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Chapter

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

Literature Review  

Mathieu Ouimet and Pierre-Olivier Bédard

This chapter highlights literature review. Reviewing the published literature is one of the key activities of social science research, as a way to position one’s academic contribution, but also to get a bird’s eye view of what the relevant literature says on a given topic or research question. Many guides have been created to assist academic researchers and students in conducting a literature review, but there is no consensus on the most appropriate method to do so. One of the reasons for this lack of consensus is the plurality of epistemological attitudes that coexist in the social sciences. Before initiating a literature review, the researcher should start by clarifying the need for and the purpose of the review. Once this has been clarified, the actual review protocol, tools, and databases to be used will need to be determined to strike a balance between the scope of the study and the depth of the review.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

5. Conducting a Literature Search  

Today, the world of research is quite literally available through the touch of a few buttons via online resaerch. But this increase in access and availability is not without its challenges. With ‘hits’ that can run into millions, unless the student knows how to search effectively and efficiently, the information that he or she finds can quickly become overwhelming. This chapter guides students through the process of literature searching for their dissertation. It outlines how to develop a successful search strategy and what to do with the literature once it is discovered. Topics covered include what counts as literature; different ‘types’ of literature searching; how to develop a literature search strategy; and common problems associated with literature searching.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

7. Building Your Project  

Once students have developed an idea, outlined a rationale for their research, and found the relevant literature, they then need to start mapping out what their project will look like. To do this, they will need to make some decisions about how they will answer their research questions. Research can be approached and conducted in many different ways. Broadly speaking, there are four interrelated stages of building a social science dissertation: research strategy: the type of data under investigation (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods); research design: the framework through which that data will be collected; research methods: the methods associated with collecting the type of data selected; and type of analysis: the techniques through which the data will be analysed. This chapter focuses on the decisions that students can make in relation to the first two stages: research strategy and research design.

Chapter

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

M. Meta-Analysis  

A Solution to Deal with Scientific Information Overload when Conducting Research Syntheses

Noémie Laurens

This chapter illustrates meta-analysis, which is a specific type of literature review, and more precisely a type of research synthesis, alongside traditional narrative reviews. Unlike in primary research, the unit of analysis of a meta-analysis is the results of individual studies. And unlike traditional reviews, meta-analysis only applies to: empirical research studies with quantitative findings hat are conceptually comparable and configured in similar statistical forms. What further distinguishes meta-analysis from other research syntheses is the method of synthesizing the results of studies — i.e. the use of statistics and, in particular, of effect sizes. An effect size represents the degree to which the phenomenon under study exists.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

6. Reviewing the Literature  

The literature review is a key component of a dissertation. It serves to contextualize the aims and objectives of the project, and in terms of the research process it helps to sensitize issues of interest that the student might want to direct their attention towards when they begin collecting and analysing data. This chapter provides an introduction to the literature review and examines its purpose in relation to the research process. Beginning with a short exploration of the nature of a literature review and its relationship with theory, the chapter goes on to examine the different types of review before detailing the key content. By the end of the chapter, students should have a good understanding of the role of the literature review in research and how it informs every aspect of the research process.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

4. Kautilya  

Deepshikha Shahi

This chapter presents the seminal work of chief counsellor Kautilya, Arthaśāstra. Arthaśāstra has been unanimously accepted not only as one of the most precious works of Sanskrit literature, but also as an ancient Indian compendium of principles and policies related to political science. The chapter begins by unfolding the ‘philosophical foundation’ of Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra. A systematic study of this foundation clarifies the moral footing of Kautilya’s political theory. The chapter then unpacks the structural and functional outlook of Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra, demonstrating how Kautilya’s political theory is eclectic. It fuses the allegedly conflicting rational/prudential and abstract/ideal concerns in politics, thereby outdoing the prescriptions of Eurocentric realpolitik. Finally, the chapter inspects the position of gender and caste in Kautilya’s political theory. In so doing, it probes the gaps between Kautilya’s theoretical plan and its practical performance.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

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, explanatory, predictive, prescriptive, and normative.