(by Melina Breitegger)
Hamburg (13.-17th of July 2015)
From abstract reasoning on causal processes and their inherent structure (independent and dependent variables, sufficient and necessary conditions etc.) to practical exercises on how to apply process tracing in quantitative and qualitative research settings, the PRIMO fellows were exposed to training in state of the art methods of process tracing. Dr. Jörg Meyer (University of Hamburg) highlighted the challenges of causality models in the social sciences and emphasized the value of process tracing that focuses on the explanation of causal mechanisms in specific case studies (without the aim of generalization).
In the following sessions, Dr. Beatrix Futák-Campbell (Assistant Professor at the University of Leiden), Dr. Jörg Meyer and Dr. Faiz Sheikh (University of Hamburg) complemented the program with a review of discourse analysis methods and discussed the research projects of the PRIMO fellows while putting special emphasis on method selection and research design.
In my view, one of the most helpful exercises was the feedback session in which PRIMO fellows were commenting on each others research design. Looking at the research of colleagues, it was easier to spot inconsistencies and ambiguity – something that is often difficult when looking at one’s own work. To describe a complex study in a clear manner proved to be a challenge in many of the research projects.
The participants left the workshop with an enhanced understanding of the deployment of process tracing and discourse analysis methods and a trained eye for critical reading of scientific texts. As it became clear during the exercises, different academic schools and researchers understand common terms such as “discourse” in fundamentally different ways. It is up to PRIMO fellows to identify the most suitable definition of a concept for their research.
Last but not least, the workshop also included a special session on academic writing by Professor Cord Jakobeit (University of Hamburg), who consulted the PhD students on publication strategies and writing tips for different media.
Equipped with these new tools, the PRIMO fellows now spread across the globe to get started with the writing process