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Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (Advanced methodology course – collection, treatment and analysis of data)

Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (Advanced methodology course – collection, treatment and analysis of data)
Master programme in
Global Studies * / International Development Studies * / Business studies * / Social Entrepreneurship and Management * / International Public Administration and Politics * / Politics and Administration * / Public Administration * / Business Administration and Leadership * / Business Administration and Leadership / Global and Development Studies / International Politics and Governance / Public Administration / Social Entrepreneurship and Management / Business Administration and Leadership / European Master in Global Studies
Type of activity


Teaching language
Study regulation
Number of participants
Responsible for the activity
Kim Sass Mikkelsen (ksass@ruc.dk)
Head of study
Carina Saxlund Bischoff (carinasb@ruc.dk)
Study administration
ISE Registration & Exams (ise-exams@ruc.dk)
Exam code(s)
Overall objective

Overall objective An advanced course in social scientific methodology aims to equip students to competently select and apply a given method for the collection, treatment and analysis of data, for the purpose of illuminating an academic problem. The course enables students to argue for the applicability and relevance of the method to the problem, and to master the techniques of the method at a professional level.

Detailed description of content

In depth studies of one or a few cases are indispensable tools for the study of international politics and governance. This course introduces intermediate to advanced techniques for doing case studies of organisations, countries, events, and other macro and meso level phenomena. It does so with a particular emphasis on the study of causal mechanisms – providing techniques for developing and testing arguments about processes leading to outcomes of interest empirically.

In the course, students are introduced to the central notion that causation can be thought of as a system of parts which together comprise causal mechanisms linking one or more conditions to their associated outcomes. For instance, democracy is widely believed to cause peace through a mechanism involving agitation by liberal elites against war and institutional constraints on government. Following on this notion, students expand their existing knowledge of a series of techniques – including process tracing, congruence analysis, and small-n comparisons – that can help develop and test mechanisms for their projects.

Central questions of the course include: How can we conceptualize a causal mechanism for a particular research question? How can we best select cases to examine such a mechanism? How can we utilize case knowledge and evidence to examine mechanisms empirically? And what role do quick pattern matching and comparisons play in doing so?

The techniques taught in the course are applicable to any research question with an interest in examining empirical relationships in the real world. Whether theories and mechanisms centre on incentives, norms, ideas, structures, actors, or combinations of these is immaterial, so long as the implications of those theories are possible to examine empirically.

Course material and Reading list

The course syllabus consists partly of methodological writings about core case study themes such as understanding causal mechanisms, using evidence, and case selection; partly of a series of exemplary case studies from a variety of academic literatures. Students must purchase Derek Beach and Rasmus Pedersen’s Causal Case Study Methods (cited below) ahead of the course.

Examples of readings include:

Beach, D. and Pedersen, R.B., (2016). Causal case study methods: Foundations and guidelines for comparing, matching, and tracing. University of Michigan Press (can be purchased in the campus bookstore).

Brast, Benjamin. (2015) 'The Regional Dimension of Statebuilding Interventions'. International Peacekeeping 22(1): 81-99.

Rohlfing, I. and Zuber, C.I., 2021. Check your truth conditions! Clarifying the relationship between theories of causation and social science methods for causal inference. Sociological Methods & Research, 50(4), pp.1623-1659.

Waldner, D., Cyr, J., Koivu, K. and Goertz, G., 2019. Review symposium: multimethod research, causal mechanisms, and case studies. European Political Science, 18(1), pp.157-169.

Overall plan and expected work effort

The course gives 5 ECTS points, corresponding to an expectation that students spend 135 hours in relation to it.

The course comprises 8 double sessions.

It is expected that students have read and worked on syllabus materials prior to each session. It is expected that students will spend around 90 hours on this work.

The exam is an oral exam based on a short, written synopsis in which students present their own causally oriented case study design. Some of the work on this synopsis is done through exercises throughout the semester. The expectation is that work on the exam will total 25 hours, including preparation.

Teaching sessions depart from readings and short lectures by the teaching team. Sessions can include the following elements:

Questions for the teaching team related to the session’s readings.

Lectures by the teaching team explaining and expanding on course materials for the session

Exercises in ad hoc groups based on discussions of exemplary case studies included in the syllabus

Brief individual writing exercises in class, reflecting on a theme presented during the session or working on students’ own causally oriented case study design.

Common discussions of syllabus materials, group work, or individual writing exercises.

In-class exercises are small sets of questions concerning syllabus or other materials provided by the teaching team. Examples might include discussing the design of a published case study or the applicability of a particular technique to a particular research question.

Writing exercies are short analyses conducted in class, in which students are asked to think and write for a few minutes on a topic related to the content of the session – for instance how a technique might apply to the design they are planning to submit for the exam.

Evaluation and feedback

The activity are evaluated regularly regarding the study board evaluation procedure. The activity responsible will be orientated about a potential evaluation of the activity at semesterstart. Se link to the study board evaluation praxis here https://intra.ruc.dk/nc/for-ansatte/organisering/raadnaevn- og-udvalg/oversigt-over-studienaevn/studienaevn-for-internationale-studier/arbejdet-medkvalitet- i-uddannelserne/


The plan for each course session is available on the course Moodle site.

Overall learning outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Explain and assess, using appropriate terminology, the advantages and disadvantages of collecting and analysing data using the given methodology

  • Apply the given method confidently and independently to a specific academic issue

  • Reflect on research ethical issues relating to the method

  • Communicate the results obtained through the application of the method in an academically precise manner.

Form of examination
Individual oral exam based on a written product.

The character limit of the written product is 2,400-4,800 characters, including spaces.
The character limits include the cover, table of contents, bibliography, figures and other illustrations, but exclude any appendices.

Time allowed for exam including time used for assessment: 25 minutes.
The assessment is an overall assessment of the written product(s) and the subsequent oral examination.

Permitted support and preparation materials for the oral exam: Course material and own notes.

Assessment: 7-point grading scale.
Moderation: Internal co-assessor.
Form of Re-examination
Samme som ordinær eksamen / same form as ordinary exam
Type of examination in special cases
Examination and assessment criteria

After the course, students are expected to have the ability to...

Assess and discuss advantages and disadvantages of causally oriented case study designs.

Independently build and communicate causally oriented case study designs, including working existing theory into a viable causal mechanism.

Compare and discuss the utility of different variants of causally oriented case study designs for concrete research questions.

Discuss and assess the impact of case selection, data quality, and data availability on the strengths and weaknesses of particular causally oriented case study designs.

Exam code(s)
Exam code(s) : U60387
Last changed 06/03/2023

lecture list:

Show lessons for Subclass: 1 Find calendar (1) PDF for print (1)

Friday 10-02-2023 12:15 - 10-02-2023 14:00 in week 06
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 24-02-2023 12:15 - 24-02-2023 14:00 in week 08
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 03-03-2023 12:15 - 03-03-2023 14:00 in week 09
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 10-03-2023 12:15 - 10-03-2023 14:00 in week 10
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 17-03-2023 12:15 - 17-03-2023 14:00 in week 11
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 31-03-2023 12:15 - 31-03-2023 14:00 in week 13
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 14-04-2023 12:15 - 14-04-2023 14:00 in week 15
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 21-04-2023 12:15 - 21-04-2023 14:00 in week 16
Causally Orientated Case Study Methods (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Thursday 01-06-2023 10:00 - 01-06-2023 10:00 in week 22
Casually Orientated Case Study Methods - Submission of assignment (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Wednesday 14-06-2023 08:15 - Friday 16-06-2023 18:00 in week 24
Casually Orientated Case Study Methods - Oral exam (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 04-08-2023 10:00 - 04-08-2023 10:00 in week 31
Casually Orientated Case Study Methods - Resubmission of assignment (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)

Friday 11-08-2023 08:15 - 11-08-2023 18:00 in week 32
Casually Orientated Case Study Methods - Oral reexam (BAL, GDS, IPG, PF, VL)