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Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

1. Introduction  

This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the definition of a dissertation. It then sets out the ways in which the present volume can help students with their dissertation, i.e. how to move from a focus on the theory of research methods to the process of actually undertaking research. Throughout, the book provides a number of features that help students to deal with the challenges of writing a dissertation, and suggests how they might overcome them. These features draw directly on the experiences of students who have undertaken a dissertation, and the expertise of dissertation supervisors from different disciplines. The chapter then goes on to explain how this book is organized followed by an overview of the subsequent chapters.

Chapter

Cover How to do your Social Research Project or Dissertation

2. The Social Research Process  

This chapter outlines some of the basic features of social research. It introduces students to the notion that social research is a process, helps to clarify the reasons for reearch, and explores the relationship between theory and research. Using the analogy of a voyage, it demonstrates that specific tasks associated with for carrying out social research tend to be ordered, but not always orderly. There are dynamic points of issue that need to be negotiated to move a dissertation project toward completion, or otherwise there is a risk of being blown off course. By understanding what is meant by the research process, and how theory can be used in social research, readers can begin to explore, describe, and explain the human world with greater confidence.

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

Grand Theory and Middle-Range Theory  

Choosing the Right Tool for Theory Building

Frederik Ponjaert

This chapter differentiates between grand theory and middle-range theory. The study of social phenomena raises the twofold question about the internal and external validity of a hypothesis. A piece of research is internally valid when it describes the true state of affairs within its own setting. The extent to which its findings can be applied to other settings will determine its relative external validity. External validity is a product of the theoretical aspirations of the research. When grand in scope, theoretical aspirations reject the importance of specific variations and attempt to describe the true state of affairs in all settings. Conversely, a theory-building exercise with a mid-range scope is bound by a set of conditional statements. Whereas middle-range theory-building is rooted in generalizable empirical propositions, grand theory-building is based on internally consistent ontologies. On the one hand, grand theory favours highly abstract theorizing, which is fairly distinct from concrete empirical concerns. On the other hand, middle-range theories reflect more sociologically embedded theorizing, which strives to integrate theory and empirical variations over time and space.

Chapter

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

Hypotheses  

State of the Art and ‘Best Practice’

Onna van den Broek and Adam William Chalmers

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.

Chapter

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

Typology  

A Multidimensional Classification

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

This chapter assesses typology. The importance of typologies is contested. Some scholars view them as fundamental to concept construction, while others consider that they are temporary devices at best and actually discourage their use. The chapter focuses on the less problematic, heuristic roles of typologies. In this respect, typologies are a proven and widely used instrument for organizing knowledge and ideas at various stages of research, and especially for jump starting the process of generating hypotheses. Moreover, theories are often presented, e.g. for didactic purposes, by means of typologies. Before turning to the uses of typologies, the chapter differentiates between typology, classification, and taxonomy.

Chapter

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

Process Tracing  

Tracing the Causal Pathways between Independent and Dependent Variables

Jochem Rietveld and Seda Gürkan

This chapter illustrates process-tracing (PT), which is a qualitative within-case data analysis technique used to identify causal relations. Although there are several distinct definitions of the PT method, scholars largely agree that the process-tracing method attempts to identify the intervening causal process (or the causal chain or causal mechanism) between an independent variable and the dependent variable. The PT method can be used for theory testing and theory-building. When it is applied to theory testing, a hypothetical causal mechanism is tested against empirical evidence. The research goal is to test whether a theorized mechanism is present in a given case, or whether the mechanism functions as expected in the selected case. When tracing is applied to theory-building, the goal is to identify causal processes for which there is no available prior theoretical hypothesis in the literature. Here, the aim of the research is to develop theory.

Chapter

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

Regression Analysis  

Kamil Marcinkiewicz and Kai-Uwe Schnapp

This chapter evaluates regression analysis, which uses quantitative and sometimes also qualitative independent variables to explain or predict change in a quantitative dependent variable. To attain this goal, it relies on the principles of covariance and correlation. Its most basic form is linear regression, also known as ordinary least squares (OLS) regression. In addition, there are many other varieties of regression methods for different research questions and data characteristics, such as time-oriented questions or data with a limited range of values. Researchers use regression analysis especially to analyse complex patterns of correlation in situations with more than one explanatory variable. Often such patterns are interpreted in the context of causal theories. The concept of regression goes back to Francis Galton’s study on human height.

Chapter

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

Scientific Realism  

Heikki Patomäki

This chapter addresses scientific realism. After the heyday of empiricism in the interwar period and its immediate aftermath, many critical reactions to empiricism seemed to suggest scientific realism. It was widely agreed that scientific theories make references to things that cannot be directly observed (or at least seen), and thus emerged the issue of the status of non-observables. As scientific realism became increasingly dominant, new philosophical stances such as Bas C. van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism were often defined in opposition to it. Van Fraassen understands scientific realism as a claim that science aims to give us, in its theories, a literally true story of what the world is like; and acceptance of a scientific theory involves the belief that it is true. More in line with established forms of scientific realism, Ilkka Niiniluoto talks about verisimilitude, or truth-likeness. This concept is supposed to avoid the consequences of claiming to have access to the truth itself. The chapter then considers how the social sciences seem to pose difficulties for scientific realism.

Chapter

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

Scope Conditions  

A Potential Escape from Systematic Theory Falsification

Mathilde Gauquelin

This chapter describes scope conditions, the idea of which is rooted in Hempel’s ‘true–false’ paradox of theoretical formulations: one can always find data to support a general theoretical proposition, but conversely, every proposition will also always be subject to contradicting evidence. This realization led scholars to reflect on possible ways to evaluate theories: how can they ever be proven to be valid, if they can never escape falsification? The concept of scope conditions suggests that when formulating general theoretical propositions, scholars may also identify the specific conditions under which they expect these propositions to apply. By doing so, the risk of systematic falsification decreases, and the development of cumulative knowledge becomes possible. The chapter explains the role of scope conditions in theory development and provides guidance on their identification.

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 Comparative Politics

Introduction to Comparative Politics  

Daniele Caramani

This text provides a comprehensive introduction to comparative politics. Comparative politics is an empirical science that deals primarily with domestic politics. It is one of the three main subfields of political science, alongside international relations and political theory. Comparative politics has three goals: to describe differences and similarities between political systems and their features; to explain these differences; and to predict which factors may cause specific outcomes. This edition compares the most important features of national political systems and contains chapters on integration, globalization, and promotion of democracy in non-Western parts of the world. This introductory chapter explains what comparative politics is, and discusses its substance as well as method.