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Review symposium: multimethod research, causal mechanisms, and case studies


The use of multimethod research is becoming increasingly widespread in the social sciences, including political science, and it is part of a broader movement that has moved beyond the single focus on either qualitative or quantitative studies. In Multimethod Research, Causal Mechanisms, and Case Studies: An Integrated Approach, Gary Goertz lays out a comprehensive approach to multimethod research and to the use of case studies. The aim is to integrate qualitative and quantitative research—for instance through case studies—and to show the advantages of combining the two. Goertz does so by bringing together causal mechanisms, cross-case causal inference and within-case causal inference into what he calls the research triad of this integrated approach to social science research. In their reviews of Goertz’ book, David Waldner, Jennifer Cyr and Kendra Koivu take issues with particular aspects of Goertz’ case for multimethod and case study research, while also addressing larger methodological issues surrounding political science research.

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  1. Appendix A engages the larger literature on mixed-methods research but primarily in terms of their lessons for case selection, not in terms of the inferential value of multimethod research.

  2. When arrows enter an intermediary node from more than one direction, as in X → C ← Y, the intermediary node is a collider, which has very different implications for the underlying probabilistic structure.

  3. Waldner asks if causal mechanisms are ‘ontologically special’. I am not quite sure what he means by that, but a very large part of the natural sciences, medicine, and so on, is looking for and evaluating causal mechanisms. Medical science wants to know if the drug works, but also why and how it works. Newton gave the laws of gravity, and since then physics has been exploring how gravity works (e.g. gravity waves). So, whether they are ontologically special or not, causal mechanism research forms a central part of scientific research.

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Correspondence to Gary Goertz.

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Waldner, D., Cyr, J., Koivu, K. et al. Review symposium: multimethod research, causal mechanisms, and case studies. Eur Polit Sci 18, 157–169 (2019).

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  • Case studies
  • Causality
  • Gary Goertz
  • Qualitative methods
  • Quantitative methods