Case study methods in the international relations subfield

Andrew Bennett, Colin Elman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


This article reviews the key role that case study methods have played in the study of international relations (IR) in the United States. Case studies in the IR subfield are not the unconnected, atheoretical, and idiographic studies that their critics decry. IR case studies follow an increasingly standardized and rigorous set of prescriptions and have, together with statistical and formal work, contributed to cumulatively improving understandings of world politics. The article discusses and reviews examples of case selection criteria (including least likely, least and most similar, and deviant cases); conceptual innovation; typo-logical theories, explanatory typologies, qualitative comparative analysis, and fuzzy-set analysis; process tracing; and the integration of multiple methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-195
Number of pages26
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Case selection
  • Conceptual innovation
  • Explanatory typologies
  • Multimethod analysis
  • Process tracing
  • Qualitative methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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