Review: Andrew Bennett & Jeffrey T. Checkel (Eds.) (2015). Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool

  • Felix Anderl Goethe University Frankfurt
Keywords: process tracing, research design, causal mechanisms, textbook, international relations, positivist approaches, interpretive approaches

Abstract

In this review, I argue that this textbook edited by BENNETT and CHECKEL is exceptionally valuable in at least four aspects. First, with regards to form, the editors provide a paragon of how an edited volume should look: well-connected articles "speak to" and build on each other. The contributors refer to and grapple with the theoretical framework of the editors who, in turn, give heed to the conclusions of the contributors. Second, the book is packed with examples from research practice. These are not only named but thoroughly discussed and evaluated for their methodological potential in all chapters. Third, the book aims at improving and popularizing process tracing, but does not shy away from systematically considering the potential weaknesses of the approach. Fourth, the book combines and bridges various approaches to (mostly) qualitative methods and still manages to provide abstract and easily accessible standards for making "good" process tracing. As such, it is a must-read for scholars working with qualitative methods. However, BENNETT and CHECKEL struggle with fulfilling their promise of bridging positivist and interpretive approaches, for while they do indeed take the latter into account, their general research framework remains largely unchanged by these considerations. On these grounds, I argue that, especially for scholars in the positivist camp, the book can function as a "how-to" guide for designing and implementing research. Although this may not apply equally to interpretive researchers, the book is still a treasure chest for them, providing countless conceptual clarifications and potential pitfalls of process tracing practice.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1503187

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Author Biography

Felix Anderl, Goethe University Frankfurt

Felix ANDERL is a research associate at the chair of International Relations and Theories of Global Orders, Goethe University Frankfurt. He works in a DFG-funded project on the global justice movement and currently writes his PhD on the World Bank's reactions to protest.

Published
2015-09-01
Section
FQS Reviews