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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Consortium on Qualitative Research Methods


The QMMR section is sponsoring six short courses at APSA’s annual meeting in San Francisco. The courses are scheduled to be held on Wednesday August 30th.

Please see below for the descriptions. Registration for the QMMR short courses is managed centrally by APSA, and can be accessed at:

If you have any questions about one or more of the short courses, please contact the instructors listed below. 


Instructors: Naazneen Barma, Naval Postgraduate School (; Ben Read, University of California, Santa Cruz (; Naunihal Singh, Air War College (

Fieldwork can be both daunting and exhilarating. Scholars generally learn it by doing it, yet there is much value in reflecting on the practices of veteran field researchers and talking through each other’s experiences. This course provides high-impact concepts, tips, and guidelines that participants can adapt and apply in their own research. It is based on the premise that designing research, collecting data, and analyzing data are overlapping and inter-dependent processes that begin before a scholar enters the field, continue while she is there, and extend beyond her return. Our approach to fieldwork is relevant to those using qualitative techniques (we give special attention to interviewing, which is near-ubiquitous among political scientists) as well as quantitative techniques such as surveys and experiments, and assume that many scholars will use multiple methods. Throughout, we provide strategies to help anticipate and address challenges such as (1) converting a research design into a “to get” list; (2) accessing elusive data and data sources; (3) evaluating data’s evidentiary value; (4) organizing and managing data; and (5) analyzing data both in and out of the field. Although fieldwork is usually associated with “studying politics abroad,” we discuss techniques that may be applied inside and outside the U.S. The course includes lecture, Q/A, and small-group components. Participants will also be directed to useful document templates, such as spreadsheets for organizing fieldwork, sample correspondence, etc. The course is valuable for students planning dissertation projects, for scholars who would like to develop or improve their fieldwork skills, and for those who teach classes on research methods.


Instructors: Diana Kapiszewski, Georgetown University (; Sebastian Karcher, Syracuse University (

This short course has three central goals. First, the course provides guidance to help scholars manage data through the research lifecycle. We show how participants can meet funders’ data-management requirements and improve their own research by creating a data management plan. We discuss strategies for effectively documenting data throughout the research process to enhance their value to those who generated them and to other scholars. We also provide practical advice on keeping data secure to protect against data loss as well as illicit access to sensitive data. Second, we consider the multiple benefits of sharing data, the various uses of shared data (e.g. for evaluating scholarly products, for secondary analysis, and for pedagogical purposes), the challenges involved in sharing qualitative research data (including copyright and human participants-related concerns), and various ways to address those challenges. Finally, we discuss transparency in qualitative research. Production transparency and analytic transparency facilitates the effective interpretation and evaluation of scholarly products. Production transparency is achieved by clearly describing how the information that underpins a study was collected and how data were generated from that information. Analytic transparency is achieved by clearly demonstrating how data and analysis support the empirical claims and inferences in published work in a manner appropriate to that work’s research design. We also introduce participants to ways to achieve production and analytic transparency in qualitative research, paying particular attention to work that uses narrative causal approaches supported by individual data sources.

SC11: PROCESS TRACING (QMMR 3)  9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Instructors: Andrew Bennett, Georgetown University ( and Tasha Fairfield, London School of Economics (

This course will cover the underlying logic and best practices of process tracing, which is a within-case method of developing and testing causal explanations of individual cases. The first session of the course will briefly summarize the philosophy of science behind explanation via reference to hypothesized causal mechanisms. It will then outline the logic of process tracing in terms of Bayesian methods of inference, including the application of “hoop tests,” “smoking gun tests,” “doubly decisive tests,” and “straw in the wind tests.” The second session of the course will focus on best practices and examples of process tracing, including the more inductive use of process tracing for theory development as well as its deductive use for theory testing. As time allows, and depending on the number of students, the instructors will ask students to outline briefly how they plan to use process tracing in their current research project. This will allow the instructors and fellow students to offer constructive advice on how best to carry out process tracing in each student’s project.

SC06: DESIGNING NATURAL EXPERIMENTS (QMMR 4)  1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Instructor: Daniel Hidalgo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

This course provides a practical and example-driven guide to the design and analysis of natural experiments. The course will emphasize the role of qualitative inquiry in the discovery of natural experiments and use of case knowledge in the justification of these designs’ core assumptions. Natural experiments typically depend on a deep qualitative understanding of how causal factors are assigned to units in the population of interest. This qualitative understanding is critical for both discovery and analysis of natural experiments, but how precisely to incorporate this type of data into a concrete research project is often overlooked in standard methodological texts and courses. Questions that will be addressed include: What types of qualitative data are most useful for strengthening natural experiments? What makes the use of qualitative evidence in a given application convincing? How can qualitative evidence be effectively presented in the context of a research article? How can we raise standards for the use of qualitative data in the design and analysis of natural experiments?

The course will begin with a presentation of the basic causal model and assumptions often employed in the design of natural experiments, but the bulk of the course will be structured around a detailed examination of the nuts and bolts of recent political science examples. The course will integrate hands-on analysis of real data with the conceptual material. In addition to the analysis of the quantitative data typically presented research articles, we will also examine the raw qualitative data that is often used in the discovery and justification of natural experiments. These exercises will involve the examination of primary source documents, interview transcripts, and archival sources.


Instructor: Ingo Rohlfing, University of Cologne (

Multimethod Research: Principles and implementation (QMMR 5) Set-theoretic multi-method research (MMR) is a novel approach aiming for the generation of integrated theory. It combines Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) that is mainly operating on the cross-case level with process tracing performed on the within-case level. In this short course, participants are familiarized with the principles and practices of set-theoretic MMR. Our focus rests on three issues: It is explained what types of single-case and comparative case studies are viable based on the results of a truth table analysis and what they are good for. The focus is on types of cases that are analyzed for improving the theoretical and causal model underlying the QCA study; Participants learn how the types of cases in set-theoretic MMR are related to the established inventory of cases and comparisons in qualitative research and nested analysis; We present formalized criteria for choosing the best available cases for process tracing. The presentation of fundamentals is combined with the discussion of their implementation and the introduction of the R package SetMethods. This package, among other things, assists empirical researchers in doing reproducible set-theoretic MMR. We use published studies to illustrate the principles of set-theoretic MMR and the operation of the package. After the course, participants will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to interpret and evaluate published set-theoretic MMR studies and have acquired the basic knowledge to implement their own multi-method analysis.

SC03: CAUSAL CASE STUDIES (QMMR 6)  1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Instructor: Derek Beach, University of Aarhus (

After more than two decades after the publication of Designing Social Inquiry (King, Keohane and Verba, 1994), the field of qualitative, case-based research methods has reached a level of maturity where it is no longer necessary to define case study methods purely in terms of how they differ from quantitative, variation-based methods. Increasingly, the debate has shifted towards defining the nature and uses of different causal case study methods on their own terms. This short course aims to exploring the state-of-the-art, focusing both on debates about the ontological and epistemological foundations of different case-based methods, along with developing a set of more practical guidelines for their use in alignment with different foundational assumptions. Three widely used case-based methods are discussed in this course are: small-n comparative methods, congruence methods, and process-tracing methods.

The goal of this course is twofold: 1) to provide participants with a better understanding of the debate about the logical foundations of different case study methods, in particular the different understandings of the nature of causal relationships that different method aim to analyze; and 2) to provide a set of practical guidelines that will enable scholars to utilize each of the causal case study methods in their own research that also enables their combination in logical consistent ways. The course exposes how case-based methods are similar and different to each other in ways that have not been widely recognized, both as regards their ontological and epistemological foundations relating to different types of causal relationships (counterfactuals or mechanisms), the research situations in which they can be utilized, and the guidelines and best practices for their use.


If you find these short course descriptions helpful, you may also be interested in some of the symposia in previous issues of the Section's newsletter, which may be accessed via this link.