Selecting cases according to different causality claims

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Introduction: Case studies are fundamental in qualitative methodology. In Brazil, case studies are predominant in social-historical studies in the field of International Relations. However, there is no concern with methodological rigour. The case selection criteria, the intended inferences with the study and the internal and/or external validity from the use of this method are hardly presented. Materials and Methods: This bibliographical essay analyzes the international literature dedicated to scrutinizing case selection criteria for qualitative studies. From the analysis of the peculiarity of the scientific production of the Brazilian field compared to the international one, we conducted a literature review of the main topics of the qualitative methodological debate within the positivist epistemology. Results: The review enabled us to list the assumptions for the proper application of qualitative methodology and the inherent advantages and disadvantages of studying single cases and small samples. We present the basic assumptions for case selection from three different qualitative approaches, separated by their logic of causality: i) quantitative emulation, probabilistic; ii) eclectic pragmatism, mechanistic; and iii) set theory, deterministic. Based on the systematization of the different strategies for case selection and depending on the type of causality intended by the researcher, we present techniques for this selection within each approach, exemplifying their application with recent publications. Discussion: This bibliographical essay provides an important contribution to the debate on qualitative methodology in International Relations in Brazil by presenting good practices for case selection to assist the development of research designs more appropriate to the objectives and methods employed. Advancing the methodological debate is an important challenge to increase the dialogue of Brazilian scientific production in International Relations with the international literature.




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Revista de Sociologia e Politica, v. 30.

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