method of causal inference, I argue.

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Christopher Clarke
Cambridge University


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