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I-d: Theory-based Causal Analysis: the Basics of Process Tracing and QCA

On-Site Workshop
Part of
Session One
July 22 - 24
intermediate to advanced
Recommended for
Evaluators, Researchers

workshop pitch


Is there an alternative to counterfactual reasoning to answer the impact question?

“There is nothing as practical as a good theory”. This phrase, purportedly coined by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s and later taken up inter alia by Carol Weiss and Ray Pawson, resonates well with most evaluators and development practitioners nowadays. While having been around for more than four decades, theory-based evaluation has received new impetus over the last decade and has become part and parcel of the toolkit of program evaluators across the globe. Most notably, new methodological developments in theory-based causal analysis have surfaced and are increasingly exploited to answer key causal questions that do not lend themselves to (quasi) experimental design. While theory-based causal analysis is not-method specific—it can be embedded in a variety of quantitative and qualitative approaches—the application of qualitative or quali-quantitative theory-based methods is particularly promising.

This workshop will cover the following topics: review of various causal theories and their affiliated theory-based evaluation methods; principles for selecting the right design; fundamentals of designing a theory-based causal analysis; applications of theory-based evaluation for causal analysis using process tracing; how to use Qualitative Comparative Analysis principles to enhance generalizability of findings. Examples from World Bank evaluations, as well as other organizations, will be used throughout the workshop to illustrate the content. Group work will take place by applying serious game facilitation principles.



After taking this course, the participants have developed an initial sound understanding of various options for designing theory-based causal analysis and how to apply theory-based evaluation in practice.
More specifically, participants will have a greater understanding of:

  • Different purposes and uses of various theory-based causal analyses
  • Various causal theories that can be used in the evaluation
  • Good practice in case selection for case-based causal analysis
  • Applications of theory-based causal analysis using process tracing
  • Good practice in building generalizability of causal claims using cross-case causal analysis (e.g., such as qualitative comparative analysis)

recommended for

The workshop is designed primarily for evaluators or evaluation researchers. It is most suitable for experienced evaluators or evaluators who are well-versed in the basic principles of theory-based evaluation. While the workshop will reach some advanced level in the design of quali-quantitative theory-based causal design, the first session will quickly go over some of the fundamentals as a refresher on theory-based evaluation.


This workshop can be considered an “intermediate to advanced” level. The workshop will target evaluators who have a robust understanding of theories of change and solid notions of evaluation design.