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Process Tracing

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Jan Simonson Hoefnagels

on 4 November 2015

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Transcript of Process Tracing

Process tracing in a nutshell
"Process tracing [...] identifies a
causal chain
that links independent and dependent variables."
George and Bennett 2005; Odell 2006, in Checkel, 2009: 115.
Process Tracing
Analytical Assignment
Olivia Ball, Annelies Mudde,
Jan Simonson Hoefnagels and Roger Tosbotn

How to properly employ process tracing in order to analyze events in complex political environments?
Contextualizing the chain of events and causal mechanisms at work.
Thirteen Days' Key Actors
John F.
, President, USA

, Special
Assistant to the President, USA

Chiefs of Staff

(Chairman, Navy, Air Force), USA

, Secretary
of Defense, USA

, Attorney General, USA

, Ambassador
to the United Nations, USA

, Secretary of the USSR

, KGB Agent, USSR
Thirteen Days' Process Map
Extended Process Map of the Crisis
Extended List of Actors
Process Tracing's Advantages
Process Tracing's Pitfalls
How to overcome such pitfalls
"Epistemologically, process tracing is compatible with a positivist [...] understanding of a causation in linear terms."
Checkel, 2009: 116.
Triangulation with other research methods
Case Study
: Look at the specificity of the key critical junctures of the process.
E.g. Looking at the Bay of Pigs invasion, Latin America revolutionary movements, etc.

Psychological Analysis
: process tracing relies heavily on key decisions made by decision-makers during critical junctures of the crisis - what is their background?

Archival Research
: Need to look at the available sources from each perspective.
E.g. Lack of Soviet and Cuban primary sources.

Contextualize the issue in order to
see the broader picture.

John F.
, President, USA

Chiefs of Staff
(Chairman, Navy, Air Force), USA

, Secretary of Defense, USA

Robert 'Bobby'
, Attorney General, USA

, Ambassador to
the United Nations, USA

, Secretary of the USSR
Complements Other Methods

Practical: quick comparison with other studies in the field

Causal chains and links therein may unravel new research questions

Uncover the step in which causes affect outcomes (Dur, 2008)

Insight into the events via interviews (Dur, 2008)

Researchers know when there is 'enough data' (Checkel, 2009: 121)

Focused timeframe
Limited timeframe: losing sight of the broader structural context (Checkel, 2009: 124)

Easily biased

Hard to develop a generalizable and parsimonious theory (Dur, 2008: 564-5; Checkel, 2009: 123)

Reliance on hear-say: "participant observation [is] not an option." (Checkel 2009, 122; Dur, 2008: 563)
Discussion Questions
1. Is triangulation necessary when using process tracing?

2. Is process tracing the best method to study the Cuban missile crisis? What other methods could be used, and why?
Cuban Missile Crisis Timeline
Roger Donaldson, 2000
Aleksandr Fomin, KGB Agent, USSR

Hardline Faction in Politburo, USSR

Fidel Castro, State Leader, Cuba

Raul Castro, Defense Minister, Cuba

Ted Sorensen, speechwriter, USA

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), USA

International actors: Warsaw Pact, NATO,
Organization of American Nations.
Picture Game: Identifying Our Own Biases
Allison, G. 2008. The Cuban Missile Crisis in
Foreign Policy - Theories, Actors, Cases
. Smith, S. Hadfield, A. and Dunne, T. eds. Oxford: OUP.

Brenner, P. Turning History of its Head. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsaarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/brenner

Checkel, J.T. 2009. Process Tracing in
Qualitative Methods in International Relations
. Klotz, Audie. Prakash, Deepa. eds. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave MacMillian.

Donaldson, R. 2001.
Thirteen Days
. Walt Studios HE.

Dur, A. 2008. Measuring Interest Group Influence in the EU: A Note on Methodology.
European Union Politics
9(4): 559-576.

F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, http:microsites.jfklibrary.org/cmc/oct20/doc1.html

Garthoff, R. L.. (1988). Cuban Missile Crisis: The Soviet Story. Foreign Policy, (72), 61–80
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