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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.

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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.

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 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.

Chapter

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

I. Interdisciplinarity  

The Interaction of Different Disciplines for Understanding Common Problems

Roberto Carrillo and Lidia Núñez

This chapter describes interdisciplinary, a term which refers to a mode of conducting research that ‘integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice’. Therefore, it is a way of conducting research that goes beyond the frontiers of traditional disciplines. The chapter provides an overview of the main features of how interdisciplinarity is applied in the social sciences. It defines the concept and traces its origins and evolution, as well as the interrelationship between interdisciplinary studies, society, and the development of public policies. The chapter then discusses the measurement and analysis of interdisciplinarity. Finally, it presents the main criticisms of interdisciplinarity and its use in the social sciences.

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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.