The Logic of Process Tracing Tests in the Social Sciences

This article, written by James Mahoney and published in Sociological Methods and Research, analyses the use of process tracing as a methodology for testing hypotheses in the social sciences.


"With process tracing tests, the analyst combines preexisting generalizations with specific observations from within a single case to make causal inferences about that case. Process tracing tests can be used to help establish that (1) an initial event or process took place, (2) a subsequent outcome also occurred, and (3) the former was a cause of the latter. The article focuses on the logic of different process tracing tests, including hoop tests, smoking gun tests, and straw in the wind tests. New criteria for judging the strength of these tests are developed using ideas concerning the relative importance of necessary and sufficient conditions. Similarities and differences between process tracing and the deductivenomological model of explanation are explored."
This is not a free resource, however it is available for purchase from Sage Journals. Sage do have periods of open access when it may be available for free.
This resource was suggested to BetterEvaluation by Rick Davies


Mahoney, J. (2012). The logic of process tracing tests in the social sciences. Sociological Methods & Research, 41(4), 570–597. Retrieved from

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