Mechanism-based theorizing and generalization from case studies

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Generalization from a case study is a perennial issue in the methodology of the social sciences. The case study is one of the most important research designs in many social scientific fields, but no shared understanding exists of the epistemic import of case studies. This article suggests that the idea of mechanism-based theorizing provides a fruitful basis for understanding how case studies contribute to a general understanding of social phenomena. This approach is illustrated with a reconstruction of Espeland and Sauder's case study of the effects of rankings on US legal education. On the basis of the reconstruction, it is argued that, at least with respect to sociology, the idea of mechanism-based theorizing captures many of the generalizable elements of case studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Pages (from-to)14-22
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 611 Philosophy
  • 5141 Sociology

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