This chapter addresses hypotheses. Empirical social scientific research often entails an interaction between observations and theory (a logical and precise speculation about an answer to a research question). In the application of deductive reasoning, a specific theory will inform a set of hypotheses that are then tested through empirical observations. Accordingly, hypotheses can be defined as ‘testable propositions entailed by the logic of the theory’. The chapter then details five basic principles to build a theory. Although critics have pointed out that these principles are unsuitable for the investigation of a small-Number of cases due to the reliance on random selection and generalization, it remains an important work in developing procedures for avoiding bias and making reliable inferences. The chapter also discusses the formulation of a good hypothesis.
State of the Art and ‘Best Practice’
Onna van den Broek and Adam William Chalmers
This chapter focuses on fundamental assumptions that researchers make about how we can know and develop knowledge about the social world, such as assumptions about the nature of human behaviour and the methods appropriate to studying and explaining that behaviour. The main objective is how to carry out a systematic and rigorous investigation of social phenomena. The chapter considers three different answers to the question of how to approach the study of social phenomena: those offered by positivism, scientific realism, and interpretivism. It also explores the differences among these answers and their implications for conducting political research. Finally, it discusses the use of a positivist (rational choice) and interpretivist (constructivist) approach to the analysis of ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
This chapter focuses on a key debate in the philosophy of social science: whether it is possible to separate facts and values in social science research. It first considers normative and empirical theory in political research before discussing the ways in which the values of the researcher influence the research process. It then examines Thomas Kuhn’s arguments concerning paradigms and how they change through scientific ‘revolutions’, along with their implications for the possibility of value-free social inquiry. It looks at an example of how the notion of ‘paradigm’ has been applied to a specific area of inquiry within politics: the study of development. It also compares Kuhn’s paradigms with Imre Lakatos’ concept of ‘scientific research programmes’.
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.