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Causal Mechanisms and Process Patterns in International Relations: Thinking Within and Without the box

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This article makes the case for process patterns as an alternative to causal mechanisms. Causal mechanisms are explanatory tools to unpack the "black boxes" separating the input and output of models. Unlike causal mechanisms, process patterns do not require such a black box. They refer to recurrent sequences of interaction observed across any number of empirical domains. Scholars can apply them across disciplines when similar processes occur in different domains. The article provides examples from International Relations where scholars have sometimes studied process patterns in all but name.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2016

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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