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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 examines a range of contemporary ideologies which challenge the traditional ones identified in ~Chapter 5. They differ from traditional ideologies in a number of ways. They are, first, less optimistic about the ability of ideologies to construct an overarching explanation of the world, not surprisingly since they emerged in the aftermath of the catastrophic impact of some traditional ideologies. They also respect difference and variety. This is a product of social and economic change which has eroded the ‘Fordist’ economy, brought into being a number of powerful identity groups based on gender, culture, and ethnicity, and raised question marks over the environmental sustainability of current industrial practices. Two modern political currents – postmodernism and populism – are considered and it is questioned whether they can be properly described as ideologies. The chapter then considers a number of contemporary ideologies such as feminism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and religious fundamentalism.

Chapter

This chapter examines a range of contemporary ideologies which challenge the traditional ones. Contemporary ideologies differ from traditional ideologies in a number of ways. First, they are less optimistic about the ability of ideology to construct an overarching explanation of the world. Second, they respect difference and variety, a product of social and economic change that has eroded the ‘Fordist’ economy, gave rise to a number of powerful identity groups based on gender, culture, and ethnicity, and raised question marks over the environmental sustainability of current industrial practices. The chapter starts with a discussion of Francis Fukuyama's ‘end of history’ thesis that declares the triumph of liberalism. It then considers a number of contemporary ideologies such as postmodernism, feminism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and religious fundamentalism. It argues that these ideologies represent a challenge to the state.

Chapter

This chapter explores the role of civil society, interest groups, and populism in politics. It first considers the concept of ‘civil society’ and how it came to be associated with the protests that brought down communist regimes in Eastern Europe, along with its role in the Arab Spring. It then looks at interest groups as a major component of civil society, the rise of corporatism, and the notion of ‘infrapolitics’ or politics from below. It also discusses the growing phenomenon of populism as a way of enhancing the status and position of previously neglected groups in democracies as well as a challenge to liberal democracies. A case study on populism online involving Beppe Grillo and the Five star Movement is presented. The chapter suggests that populist politicians make use of the media to forge a direct relationship with their supporters.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the concept of civil society, along with interest groups and the media. It first provides a background on the evolution of civil society and interest groups before discussing corporatism. In particular, it examines the ways in which civil society responds to state actors and tries to manoeuvre them into cooperation. This is politics from below. The chapter proceeds by considering the notion of ‘infrapolitics’ and the emergence of a school of ‘subaltern’ studies. It also explores the role of the media in political life and the impact of new communication technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones on politics. Finally, it evaluates some of the challenges presented by new media to civil society.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the concept of civil society, along with interest groups and the media. It first provides a background on the evolution of civil society and interest groups before discussing corporatism. In particular, it examines the ways in which civil society responds to state actors and tries to manoeuvre them into cooperation. This is politics from below. The chapter proceeds by considering the notion of ‘infrapolitics’ and the emergence of a school of ‘subaltern’ studies. It also explores the role of the media in political life and the impact of new communication technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones on politics. Finally, it evaluates some of the challenges presented by new media to civil society.

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 concluding chapter summarizes some of the major themes and the threads of various arguments discussed throughout the book. It first emphasizes the complexity of the field and the ways in which political philosophy and the empirical study of politics are intertwined, arguing that the study of politics cannot be neatly separated from the study of other disciplines such as philosophy, law, economics, history, sociology, and psychology — and the fact that policy-making typically involves the natural sciences. The chapter proceeds by analysing how globalization influences political studies and highlights the limits of ‘methodological nationalism’ in political analysis. Finally, it considers Eurocentrism in the study of politics and contends that we cannot automatically assume the pre-eminence of Europe and the United States, or the West more generally, noting the apparent inevitability of the rise of other centres of power.

Chapter

This chapter summarizes the text’s various arguments. It first considers the relationships between the study of political philosophy, political institutions, and international relations and suggests that the study of politics cannot be divorced from the study of other social sciences such as economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy, law, and history. It also contends that the study of politics should be seen as a genuinely international and comparative enterprise and explains how trends in globalization have further eroded the distinctions between domestic and international politics and between the domestic politics of individual nation-states. Finally, it discusses the rise of the so-called ‘new medievalism’, a scenario in which the world is moving towards greater anarchy; signs that global power is shifting from the West to the East; and developments showing that domestic politics and international relations are mutating.

Chapter

This chapter summarizes the text's various arguments. It first considers the relationships between the study of political philosophy, political institutions, and international relations and suggests that the study of politics cannot be divorced from the study of other social sciences such as economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy, law, and history. It also contends that the study of politics should be seen as a genuinely international and comparative enterprise and explains how trends in globalization have further eroded the distinctions between domestic and international politics and between the domestic politics of individual nation-states. Finally, it discusses the rise of the so-called ‘new medievalism’, a scenario in which the world is moving towards greater anarchy; signs that global power is shifting from the West to the East; and developments showing that domestic politics and international relations are mutating.

Chapter

This chapter examines seven critical approaches to global politics: Marxism, Critical Theory, constructivism, feminism, postmodernism, postcolonial theory, and green theory. In their book The Manifesto of the Communist Party, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels address the implications for global order of the rise of capitalism and the role of the bourgeoisie as controllers of capital. Their ideas have had a major influence on critical approaches to virtually all aspects of both domestic and global politics. The chapter considers some major strands of Marxist-influenced theory of direct relevance to global politics, including dependency theory, world-system theory, Gramscian theory, and Frankfurt School theory. It also discusses gender theory and compares postmodern/poststructural approaches to global politics with Critical Theory and constructivism in International Relations.

Chapter

This chapter examines seven critical approaches to global politics: Marxism, Critical Theory, constructivism, feminism, postmodernism, postcolonial theory, and green theory. In their book The Manifesto of the Communist Party, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels address the implications for global order of the rise of capitalism and the role of the bourgeoisie as controllers of capital. Their ideas have had a major influence on critical approaches to virtually all aspects of both domestic and global politics. The chapter considers some major strands of Marxist-influenced theory of direct relevance to global politics, including dependency theory, world-system theory, Gramscian theory, and Frankfurt School theory. It also discusses gender theory and compares postmodern/poststructural approaches to global politics with Critical Theory and constructivism in International Relations.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on democracies, democratization, and authoritarian regimes. It first considers the two main approaches to analysing the global rise of democracy over the last thirty years: first, long-term trends of modernization, and more specifically economic development, that create preconditions for democracy and opportunities for democratic entrepreneurs; and second, the sequences of more short-term events and actions of key actors at moments of national crisis that have precipitated a democratic transition — also known as ‘transitology’. The chapter proceeds by discussing the different types of democracy and the strategies used to measure democracy. It also reviews the more recent literature on authoritarian systems and why they persist. Finally, it examines the challenges that confront democracy in the face of authoritarian revival.

Chapter

This chapter examines democracy and democratization in relation to authoritarian regimes. It begins with a discussion of the three ‘waves’ of democratization that have occurred worldwide since the nineteenth century, the third of which began in 1974 with the demise of the long-standing authoritarian regime in Portugal, followed by the end of Franco's dictatorship in Spain in 1975. The chapter goes on to consider the main approaches to analysing democratization, different analytical models of democracy such as polyarchy and liberal democracy, and indexes to measure democracy. It also reviews the more recent literature on authoritarianism and the reasons for its persistence before concluding with an assessment of the challenges that confront democracy in the face of authoritarian revival.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on democracies, democratization, and authoritarian regimes. It first considers the two main approaches to analysing the global rise of democracy over the last thirty years: first, long-term trends of modernization, and more specifically economic development, that create preconditions for democracy and opportunities for democratic entrepreneurs; and second, the sequences of more short-term events and actions of key actors at moments of national crisis that have precipitated a democratic transition — also known as ‘transitology’. The chapter proceeds by discussing the different types of democracy and the strategies used to measure democracy. It also reviews the more recent literature on authoritarian systems and why they persist. Finally, it examines the challenges that confront democracy in the face of authoritarian revival.

Chapter

This chapter examines key aspects of democratic theory. It first defines what democracy means and traces the historical evolution of the term, from the time of the ancient Greeks to the French and American revolutions up to the nineteenth-century, when democracy began to take on more popular connotations in theory and practice. The chapter goes on to discuss the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy. It also considers alleged problems with democracy — relating to majoritarianism, its impact on economic efficiency, and its relationship with desired outcomes — before concluding with an analysis of the new directions democratic theory has taken in recent years, including associative, deliberative, cosmopolitan, and ecological versions of democracy.

Chapter

This chapter examines the claim that democracy is the ideal form of political obligation. It first traces the historical evolution of the term ‘democracy’ before discussing the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy, asking whether it is possible to reconcile elitism with democracy and whether participatory democracy is politically realistic. The chapter proceeds to explain why democracy is viewed as the major grounding for political obligation, with emphasis on the problem of majority rule and what to do with the minority consequences of majoritarianism. It documents the contemporary malaise experienced by democracy and seeks to explain its perceived weaknesses as a form of rule. Finally, the chapter describes the new directions that democratic theory has taken in recent years, focusing on four theories: associative democracy, cosmopolitan democracy, deliberative democracy, and ecological democracy.

Chapter

This chapter examines the claim that democracy is the ideal form of political obligation. It first traces the historical evolution of the term ‘democracy’ before discussing the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy, asking whether it is possible to reconcile elitism with democracy and whether participatory democracy is politically realistic. It then describes the new directions that democratic theory has taken in recent years, focusing on four theories: associative democracy, cosmopolitan democracy, deliberative democracy, and ecological democracy. It also explains why democracy is viewed as the major grounding for political obligation, with emphasis on the problem of majority rule and what to do with the minority consequences of majoritarianism.