Causality in qualitative research – ONLINE

Causality in qualitative research – ONLINE

  • 18/06/2021
    9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Course details

qualitative course | level: beginner | register now
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affiliation: KU Leuven


A long-standing thorny issue in small-n qualitative research is how to make claims about causality. According to some critics of qualitative research, it is even impossible to make causal claims without looking for (co-)variation in independent and dependent variables in a large number of cases. In this seminar, we will discuss ways to convincingly make causal claims based on single or comparative case studies.

In order to demonstrate the strengths of small-n qualitative research in making causal claims, this seminar will use the process-tracing methodology as an example. However, the insights and techniques gained through this seminar will also be useful for students doing other types of small-n qualitative research. More specifically, the seminar will focus on the following stages of qualitative research: conceptualization of a causal relationship; operationalization of a theoretical mechanism; collecting evidence and; evaluating evidence in light of the research question and the state of the literature.

In the morning session of this workshop, students will get an introduction into the key debates about causality in qualitative research as well as into the key steps in designing small-n qualitative research in order to convincingly test causal claims. Process-tracing will be used as one particular single case study method that allows a researcher to make and test causal claims, but it will be explained how its underlining philosophy can be applied in other types of qualitative research at well.

In the afternoon session of this workshop, participants will make a number of exercises applying the key steps in explanatory qualitative research covered in the morning session. Students will as much as possible be given the opportunity to use their own research project in these exercises. For this purpose, participants are invited to submit questions related to their project prior to the workshop.


The language of instruction and communication in this seminar is English, unless all participants understand Dutch. The number of participants is limited to 15.

Background readings


Phd’s and post-docs of a Flemish University: free
Other Academics: €60
Non-profit/social sector: €100
Private sector: €200




Prof. Dr. Ferdi De Ville

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