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Chapter

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

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 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

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.

Chapter

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

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.