Bayesian reasoning for process tracing, comparative case studies, and qualitative research



Tasha Fairfield   (Associate Professor at  London School of Economics, London)

Short description of the course 

The way we intuitively approach qualitative case research is similar to how we read detective novels.  We consider various different hypotheses to explain what occurred—whether a major tax reform in Chile, or the death of Samuel Ratchett on the Orient Express—drawing on the literature we have read (e.g. theories of policy change, or other Agatha Christie mysteries) and any salient previous experiences we have had.  As we gather evidence and discover new clues, we continually update our beliefs about which hypothesis provides the best explanation—or we may introduce a new alternative that occurs to us along the way. Bayesianism provides a natural framework that is both logically rigorous and grounded in common sense, that governs how we should revise our degree of belief in the truth of a hypothesis—e.g., "the imperative of attracting globally-mobile capital motivated policymakers to reform the tax system," or "a lone gangster sneaked onboard the train and killed Ratchett as revenge for being swindled"—given our relevant prior knowledge and new information that we obtain during our investigation.  Bayesianism is enjoying a revival across many fields, and it offers a powerful tool for improving inference and analytic transparency in qualitative process-tracing research.
This interactive course introduces the principles of Bayesian reasoning for process tracing and case study research with the goal of helping to leverage common-sense understandings of inference and hone intuition when conducting causal analysis with qualitative evidence.  We will examine concrete applications to single case studies, comparative case studies, and multi-methods research.  Participants will learn how to construct rival hypotheses, assess the inferential weight of qualitative evidence, and evaluate which hypothesis provides the best explanation through Bayesian updating.  The short course will also overview key aspects of research design, including case selection and iteration between theory development and data analysis.  Throughout, we will conduct a wide range of exercises and group work to give participants hands-on practice at applying Bayesian techniques.  Upon completing the course, participants will be able to read qualitative case studies more critically and apply Bayesian principles to their own research.

Students of the FGV EAESP Master’s and Doctoral Program in Business Administration or in Public Administration and Government the credits earned will count toward the credits required in the following Concentration Areas:

  • Marketing;
  • Transformations in the State and Public Policie;
  • Politics and Economics of the Public Sector
  • Government and Civil Society at the Local and State Levels


The expected students' profile to attend the course and previous knowledge required: 

No previous knowledge required

Targeted audience: MSc and PhD students, professors and researchers from FGV and other Institutions. - Course is primarily for PhD students


Key information* 

Credit Class-hours Date Time Place Language



From 11 July to 15 July    afternoon (2 p.m. till 5 p.m.) 




Course Syllabus*:  (click here)


Last Date to Enroll:  june, 30 (places are limited)


Want to enroll?     VACANCIES ARE ALREADY FILLED (last update 21.06.2022)


* subject to change


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