Despite extensive debate, the relationship between formal theory and empirical testing remains unsettled. Scott Tyson and I discuss two predominant approaches to constructing formal models. One is based on testing models, and the other on developing theoretical mechanisms. We explain why each is valid for specific purposes. In another article, Peter Lorentzen, Taylor Fravel, and I develop standards for evaluating empirical implications of game theoretic models using qualitative methods, specifically, process tracing. We highlight the complementarities between the formal theory enterprise and qualitative research.
In two other articles, I address ongoing debates regarding whether quantitative and qualitative methods represent complementary or fundamentally distinct approaches to studying political phenomena. I argue that scholars using each type of method share fundamentally similar research goals. By contrast, scholars of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) or, more broadly, set-theoretic comparative methods (STCM), have proposed a false divide between quantitative and qualitative methods.
Uses and Abuses of Formal Models in Political Science (with Scott Tyson)
SAGE Handbook of Political Science: A Global Perspective, 2020, Chapter 11 BOOK LINK
Qualitative Investigation of Theoretical Models: The Value of Process Tracing
(with Peter Lorentzen and Taylor Fravel) Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2017, 29(3): 467-491.
JOURNAL LINK • LIST OF FORMAL THEORY ARTICLES
Set-Theoretic Comparative Methods (STCM): Less Distinctive Than Claimed
Comparative Political Studies, 2016, 49(6): 703-741. JOURNAL LINK
Still Searching for the Value-Added: Persistent Concerns about Set-Theoretic Comparative Methods
Comparative Political Studies, 2016, 49(6): 793-800. JOURNAL LINK