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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.

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

Archival Research  

Chloé Brière

This chapter discusses archival research, starting with a description of archives. The various types of archives constitute a precious resource for researchers, and in many disciplines, such as sociology, political sciences, law, or history, archival research occupies a central place. Depending on the field of research, analysis may be limited to a single archive or require a comprehensive comparative analysis of various archives, taking into account their diverse nature and purposes. Archival research can be defined as finding, using, and correlating information within primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are sources created by persons directly involved in the event, reflecting their point of view, such as personal diaries or letters. In contrast, secondary sources are sources not based on a direct observation of an event, or on evidence directly associated with the subject, and they rely on pre-existing primary sources. The chapter then details the main steps of archival research and looks at the development of online archives and databases.

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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 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.

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

Boolean Algebra  

Jasmin Hasić

This chapter addresses Boolean algebra, which is based on Boolean logic. In the social sciences, Boolean algebra comes under different labels. It is often used in set-theoretic and qualitative comparative analysis to assess complex causation that leads to particular outcomes involving different combinations of conditions. The basic features of Boolean algebra are the use of binary data, combinatorial logic, and Boolean minimization to reduce the expressions of causal complexity. By calculating the intersection between the final Boolean equation and the hypotheses formulated in Boolean terms, three subsets of causal combinations emerge: hypothesized and empirically confirmed; hypothesized, but not detected within the empirical evidence; and causal configurations found empirically, but not hypothesized. This approach is both holistic and analytic because it examines cases as a whole and in parts.

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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 Comparative Politics

2. Approaches in comparative politics  

B. Guy Peters

This chapter examines five main approaches in comparative politics that represent important contributions: old and new institutional analysis, interest approach, ideas approach, individual approach, and the influence of the international environment. The role of ‘interaction’ is also explored. After explaining the use of theory in comparative political analysis, the chapter considers structural functionalism, systems theory, Marxism, corporatism, institutionalism, governance, and comparative political economy. It also discusses behavioural and rational choice approaches, how political culture helps in understanding political behaviour in different countries, self-interest in politics, and the implications of globalization for comparative politics. The chapter concludes by assessing the importance of looking at political processes and of defining what the ‘dependent variables’ are.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

2. Approaches in Comparative Politics  

B. Guy Peters

This chapter examines five main approaches in comparative politics that represent important contributions: old and new institutional analysis, interest approach, ideas approach, individual approach, and the influence of the international environment. The role of ‘interaction’ is also explored. After explaining the use of theory in comparative political analysis, the chapter considers structural functionalism, systems theory, Marxism, corporatism, institutionalism, governance, and comparative political economy. It also discusses behavioural and rational choice approaches, how political culture helps to understand political behaviour in different countries, self-interest in politics, and the implications of globalization for comparative politics. The chapter concludes by assessing the importance of looking at political processes and of defining what the ‘dependent variables’ are.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

10. Historical Research  

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

Cover Foreign Policy

1. The history and evolution of foreign policy analysis  

Valerie M. Hudson

This chapter traces the history and evolution of foreign policy analysis (FPA) as a subfield of international relations (IR) from its beginnings in the 1950s through its classical period until 1993. It begins with a discussion of three paradigmatic works that laid the foundation of FPA: Decision Making as an Approach to the Study of International Politics (1954), by Richard C. Snyder, H. W. Bruck, and Burton Sapin; ‘Pre-theories and Theories of Foreign Policy’ (1966), by James N. Rosenau; and Man–Milieu Relationship Hypotheses in the Context of International Politics (1956), by Harold and Margaret Sprout. These three works created three main threads of research in FPA: focusing on the decision making of small/large groups, comparative foreign policy, and psychological/sociological explanations of foreign policy. The chapter also reviews classic FPA scholarship during the period 1954–1993 and concludes with an assessment of contemporary FPA’s research agenda.