Critical Event Analysis in Case Study Research

Laura García-Montoya*, James Mahoney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


This article develops a framework for the causal analysis of critical events in case study research. A critical event is defined as a contingent event that is causally important for an outcome in a specific case. Using set-theoretic analysis, this article offers definitions and measurement tools for the study of contingency and causal importance in case study research. One set of tools consists of guidelines for using theoretical expectations to arrive at conclusions about the level of contingency of events. Another set of tools are guidelines for using counterfactual cases to determine the extent to which a given event is necessary and sufficient for a particular outcome in an individual case. Examples from comparative and international studies are used to illustrate the framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-524
Number of pages45
JournalSociological Methods and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • causation
  • contingency
  • counterfactuals
  • critical juncture
  • gradual change
  • path dependence
  • possible worlds
  • qualitative methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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