MY425      Half Unit
Case Studies and Comparative Methods for Qualitative Research

This information is for the 2024/25 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Eleanor Knott


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in Development Studies, MSc in European and International Politics and Policy, MSc in European and International Politics and Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Politics and Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Gender (Rights and Human Rights), MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in International Political Economy (Research), MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research), MSc in Political Science (Conflict Studies and Comparative Politics), MSc in Political Sociology and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is freely available to any MSc or MRes students interested in case study research designs. MY525 is available for PhD students interested in case study research designs.

The course is most suited to students within macro- or meso-sociological traditions (e.g. political science, IR, sociology, political sociology, policy studies, development studies) than those within a micro-sociological/individualist tradition (e.g. micro-interactionist perspectives, psychology, psychiatry).

This course is not controlled access. If you register for a place and meet the prerequisites, if any, you are likely to be given a place. There is no need to require authorisation.


There are no prerequisites for this course but capacity to work autonomously is expected (including conducting a literature review, finding one’s own theoretical literature, creating one's own research question, etc.). Throughout the course, students are expected to make their own decisions and learn how to become autonomous junior researchers by constructing a research project on their own. Students not confident in their capacity to work autonomously are encouraged to familiarise themselves with these skills before the beginning of the course to make the most out of the teaching (see for example LSE Life services for resources helping you to prepare yourself for autonomous work).

Course content

This course focuses on the approach and practice of designing and conducting case study and comparative research. Thinking outside of the areas of interest and specialisms and topics, students will be encouraged to develop the concepts and comparative frameworks that underpin these phenomena. In other words, students will begin to develop their research topics as cases of something.

The course will cover questions of design and methods of case study research, from single-n to small-n case studies including discussions of process tracing and Mill's methods. The course will address both the theoretical and methodological discussions that underpin research design as well as the practical questions of how to conduct case study research, including gathering, assessing and using evidence. Examples from the fields of comparative politics, IR, development studies, sociology and European studies will be used throughout the lectures and seminars.

More information about MY425 can be found on the Moodle page of the course (e.g., course structure, detailed formative and summative assignmentt instructions, examples of prior cohorts’ summative assignments). Please do not hesitate to self-enrol to the Moodle page of the course to have a better idea of the content of the module and the work required.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Winter Term.

Lectures will provide students with the key concepts, ideas and approaches to case study and comparative research. Seminars will provide students with practical experience of assessing the approaches of case study and comparative research design, as well as opportunities to design and develop their own research projects. 

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of WT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 other piece of coursework in the WT.

  • 1 formative paper: literature review and project outline (1-2 pages) due in Week 8. 
  • 1 peer marking exercise: in-class oral peer feedback session for students to exchange ideas on formative assignment.

Indicative reading

Key texts:

  • Beach, D., & Pedersen, R. B. 2019. Process-tracing methods: Foundations and guidelines. University of Michigan Press.
  • Bennett, A. and Checkel, J.T. eds., 2014. Process tracing: From metaphor to analytic tool. Cambridge University Press.
  • Della Porta, D. and Keating, M. eds., 2008. Approaches and methodologies in the social sciences: A pluralist perspective. Cambridge University Press.
  • George, Alexander L. and Andrew Bennett. 2005. Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences.
  • Gerring, J. 2017. Case study research: principles and practices. Second edition. Cambridge University Press.

Example readings for discussion:

  • Briggs, Ryan C. 2017. “Explaining case selection in African politics research”, Journal of Contemporary African Studies.
  • Finkel, E. (2017) Ordinary Jews: choice and survival during the Holocaust. Princeton University Press.
  • Lund, Christian. 2014. “Of What is This a Case? Analytical Movements in Qualitative Social Science Research.” Human Organization 73(3): 224–234.
  • Simmons, E. (2016) Meaningful resistance: market reforms and the roots of social protest in Latin America.: Cambridge University Press.
  • Simmons, E. S. and Smith, N. R. (2017) ‘Comparison with an Ethnographic Sensibility’, PS: Political Science & Politics, 50(01), pp. 126–130. doi: 10.1017/S1049096516002286.
  • Slater, D. and Wong, J. (2013b) ‘The Strength to Concede: Ruling Parties and Democratization in Developmental Asia’, Perspectives on Politics, 11(03), pp. 717–733. doi: 10.1017/S1537592713002090.


Research proposal (100%) in the ST.

It is recommended that students base the research design proposal (4000 words) on their dissertation topic (or a related topic, e.g. a PhD proposal) subject to approval by students’ home department. Where students also take MY400 (which has a similar summative assessment), students will be guided towards a modified version of the research proposal (e.g. a different research question) to avoid self-plagiarism between assignments. Students must consult with their home department regarding overlap between the proposal and their dissertation.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2023/24: 32

Average class size 2023/24: 11

Controlled access 2023/24: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills