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Event: Workshop: Qualitative Research and Causal Inference

Event date December 03, 2015 - December 04, 2015
Location Copenhagen, Denmark
Host(s) University of Copenhagen Amager
Event website/information For further information contact Julie Zahle -

The Helsinki-Copenhagen Colloquium in Evidence in Social Inquiry

Workshop #4:  Qualitative Research and Causal Inference

December 3-4 2015

Venue: 27.0.17 University of Copenhagen Amager

Organizers: Julie Zahle, Rasmus Helles, and Petri Ylikoski



Thursday December 3

9:00   – 9:15                                   Introduction and welcome to the workshop

9:15 – 10:15                                    Mary Morgan (Department of Economic History, LSE): Narrative Ordering and Criteria for Inference Within the Case

10:15 – 11:15                                Derek Beach (Department of Political Science, Aarhus University): Making causal inferences with mechanistic within-case evidence using process-tracing case studies

11:15 – 11:30                                Coffee and Tea

11:30 – 12:30                                Petri Ylikoski (Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki): Causal scenarios and causal mechanism schemes

12:30 – 13:30                                Lunch

13:30 – 14:30                                Jaakko Kuorikoski (Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki): Mechanisms, process tracing, and severe testing


Friday December 4

9:15 – 10:15                               Erik Weber (Department of Philosophy, University of Ghent): Quantitative vs. Qualitative Methods in Criminology

10:15 – 11:15                                Jan Faye (Section of Philosophy, MEF, University of Copenhagen): How pattern

 analysis may be a guide to qualitative causal inferences

11:15 – 11:30                                Coffee and Tea

11:30 – 12:30                                Rosa Runhardt (Department of Philosophy, King’s College London): Causal Evidence for What? The Qualitative-Quantitative Debate in International Relations

12:30 – 13:30                                Lunch

13:30 – 14:30                                Concluding discussion



It is a commonplace to think that qualitative research methods do not allow causal conclusions. For example, many qualitative researchers regard their methods as focused on interpretive rather than explanatory or causal inferences. However, this anti-positivist self-understanding is often based on the same empiricist ideas about causal inferences as the original positivist view of social science. Given that the traditional empiricist understanding of causation has fallen into disrepute, it is timely to reconsider the role of causal reasoning in qualitative enquiry. The aim of this workshop is to take a closer look at the possibilities, complications, and limitations related to causal inference from qualitative data. Questions to be considered include: What is the role of causal considerations in the generation, analysis and evaluation of qualitative data? In which conditions it is justifiable to draw causal conclusions from qualitative studies? What kinds of causal claims are these? Are they particular or generic causal claims? Are they micro level claims about individuals or macro level claims about groups or other social wholes? Are the notions of process tracing and causal mechanism useful in making sense of qualitative case studies? What is the role of theory in making these causal inferences? Do different qualitative methods differ in their aptness for causal inference? Does the traditional idea of hypothesis testing apply to qualitative research?

Participation is free, but registration is required. If you would like to participate in the workshop, please send an email to Julie Zahle ( no later than November 23.

The Helsinki-Copenhagen Colloquium in Evidence in Social Enquiry is a series of workshops that bring together philosophers of science and social scientists to explore how social scientific data provides evidence for claims about social phenomena, how social scientists justify their interpretations and explanations, and how social scientific research can serve as evidence for policy purposes. The series will especially, but not exclusively, focus on so-called qualitative research. The aim is to start a debate that creatively combines modern philosophy of science with reflective understanding of actual social scientific research practices in order to better understand the nature of social scientific knowledge.

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