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IV-d: Theory-based causal Analysis: Process Tracing, QCA and Pattern-Matching in practice

Part of
Session Four
July 23 - 24
Recommended for


“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, over the last decade theory-based evaluation has received new impetus and today is part and parcel of the toolkit of program evaluators across the globe. Most notably, new methodological developments in theory-based causal analysis 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 covers 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 three case-based approaches: (1) process tracing; (2) pattern-matching; (3) Qualitative Comparative Analysis. Examples from World Bank evaluations as well as other organizations are used throughout the workshop to illustrate the content. The workshop applies a combination of short lectures, group exercises, and group and plenary discussions.


After taking this course, the participants

  • Have a sound understanding of various options for designing theory-based causal analysis
  • Are aware of different purposes and uses of various theory-based causal analysis
  • Know key principles of methodological design
  • Can apply theory-based causal analysis using process-tracing in practice
  • Can apply theory-based causal analysis using pattern-matching in practice
  • Have a basic understanding of designing a QCA in practice

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 design of quali-quantitative theory-based causal design, the first session will quickly go over some of fundamentals as a refresher on theory-based evaluation.


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


The participants are encouraged (but not required) to take the Workshop in week 2 on Theory-based Evaluation led by Dr. Jos Vaessen.