IV-c Theory-Based Causal Analysis

Description of workshop content

“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 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 three case-based approaches: (1) process tracing; (2) pattern-matching; (3) Qualitative Comparative Analysis. Examples from World Bank evaluations as well as other organizations will be used throughout the workshop to illustrate the content. The workshop will use a combination of short lectures, group exercises, and group and plenary discussions.

Workshop objectives

After this course, participants have developed an initial sound understanding of the 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:

  1. Different purposes and uses of various theory-based causal analyses
  2. Principles of methodological design
  3. Applications of theory-based causal analysis using process-tracing
  4. Applications of theory-based causal analysis using pattern-matching
  5. Applications of theory-based causal analysis using qualitative comparative analysis

Recommended for



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.


The workshop will target evaluators who have a robust understanding of theories of change and solid notions of evaluation design.

As a building block for this workshop, participants are encouraged to take the workshop in week 2 on Essentials of theory-based Evaluation conducted by Dr. Jos Vaessen.


Estelle Raimondo