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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Nancy Cartwright

Cartwright, N., Hardie, J. & Stringer, R. (2017). Predicting What Will Happen When You Intervene. Clinical Social Work Journal 45(3): 270-279.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper offers some rules of thumb that practicing social workers can use for case studies that aim to construct, albeit not fully and never entirely reliably, models designed to help predict what will happen if they intervene in specific ways to help this particular client, here and now. We call these ’ex ante case-specific causal models’. ’Ex ante’ because they are for before-the-fact prediction of what the likely effects of proposed actions are. ’Case-specific’ because we are not concerned with studies that provide evidence for some general conclusion but rather with using what general and local knowledge one can get to predict what will happen to a specific client in the real settings in which they live. ’Causal’ because this kind of case study aims to trace out as best possible the web of causal processes that will be responsible for what happens. In this sense our case studies resemble post facto realist evaluations.