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

Introduction. An Introduction to Research Methods in the Social Sciences  

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

Introducing research methods in the social sciences is not an easy task given how complex the subject matter is. Social sciences, like all sciences, can be divided into categories (disciplines). Disciplines are frequently defined according to what they study (their empirical object) and how they study it (their particular problematization of the object). They are, however, by no means unitary entities. Within each discipline, multiple theories typically contend over the ability to tell provisional truths about the world. They do so by building on specific visions of the nature of the world, reflections on how to generate scientific truth, systematic ways of collecting and analyzing data (methods) and of justifying these methods as part of a coherent research design (methodologies).

Chapter

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

Mixed Methods  

Combination of Quantitative and Qualitative Research Approaches

Manfredi Valeriani and Vicki L. Plano Clark

This chapter examines mixed-methods research, which is an approach that involves the integration of quantitative and qualitative methods at one or more stages of a research study. The central idea behind mixed-methods research is that the intentional combination of numeric-based methods with narrative-based methods can best provide answers to some research questions. The ongoing attempts to construct a simple and common conceptualization of mixed-methods provide a good indicator of the status of mixed-methods itself. mixed-methods research has emerged as a formalized methodology well suited to addressing complex problems, and is currently applied throughout the social sciences and beyond. Nowadays, researchers interested in combining quantitative and qualitative methods can benefit from the growing knowledge about the epistemological foundations, essential considerations, and rigorous designs that have been advanced for mixed-methods research.

Chapter

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

Factor Analysis  

Uncovering Unobservable Constructs

Ulf Liebe

This chapter examines factor analysis, which is used to test whether a set of observable or manifest variables can measure one or more unobservable or latent constructs that they have in common. Such constructs are called factors. Factor analysis is therefore a data reduction method. In its foundation period, factor analysis was often applied to the study of general intelligence and mental abilities. Nowadays factor analysis is a workhorse for quantitative research in the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. There are two types of factor analysis: exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis. Exploratory factor analysis is used for examining the underlying structures in a set of variables. Confirmatory factor analysis is used to test theoretical hypotheses; the researcher assumes that variables are interrelated in a specific way and uses factor analysis to find out whether the assumption is supported by the data — i.e. to what extent the data fits the predefined structure.

Chapter

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

Triangulation  

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

This chapter looks at triangulation, which is classically defined as looking at one research object from different perspectives. However, this large and consensual definition masks different approaches to triangulation and ignores its historical evolution since its emergence in social sciences literature. To gain a better insight into its current definitions, the chapter first proposes a brief historical overview and highlight its different meanings. It then illustrates how triangulation can be used in a research design in order to gain extra knowledge. Finally, the chapter talks about mixed-methods research and its relationship with triangulation. In the context of the tensions opposing qualitative and quantitative research, triangulation is used by mixed-methods research to justify that qualitative and quantitative methods should systematically be articulated.

Book

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

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

Research Methods in the Social Sciences features chapters that cover a wide range of concepts, methods, and theories. Each chapter begins with an introduction to a method, using real-world examples from a wide range of academic disciplines, before discussing the benefits and limitations of the approach, its current status in academic practice, and finally providing tips and advice on when and how to apply the method in research. The text covers both well-established concepts and emerging ideas, such as big data and network analysis, for qualitative and quantitative research methods.

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.