What is process tracing actually tracing?

This paper from Beach and Brun Pederson provides a comprehensive overview of process tracing.

It is divided into three parts, starting by briefly presenting the existing orthodoxy regarding how PT methods are defined. It then introduces the three variants of PT, focusing on their differing analytical purposes and the degree to which the variants can be nested in mixed-method designs. Example studies of each variant are used to highlight the key differences across the variants. The paper closes by summarising the commonalities and differences across the three variants of PT.


  1. Introduction
  2. One method?
  3. Three methods
  4. Theory-testing PT
  5. Theory-building PT
  6. Explaining outcome PT
  7. Conclusion


Beach D & Brun Pedersen R (2011) What is process tracing actually tracing? The three variants of process tracing methods and their uses and limitations, Preliminary Draft of Paper prepared for presentation at The American Political Science Association annual meeting Seattle, Washington, USA  September 1-4, 2011. Department of Political Science & Government University of Aarhus. Retrieved from http://pure.au.dk/portal/files/40422940/APSA_paper_Beach_and_Pedersen_final.pdf