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

Falsification  

How does it Relate to Reproducibility?

Brian D. Earp

This chapter evaluates falsification. Contemporary philosophers of science tend to look down on falsifiability as overly simplistic. Nevertheless, among many practising scientists, the notion is still regarded as a useful — if imperfect — heuristic for judging the strength of a hypothesis in terms of its ability to generate new insights when combined with careful observation. Falsification also relates to self-correction in science. Often, erroneous findings make their way into the literature. If subsequent researchers conduct the same experiment as the original and yet it fails to yield the same finding, they are often described as having ‘falsified’ (that is, shown to be incorrect) the original result. In this way, mistakes, false alarms, and other non-reproducible output is thought to be identifiable and thus able to be corrected. For self-correction in science through falsification, what is needed are ‘direct’ replications. The chapter then considers the importance of auxiliary assumptions.

Chapter

Cover Foreign Policy

14. The Cuban Missile Crisis  

Graham Allison

This chapter examines the significance of the Cuban Missile Crisis in terms of foreign policy. It begins with a discussion of the Soviets’ deployment of ballistic missiles in Cuba under the covert mission Operation Anadyr and the four principal hypotheses advanced by the Kennedy administration to explain such a move: the Cuban defence hypothesis, Cold War politics, missile power hypothesis, and the Berlin hypothesis. It then analyses President John F. Kennedy’s declaration of a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba and the reasons for the Soviets’ decision to withdraw their missiles from Cuba. It also considers three conceptual frameworks for analysing foreign policy in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Chapter

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

Bayesian Inference  

Arnaud Dufays

This chapter evaluates Bayesian inference, which refers to the Bayesian statistical method for estimating the parameters of a model and for testing a hypothesis. It relies on subjective statistics and extensively uses Bayes’s theorem. In the early 1990s, Bayesian statistics boomed with the emergence of sampling techniques. These new tools rely on the computational power to sample from (rather than evaluate) the posterior probability. However, the main drawback of the Bayesian approach lies in the computation of the posterior probability. The analytical computation of the posterior probability is a complex problem for any application, and this has limited Bayesian statistics for years.

Chapter

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

Statistical Significance  

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan

This chapter highlights statistical significance. The key question in quantitative analysis is whether a pattern observed in a sample also holds for the population from which the sample was drawn. A positive answer to this question implies that the result is ‘statistically significant’ — i.e. it was not produced by a random variation from sample to sample, but, instead, reflects the pattern that exists in the population. The null hypothesis statistical test (NHST) has been a widely used approach for testing whether inference from a sample to the population is valid. Seeking to test whether valid inferences about the population could be made based on the results from a single sample, a researcher should consider a wide variety of approaches and take into the account not only p-values, but also sampling process, sample size, the quality of measurement, and other factors that may influence the reliability of estimates.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

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

Cover Contemporary Terrorism Studies

28. Victims of Terrorism and Political Violence  

Orla Lynch and Carmel Joyce

This chapter focuses on victims of terrorism and political violence. Psychological and criminological research on victimhood challenges the portrayal of victims as rand and unlucky targets of indiscriminate violence. Research on victims is often concerned with the psychological impact of violence and this results often in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The chapter also highlights how victims of terrorism often become public victims and are politicized in the process. It also looks at the hierarchy of victimhood, the Just World Hypothesis, characteristics of an ideal victim, and differences between good and bad victims.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the Developing World

6. Inequality  

Jenny Pearce

This chapter examines the key conceptual debates on inequality that were common until the end of World War II and the birth of the field of ‘development’. Two inequality-related questions have dominated development debates for decades. Firstly, does growth inevitably lead to inequality? And if so, does it matter, as long as poverty declines? The debates around these questions began in the 1950s with Simon Kuznets’ introduction of the ‘inverted-U hypothesis’, which posited that relative inequality increases, but only temporarily, in the early stages of economic growth, improving once countries reach middle-income levels. The chapter considers the politics and economics of inequality in the developing world as well as inequalities in the age of globalization. It concludes with an assessment of the World Bank’s incorporation of the goal of ‘shared prosperity’ in its discourse alongside its ongoing concern to reduce poverty.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

16. Patterns of Association: Bivariate Analysis  

This chapter discusses the principles of bivariate analysis as a tool for helping researchers get to know their data and identify patterns of association between two variables. Bivariate analysis offers a way of establishing whether or not there is a relationship between two variables, a dependent variable and an independent variable. With bivariate analysis, theoretical expectations can be compared against evidence from the real world to see if the theory is supported by what is observed. The chapter examines the pattern of association between dependent and independent variables, with particular emphasis on hypothesis testing and significance tests. It discusses ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and cross-tabulation, two of the most widely used statistical analysis techniques in political research. Finally, it explains how to state the null hypothesis, calculate the chi square, and establishing the correlation between the dependent and independent variables.