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.