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Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Case Study  

Jessica Luciano Gomes and Miriam Gomes Saraiva

This chapter explores the case study, which is a very common research method in the field of social sciences. Case studies are important because they provide the examination of samples of a larger atmosphere, therefore enabling researchers with a variety of possibilities: to deepen the analysis of a particular occurrence in the world, to contribute to an existing theoretical framework, and to serve as an instrument of comparative analysis. Although it might sound simplistic, the research framework for case studies usually has to satisfy a few key points. Case studies can be divided into separate categories: exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory. They are also directly related to the type of research question being posed from the traditional five types of survey questions: ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘how’, and ‘why’. One can often find case studies among both qualitative and quantitative approaches, focusing on a case study per se or on cross-case method.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

C. Case Selection  

Laura Gelhaus and Dirk Leuffen

This chapter describes case selection, which is a crucial component of designing social research. Its importance can hardly be overstated because the cases you choose affect the answers you get. However, how should researchers select their cases? A careful inspection of the research question, the study’s objective, should be the starting point. The research question typically anchors the study in a research area, specifies the universe of cases, and guides its engagement with theory. Ideally, case selection is solely driven by methodology; however, practicality and feasibility considerations frequently make adjustments to the design necessary. Such considerations concern, for instance, the costs of data collection. The chapter introduces a few commonly used case selection strategies as well as two hotly debated topics in the literature on case selection: selecting on the dependent variable and random case selection.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Terrorism Studies

1. Introduction  

Diego Muro and Tim Wilson

This chapter introduces the field of terrorism studies, which is the fastest-growing sub-discipline within the broader field of international relations. As a subject of study, terrorism is a cutting-edge field in terms of looking into how power relations are determined in the world today. Generally, terrorism studies have tended to see terrorism as a deliberate act of inciting of fear in other people. The chapter highlights the importance of accounting for the cost of lost lives while studying terrorism. The chapter then divides the book into three divisions: state of terrorism studies, debates in terrorism studies, and countering terrorism. Additionally, the chapter notes how case studies are used to examine concepts in relation to real-life experiences.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

3. Comparative research methods  

Paul Pennings and Hans Keman

This chapter examines the ‘art of comparing’ by showing how to relate a theoretically guided research question to a properly founded research answer by developing an adequate research design. It first considers the role of variables in comparative research, before discussing the meaning of ‘cases’ and case selection. It then looks at the ‘core’ of the comparative research method: the use of the logic of comparative inquiry to analyse the relationships between variables (representing theory), and the information contained in the cases (the data). Two logics are distinguished: method of difference and method of agreement. The chapter concludes with an assessment of some problems common to the use of comparative methods.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

3. Comparative Research Methods  

Paul Pennings and Hans Keman

This chapter examines the ‘art of comparing’ by showing how to relate a theoretically guided research question to a properly founded research answer by developing an adequate research design. It first considers the role of variables in comparative research, before discussing the meaning of ‘cases’ and case selection. It then looks at the ‘core’ of the comparative research method: the use of the logic of comparative inquiry to analyse the relationships between variables (representing theory), and the information contained in the cases (the data). Two logics are distinguished: Method of Difference and Method of Agreement. The chapter concludes with an assessment of some problems common to the use of comparative methods.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

9. Comparative Research  

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

Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

10. Human Rights and Religion  

Roja Fazaeli

This chapter examines the ways in which theoretical and practical relationships between religion and human rights are constructed and understood. It begins with a historical background on the relationship between religion and human rights, focusing on religious traditions from which human rights discourses have inherited or rejected a number of ideas; one is the tradition of natural rights, which was debated throughout the Enlightenment. It then considers the formation of the international human rights system, along with contemporary concerns regarding religion and human rights such as the treatment of women, religious expression and rights claims in multicultural contexts, and the significance of religious symbols. It also discusses questions of religious authority and concludes with a review of two European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) cases that demonstrate growing edges for questions of human rights and religion: the Lautsi case and the Şahin case.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Comparative Analysis  

Céline C. Cocq and Ora Szekely

This chapter illustrates comparative analysis, which is simply defined as comparing and contrasting two or more phenomena in order to better understand them. Comparative analysis plays an important role in both academic and policy-related circles and can be useful in many different ways. While in the hard sciences it is possible to conduct experiments under controlled laboratory conditions, this is often impossible in social science. Social scientists must therefore find other ways of isolating and testing the impact of variables and understanding the relationships between them. Accordingly, the goal of comparative analysis is the comparison of phenomena — whether that means comparison within individual cases, among a small group of cases, or the analysis of large amounts of data — to identify key independent variable(s) and establish what link, if any, exists between them and the dependent variable(s). Comparative analysis can also be useful in establishing the nature of that relationship, assessing whether it is necessary, sufficient, or both. Moreover, cross-case comparison allows social scientists to build broad theories that are applicable in different contexts.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Sampling Techniques  

Sample Types and Sample Size

Emilie van Haute

This chapter assesses sampling techniques. Researchers may restrict their data collection to a sample of a population for convenience or necessity if they lack the time and resources to collect data for the entire population. Therefore, a sample is any subset of units collected from a population. Research sampling techniques refer to case selection strategy — the process and methods used to select a subset of units from a population. While sampling techniques reduce the costs of data collection, they induce a loss in terms of comprehensiveness and accuracy, compared to working on the entire population. The data collected are subject to errors or bias. Two main decisions determine the size or margin of error and whether the results of a sample study can be generalized and applied to the entire population with accuracy: the choice of sample type and the sample size.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

7. What is Data?  

This chapter considers the main types of data used in Politics and International Relations, as well as the main criteria by which to judge whether the data collected is good or not. It first describes the steps involved in the process of thinking about what data or evidence is relevant to answering a research question before discussing the importance of addressing issues of validity and reliability in research. Some of these issues are illustrated by referring to recent attempts to measure corruption, a major topic of interest in Politics and International Relations. The chapter also examines the issue of case selection as well as the collection of qualitative and quantitative data using methods such as interviewing and observation. Finally, it analyses the so-called ‘big data’ revolution in data collection and analysis, and provides a data quality checklist.

Book

Cover Human Rights
Human Rights: Theory and Practice provides in-depth theoretical content and features coverage of human rights issues in practice, with a wide range of case studies showing true-to-life examples from around the world. This fourth edition brings the text up to date with new readings centred on recent and relevant issues. It is an interdisciplinary examination of human rights, rather than strictly political science-centric. The first part of the book looks at theory and includes chapters on the philosophical foundations of human rights, international law, politics, and feminist approaches to human rights. There are also chapters that cover imperialism, social life, and performative practice. The second part looks at practice. Here chapters cover genocide, humanitarian intervention, transitional justice, and treaties and enforcement. There are also chapters on political democracy and state repression, migration, refugees, the environment, indigenous rights, and language sovereignty. This part also looks at social movements, issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, religion, and the human right to water. The final chapter in the second part examines the SDGs and economic rights.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Terrorism Studies

18. Social Media and Terrorism  

Donald Holbrook

This chapter tackles the role of social media in the evolution of terrorism. It dissects the key components of social media, using Twitter as a case study. It then highlights ways in which the emergence of social media has impacted modern terrorism. These ways relate to notions of asymmetry where terrorists seek to maximize their impact against materially stronger adversaries, the networked aspect of terrorism, and the importance of communication for terrorists. Communication here is defined very broadly. The chapter looks at how terrorists have adopted social media techniques in various parts of the world and considers some of the pitfalls, in addition to the benefits, this adoption can bring. The final part of the chapter delves into the relationship between online habits and behaviours on the one hand and their implications in the real world on the other.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Process Tracing  

Tracing the Causal Pathways between Independent and Dependent Variables

Jochem Rietveld and Seda Gürkan

This chapter illustrates process-tracing (PT), which is a qualitative within-case data analysis technique used to identify causal relations. Although there are several distinct definitions of the PT method, scholars largely agree that the process-tracing method attempts to identify the intervening causal process (or the causal chain or causal mechanism) between an independent variable and the dependent variable. The PT method can be used for theory testing and theory-building. When it is applied to theory testing, a hypothetical causal mechanism is tested against empirical evidence. The research goal is to test whether a theorized mechanism is present in a given case, or whether the mechanism functions as expected in the selected case. When tracing is applied to theory-building, the goal is to identify causal processes for which there is no available prior theoretical hypothesis in the literature. Here, the aim of the research is to develop theory.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Qualitative Comparative Analysis  

Kevin Kalomeni and Claudius Wagemann

This chapter examines qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), which strives to bridge the methodological rift between case study-based research and quantitative studies. QCA belongs to the broader family of configurational comparative methods (CCMs). From an analytical perspective, QCA can be distinguished from quantitative approaches. The emphasis shifts from covariance to the analysis of set relations. Being strongly tied to a profound theoretical and conceptual reasoning which is typical for comparison in general, the analysis of set relations is based on three steps: first, a score is attributed to a social phenomenon (representing either a dichotomous or a graded set membership), usually in relation to other phenomena. Second, necessary conditions are defined. Third, through the help of a truth table analysis, (combinations of) sufficient conditions are analysed.