Prof. Dr. Joachim Blatter

Foto Joachim Blatter



Joachim Blatter has co-authored German and English textbooks on qualitative methods with an emphasis on case study designs. Furthermore, he contributed to the methodological discourse through journal articles and discussion papers. Recently, he co-edited a four-volume compendium on “Qualitative Research in Political Science.” Finally, he is teaching especially case study methods in Lucerne as well as in Swiss and international PhD programs.


Core insights for the methodological discourse

  • The big divide between “positivist/realist” and “constructivists/interpretative” research can be bridged through research designs and methods which contribute to both – to “finding the truth” and to “making sense” (see publication No. 1)
  • “Process tracing” should not be equated with “withincase analysis” since we have witnessed the development of quite different research techniques for doing within-case analysis (see publication No. 4)
  • “Causal mechanisms” should be understood as configurations of three kinds of social mechanisms – situational mechanisms, actionformation mechanisms, and aggregation mechanisms. This is because such a conceptualization stimulates scholars to connect their empirical research to basic social theory, and thereby it helps to accumulate knowledge in the social sciences and to avoid the proliferation of idiosyncratic causal mechanisms. Furthermore, such a configurational understanding of causal mechanism is best for connecting configuration-oriented within-case analysis with configuration-oriented cross-case analysis (see publication No. 6)
  • Builders and users of indices that contain multidimensional concepts should be aware of differences between the use of indices for normative/evaluative purposes and for causal/explanatory purposes. In the former context, the aggregation of values in the various dimensions into configurational measures can be justified on mere conceptual grounds; in the latter context, the appropriateness of an aggregation also depends on empirical contingencies (see publication No. 10)
  • Builders and users of typologies should be aware of the differences between an understanding of types as configurations and an understanding of types as classifications (see publication No. 2)


Main contributions to the development and distribution of configurational methods

1. Truth Seeking AND Sense Making: Towards Configurational Designs of Qualitative Methods. Qualitative and Multi-Method Research. Fall 2017, Vol. 15, No. 2.

2. Qualitative Methoden in der Politikwissenschaft. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. 2017 (co-authored with Phil Langer and Claudius Wagemann)

3. Parsimony or Coherence: Alternative Principles for Designing Two Coherent Types of Con- figurational Comparative Analysis. 2017 (co-authored with Samuel Huber). Paper presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions, Nottingham.

4. Qualitative Research in Political Science. A four-volume compendium. London: SAGE. 2016 (co-edited with Markus Haverland and Merlijn van Hulst).

5. Aligning Methodologies to Epistemologies and Ontologies in Qualitative Research: An Ideal-Typical App- roach. 2016. Paper presented at the APSA Annual Conference 2016.

6. Designing Case Studies: Explanatory Approaches in Small-N Research. Palgrave 2012, paperback 2014 (co-authored with Markus Haverland)

7. Case studies and (causal-) process tracing. In: Isabelle Engeli and Christine Rothmayr (eds.): Comparative Policy Studies. Palgrave. 2014: 59-84 (with Markus Haverland)

8. In Search of Co-variance, Causal Mechanisms or Congruence? Towards a Plural Understanding of Case Studies. Swiss Political Science Review (2008), 14, 2, 115-156 (with Till Blume).

9. Qualitative Politikanalyse. Eine Einführung in Forschungsansätze und Methoden. Grundwissen Politik 44, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. 2006 (co-authored with Frank Janning & Claudius Wagemann)


Main applications of configurational methods

10. Democratic deficits in Europe: The overlooked exclusivity of nation-states and the positive role of the European Union. Journal of Common Market StudiesStudies, 55 (2016), 3, 449–467 (with Samuel Schmid and Andrea Blättler)

11. Performing Symbolic Politics and International Environmental Regulation: Tracing and Theorizing a Causal Mechanism beyond Regime Theory. Global Environmental Politics, 9 (2009), 4, 81-110

12. Transnational Attention, Domestic Agenda-Setting, and International Agreement - Modelling Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Media-Driven Humanitarian Interventions. WZB- discussion paper SP IV 2010-301, Berlin (with Julian Junk).

13. Preconditions for Foreign Activities of European Regions: Tracing Causal Configurations of Economic, Cultural, and Political Strategies. Publius – The Journal of Federalism, 40 (2009), 1, 171-199


Full list of publications