Formal Theory and Case-Study Methods in EU Studies

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EU studies have long been dominated by case studies, although formal theories have made substantial inroads into the field over the past decade. This article examines the advantages and challenges of combining these two methods, with an analysis grounded in both the philosophy of science and research design. Looking at the philosophy of science highlights several practices and principles shared by formal theorists and case-study researchers. The logic of discovery in both methodologies prizes studies of puzzles that can be found in a single case. Both are inclined to retain a research program even in the face of acknowledged anomalies. In the area of research design, many formal hypotheses take functional forms that cannot be reduced to linear, additive models. Most of these hypotheses lend themselves easily to case-study methods. Thus, although research design has provided an avenue for applying the logic of statistical inference to qualitative research, case studies retain independent value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-146
Number of pages34
JournalEuropean Union Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • Comparative case studies
  • Formal theory
  • Quantitative methods
  • Spatial theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Demography
  • Political Science and International Relations


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