CfP@ECPR-METHODS: Making sense of Time in Case Studies and Small-N Methods (26/ 27 May 2016 University of Southern Denmark)

Comparative scholars have long been concerned with making causal inference in a temporal context. It can even be claimed that ‘[c]ausal inference and the logic of historical explanation are grounded in

temporality‘ (Grzymala-Busse, 2011). Systematically observing temporal processes can be a powerful tool in making causal inferences in process tracing (Beach & Pedersen, 2012; Bennett & Checkel, 2014; Rohlfing, 2012). Moreover, comparative historical analysis in the social sciences has been concerned with theoretical questions concerning historical contingency, path dependence and long-term transformative change for years (Mahoney, Kimball, & Koivu, 2009; Pierson, 2004; Streeck & Thelen, 2005). Focusing on historically contingent outcomes makes temporality, sequence and timing crucial components of scholars’ methodological toolkits.

Questions of time also touch upon crucial unresolved methodological issues. How can dynamic processes be captured in classical so-called small-N comparative designs (e.g. Mill’s methods, deviant cases) and with set-theoretic methods such as fsQCA (Caren & Panofsky, 2005; Rihoux, 2006)? What constitutes a causal process observation (Collier et al, 2010) and how can we distinguish merely temporal from causal chains of events? In other words, when and how does ‘one damn thing after another’ become a causal mechanism (Waldner, 2012) ? Can case selection techniques, which are often implicitly based on organizational or spatial distinctions, be made more sensitive to issues of temporality?

Yet other questions are of interdisciplinary concern, perhaps bridging the divide between history and social science. What is the place of narrative in explanation (Abell, 2004; Bates, Greif, Levi, Rosenthal, & Weingast, 1998; Büthe, 2002; Capoccia & Kelemen, 2007; Tilly, 1999)? How can case study and small-N research harness notions of historical periodization for comparison and causal inference (Lieberman, 2001; Rueschemeyer & Stephens, 1997)? Similarly, how does the study of temporality inform mixed-methods approaches?


Christoph Nguyen
Centre for Welfare State Research
University of Southern Denmark

Peter Starke
Associate Professor
Centre for Welfare State Research
University of Southern Denmark


Confirmed Speakers

Ingo Rohlfing University of Bremen and Derek Beach, Aarhus University



In this workshop, we aim to discuss these and related questions on time and temporality in comparative research. The main focus will be placed on the methodological and conceptual challenges of “taking time seriously” in comparative research. A specific emphasis will be placed on new lenses and techniques that address these challenges. We welcome both methodological papers and innovative applications of methods to empirical questions. Welfare state related themes are welcome, but not required.


Abstract submission

Contributions are welcome from any discipline relevant to these questions and from PhD students to established scholars. A brief abstract should be submitted to by 11 March 2016. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words. You will be notified on acceptance of your paper by 1 April 2016. We will be able to co-finance travel and accommodation costs (within reasonable limits).


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