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Chapter

4. Asking Questions  

How to Find and Formulate Research Questions

This chapter deals with the first step of the research process: the formulation of a well-crafted research question. It explains why political research should begin with a research question and how a research question structures the research process. It discusses the difference between a topic or general question, on the one hand, and a focused research question, on the other. It also considers the question of where to find and how to formulate research questions, the various types of questions scholars ask, and the role of the ‘literature review’ as a source and rationale for research questions. Finally, it describes a tool called the ‘research vase’ that provides a visualization of the research process, along with different types of questions: descriptive question, explanatory question, predictive question, prescriptive question and normative question.

Chapter

This chapter deals with the first step of the research process: the formulation of a well-crafted research question. It explains why political research should begin with a research question and how a research question structures the research process. It discusses the difference between a topic or general question, on the one hand, and a focused research question, on the other. It also considers the question of where to find and how to formulate research questions, the various types of questions scholars ask, and the role of the ‘literature review’ as a source and rationale for research questions. Finally, it describes a tool called the ‘research vase’ that provides a visualization of the research process, along with different types of questions: descriptive, explanatory, predictive, prescriptive, and normative.

Chapter

This chapter explores the principles of comparative research design as well as the issues and problems associated with different aspects of the approach. In particular, it considers the issue of case selection, the common sources of error that are associated with comparative research, and what can be done to try and avoid or minimize them. The comparative method is one of the most commonly used methods in political research and is often employed to investigate various political phenomena, including democratization, civil war, and public policy. The chapter discusses the three main forms of comparison, namely case study, small-N comparison, and large-N comparison. It also describes two main approaches used to select cases for small-N studies: Most Similar Systems Design and Most Different Systems Design. It also evaluates qualitative comparative analysis and concludes with an analysis of issues arising from case selection and data collection in large-N comparative research.

Chapter

This chapter explores the principles of comparative research design as well as the issues and problems associated with different aspects of the approach. In particular, it considers the issue of case selection, the common sources of error that are associated with comparative research, and what can be done to try and avoid or minimize them. The comparative method is one of the most commonly used methods in political research and is often employed to investigate various political phenomena, including democratization, civil war, and public policy. The chapter discusses the three main forms of comparison, namely case study, small-N comparison, and large-N comparison. It also describes two main approaches used to select cases for small-N studies: Most Similar Systems Design and Most Different Systems Design. It also evaluates qualitative comparative analysis and concludes with an analysis of issues arising from case selection and data collection in large-N comparative research.

Chapter

This chapter discusses the principles of ethnography and participant observation: what they are, how (if) they became standardized as a research method, what form of evidence they constitute, and what place they occupy in the study of Politics. Participant observation has emerged as a popular research tool across the social sciences. In particular, political ethnographies are now widely carried out in a broad variety of contexts, from the study of political institutions and organizations to the investigation of social movements and informal networks, such as terrorist groups and drugs cartels. Political ethnography is also becoming a research method of choice in the field of International Relations. The chapter examines the strengths of ethnographic fieldwork, focusing on issues relating to sampling, access, key informants, and collecting observational data. It also addresses the weaknesses of ethnography, especially issues of subjectivity, reliability, and generalizability.

Chapter

This chapter discusses the principles of ethnography and participant observation: what they are, how (if) they became standardized as a research method, what form of evidence they constitute, and what place they occupy in the study of Politics. Participant observation has emerged as a popular research tool across the social sciences. In particular, political ethnographies are now widely carried out in a wide variety of contexts, from the study of political institutions and organizations to the investigation of social movements and informal networks, such as terrorist groups and drugs cartels. Political ethnography is also becoming a research method of choice in the field of International Relations. The chapter examines the strengths of ethnographic fieldwork, focusing on issues relating to sampling, access, key informants, and collecting observational data. It also addresses the weaknesses of ethnography, especially issues of subjectivity, reliability, and generalizability.

Chapter

This chapter explores the principles of experimental research design as well as the issues and problems associated with different aspects of the approach. In particular, it considers the issue of internal and external validity, the common obstacles associated with experimental research, and what can be done to try and avoid or minimize them. The chapter first describes the five steps involved in the classic version of the experimental design before discussing three types of experimental design: laboratory experiments, field experiments, and natural experiments. It also examines the ethical issues that arise from experimental research and concludes by highlighting some of the advantages of experimental research.

Chapter

This chapter explores the principles of experimental research design as well as the issues and problems associated with different aspects of the approach. In particular, it considers the issue of internal and external validity, the common obstacles associated with experimental research, and what can be done to try and avoid or minimize them. The chapter first describes the five steps involved in the classic version of the experimental design before discussing three types of experimental design: laboratory experiments, field experiments, and natural experiments. It also examines the ethical issues that arise from experimental research and concludes by highlighting some of the advantages of experimental research.

Chapter

5. Finding Answers  

Theories and How to Apply Them

This chapter shows how to develop an answer to a particular research question. It first considers the requirements and components of an answer to a research question before discussing the role of ‘theory’ in social science research, what a ‘theoretical framework’ is, and what a hypothesis is. It then explores the three components of a hypothesis: an independent variable, a dependent variable, and a proposition (a statement about the relationship between the variables). It also looks at the different types of hypotheses and how they guide various kinds of research. It also explains why conceptual and operational definitions of key terms are important and how they are formulated. Finally, it offers suggestions on how to answer normative questions.

Chapter

This chapter shows how to develop an answer to a particular research question. It first considers the requirements and components of an answer to a research question before discussing the role of ‘theory’ in social science research, what a ‘theoretical framework’ is, and what a hypothesis is. It then explores the three components of a hypothesis: an independent variable, a dependent variable, and a proposition (a statement about the relationship between the variables). It also looks at the different types of hypotheses and how they guide various kinds of research. It also explains why conceptual and operational definitions of key terms are important and how they are formulated. Finally, it offers suggestions on how to answer normative questions.

Chapter

2. Forms of Knowledge  

Laws, Explanation, and Interpretation in the Study of the Social World

This chapter focuses on fundamental assumptions that researchers make about how we can know and develop knowledge about the social world, such as assumptions about the nature of human behaviour and the methods appropriate to studying and explaining that behaviour. The main objective is how to carry out a systematic and rigorous investigation of social phenomena. The chapter considers three different answers to the question of how to approach the study of social phenomena: those offered by positivism, scientific realism, and interpretivism. It also explores the differences among these answers and their implications for conducting political research. Finally, it discusses the use of a positivist (rational choice) and interpretivist (constructivist) approach to the analysis of ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on fundamental assumptions that researchers make about how we can know and develop knowledge about the social world, such as assumptions about the nature of human behaviour and the methods appropriate to studying and explaining that behaviour. The main objective is how to carry out a systematic and rigorous investigation of social phenomena. The chapter considers three different answers to the question of how to approach the study of social phenomena: those offered by positivism, scientific realism, and interpretivism. It also explores the differences among these answers and their implications for conducting political research. Finally, it discusses the use of a positivist (rational choice) and interpretivist (constructivist) approach to the analysis of ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Chapter

This chapter extends the principles of bivariate analysis to multivariate analysis, which takes into account more than one independent variable and the dependent variable. With multivariate analysis, it is possible to investigate the impact of multiple factors on a dependent variable of interest, and to compare the explanatory power of rival hypotheses. Multivariate analysis can also be used to develop and test multi-causal explanations of political phenomena. After providing an overview of the principles of multivariate analysis, and the different types of analytical question to which they can be applied, the chapter shows how multivariate analysis is carried out for statistical control purposes. More specifically, it explains the use of ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and logistic regression, the latter of which builds on cross-tabulation, to carry out multivariate analysis. It also discusses the use of multivariate analysis to debunk spurious relationships and to illustrate indirect causality.

Chapter

This chapter extends the principles of bivariate analysis to multivariate analysis, which takes into account more than one independent variable and the dependent variable. With multivariate analysis, it is possible to investigate the impact of multiple factors on a dependent variable of interest, and to compare the explanatory power of rival hypotheses. Multivariate analysis can also be used to develop and test multi-causal explanations of political phenomena. After providing an overview of the principles of multivariate analysis, and the different types of analytical question to which they can be applied, the chapter shows how multivariate analysis is carried out for statistical control purposes. More specifically, it explains the use of OLS regression and logistic regression, the latter of which builds on cross-tabulation, to carry out multivariate analysis. It also discusses the use of multivariate analysis to debunk spurious relationships and to illustrate indirect causality.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the distinctions between historical research and social scientific research, and how these are being challenged by scholars in pursuit of a genuinely ‘historical social science’. It begins with a discussion of historical approaches in Politics and International Relations, including historical events research, historical process research, and cross-sectional comparative research. It then examines three approaches for addressing temporality as the sequential active unfolding of social action and events: historical institutionalism, process tracing, and event structure analysis. It also explains how to locate essential historical information and evaluate various types of sources, and what special considerations need to be made in using documents, archival sources, and historical writing as data in historical research.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the distinctions between historical research and social scientific research, and how these are being challenged by scholars in pursuit of a genuinely ‘historical social science’. It begins with a discussion of historical approaches in Politics and International Relations, including historical events research, historical process research, and cross-sectional comparative research. It then examines three approaches for addressing temporality as the sequential active unfolding of social action and events: historical institutionalism, process tracing, and event structure analysis. It also explains how to locate essential historical information and evaluate various types of sources, and what special considerations need to be made in using documents, archival sources, and historical writing as data in historical research.

Chapter

This chapter considers different types and forms of interviewing, including focus groups, and how they should be conducted. Interviews are a popular method of data collection in political research. They share similarities with surveys, but these similarities relate mostly to structured interviews. The chapter focuses on semi-structured interviews, including focus groups, the emphasis of which is to get the interviewee to open up and discuss something of relevance to the research question. After describing the different types and forms of interview, the chapter explains how interview data can be used to confirm or disconfirm a hypothesis or argument. It also shows how to plan and carry out an interview and how the type and wording of questions, as well as the order in which they are asked, affect the responses you get. Finally, it examines the interviewing skills that will ensure a more successful outcome to an interview.

Chapter

This chapter considers different types and forms of interviewing, including focus groups, and how they should be conducted. Interviews are a popular method of data collection in political research. They share similarities with surveys, but these similarities relate mostly to structured interviews. The chapter focuses on semi-structured interviews, including focus groups, the emphasis of which is to get the interviewee to open up and discuss something of relevance to the research question. After describing the different types and forms of interview, the chapter explains how interview data can be used to confirm or disconfirm a hypothesis or argument. It also shows how to plan and carry out an interview and how the type and wording of questions, as well as the order in which they are asked, affect the responses you get. Finally, it examines the interviewing skills that will ensure a more successful outcome to an interview.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on a key debate in the philosophy of social science: whether it is possible to separate facts and values in social science research. It first considers normative and empirical theory in political research before discussing the ways in which the values of the researcher influence the research process. It then examines Thomas Kuhn’s arguments concerning paradigms and how they change through scientific ‘revolutions’, along with their implications for the possibility of value-free social inquiry. It looks at an example of how the notion of ‘paradigm’ has been applied to a specific area of inquiry within politics: the study of development. It also compares Kuhn’s paradigms with Imre Lakatos’ concept of ‘scientific research programmes’.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on a key debate in the philosophy of social science: whether it is possible to separate facts and values in social science research. It first considers normative and empirical theory in political research before discussing the ways in which the values of the researcher influence the research process. It then examines Thomas Kuhn’s arguments concerning paradigms and how they change through scientific ‘revolutions’, along with their implications for the possibility of value-free social inquiry. It looks at an example of how the notion of ‘paradigm’ has been applied to a specific area of inquiry within politics: the study of development. It also compares Kuhn’s paradigms with Imre Lakatos’ concept of ‘scientific research programmes’.