Epilogue: Speaking for the Dead

“What you’re doing, Sidney,” Jim Reason said, looking at me intently, “is trying to crawl into the skull of a dead man.”

He turned to gaze at the teacup in his hand, shook his head, and grumbled.

“How is that possible?”

The way he looked, it was not a question.

We were in a side-discussion during a conference more than a decade ago. The topic was (what is formally known as) process-tracing methods. I had attempted to popularize these methods in the first version of the Field Guide in 2002, and have done so in subsequent versions of it. How far can we take these methods to understand why it made sense for practitioners to do what they did—if those practitioners are no longer around? Is it possible to “reconstruct ...

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