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Methodology of Research

Process-tracing, with its emphasis on tracing the mechanisms (causal or other) leading from the explanatory factors to the eventual outcome, is well suited for analysing the policy processes in which political elites engage.11 It allows one to identify the key steps that were taken during the process that led to a certain outcome, as well as to capture the agency component of the structure-agency interaction discussed above. As such, it is a good complement to the institutionalist approach, and both contribute to the analytical frame for the question addressed in this book.

Process tracing, as discussed by early users of this method, is a method of within-case analysis of causal processes. As George and McKeown define it, process tracing does not solely rely on the comparison of variations across variables in each case, but also 'investigate[s] and explain[s] the decision process by which various initial conditions are translated into outcomes'.12 In other words, process tracing allows the researcher to investigate the process, and particular mechanisms, which lead from cause (independent variable/s) to effect (variation/occurrence of dependent variable). As such, process tracing is particularly appropriate for small comparative studies such as this one, where the small number of cases and observations would preclude the use of statistical methods and regressions to establish the causal relations between the explanatory variables and the outcome. Moreover, process tracing is also useful in accounting for individual behaviour and actors' choices and decisions in specific circumstances, especially in tracing the causal links that lead from one step to another in a particular (e.g. decisionmaking or policy-making) process. Checkel also notes that process tracing is

11 Jeffrey T. Checkel, 'It's the Process Stupid! Process Tracing in the Study of European and International Politics'. ARENA. Working Paper No.26, October 2005.

12 Alexander L. George and Timothy J. McKeown, 'Case Studies and Theories of Organizational Decision Making', Advances in Information Processing in Organizations, Vol.2 (1985), pp. 21–58. strong on questions of 'how' and interactions, which is the category into which this book's research question falls.13 Hence, process tracing is applied when analysing the specific policy issues in Bosnia and Macedonia and examining the behaviour and interaction of political elites in these policies. The data for process tracing is largely qualitative in nature, and includes historical memoirs, interviews, press reports and documents – in this case voting records, transcripts from parliamentary and government discussions.

Based on a loose adaptation of the policy cycle (policy formulation – initial stage; policy realisation – decision making stage; policy learning – evaluation stage)14 Table 1.1 summarises the main steps in the policy process that are analysed for each of the selected policies. The relatively structured nature of the policy-making process makes the application of process tracing easier, since the stages of the process are already known, as are the key points during the process when actors make decisions (vote, negotiate, seek support). The six steps listed in Table 1.1 are part of most policy-making cycles, but additional steps are included in some of the case studies which require a more complex analytical mechanism.

Table 1.1 Policy stages and steps in policy cycle

Stage Step in policy cycle Questions Initial stage Priority on government/ parties' agendas High-Low priority? Articulation of proposal Who proposes? What? Decision-making stage Coalition-building around

proposal Who supports? Who opposes? Outcome reached/voting Compromise? Consensus? Evaluation stage Implementation of agreed proposal

Sustainability of solution

reached Full, partial, none? Obstacles?

Success/Failure? Reopened?

 
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