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Chapter

Irene Wieczorek and Piergiuseppe Parisi

This chapter looks at research questions, which identify what the researcher wants to find out or understand. They are a crucial component of any study and are connected to all parts of the research. Depending on the type of study, the research question may either serve as the starting point of the entire research or change in response to the research design. A research question should naturally be formulated in an interrogative manner and should be a query to which the answer is not known at the outset of the research process. Research questions have a twofold purpose: they define the boundaries of a research project, thus guiding the investigation, and they are meant to spark the reader’s interest.

Chapter

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

This chapter discusses the principles of survey research as well as the issues and problems associated with different stages of the research design process. In particular, it examines questionnaire design, sample design, and interviewing techniques, along with the common sources of error that affect survey research and what can be done to try and avoid or minimize them. Although surveys have several weaknesses, they are widely used in political research to investigate a wide range of political phenomena. They combine two things: obtaining information from people by asking questions and random sampling. When done well, surveys provide an accurate and reliable insight into what ordinary people think about politics and how they participate in politics. The chapter considers the elements of a survey that need to be addressed, namely: questionnaire design, measurement error, sampling design, sampling error, and interview mode.

Chapter

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.

Chapter

Operationalization  

From the Concepts to the Data

Anne-Laure Mahé and Theodore McLauchlin

This chapter describes operationalization, which refers to the intellectual operations the researcher undertakes to decide how to observe a concept in reality. This is a crucial step of the research process, as many concepts in the social sciences are too abstract to be immediately observed. The most important criteria of a successful operationalization are consequently the consistency between each step of the research design, from theory formation to data collection, and the degree to which the indicators effectively allow the researcher to gather observations that work well in the context under study. One way to synthesize these points is that operationalization should enable the researcher to respect the principle of double adequacy. First, the researcher’s conceptual argument and the operationalized data should correspond. Second, there is a need for adequacy between those data and the ‘reference reality’.

Chapter

This chapter explores the principles of experimental research design as well as the issues and problems associated with different aspects of the approach. In particular, it considers the issue of internal and external validity, the common obstacles associated with experimental research, and what can be done to try and avoid or minimize them. The chapter first describes the five steps involved in the classic version of the experimental design before discussing three types of experimental design: laboratory experiments, field experiments, and natural experiments. It also examines the ethical issues that arise from experimental research and concludes by highlighting some of the advantages of experimental research.

Chapter

This text provides readers with the analytic skills and resources they need to evaluate research findings in political research, as well as the practical skills for conducting their own independent inquiry. It shows that empirical research and normative research are not independent of each other and explains the distinction between positivism and interpretivism, and between quantitative and qualitative research. Part 1 of this edition discusses key issues in the philosophy of social science, while Part 2 presents a ‘nuts and bolts’ or ‘how to’ guide to research design, such as how to find and formulate a research question. Part 3 evaluates different methods of data collection and analysis that can be used to answer research questions, along with the variety of considerations and decisions that researchers must confront when using different methods.

Chapter

Paul Pennings and Hans Keman

This chapter examines the ‘art of comparing’ by showing how to relate a theoretically guided research question to a properly founded research answer by developing an adequate research design. It first considers the role of variables in comparative research, before discussing the meaning of ‘cases’ and case selection. It then looks at the ‘core’ of the comparative research method: the use of the logic of comparative inquiry to analyse the relationships between variables (representing theory), and the information contained in the cases (the data). Two logics are distinguished: Method of Difference and Method of Agreement. The chapter concludes with an assessment of some problems common to the use of comparative methods.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on the basic principles of research design. It first considers different types of research design, including experimental designs, cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, comparative designs, and historical research designs. It also discusses two types of research validity: internal validity and external validity. The chapter proceeds by describing various methods of data collection and the sort of data or evidence each provides, including questionnaires and surveys, interviewing and focus groups, ethnographic research, and discourse/content analysis. Finally, it examines six issues that must be taken into account to ensure ethical research: voluntary participation, informed consent, privacy, harm, exploitation, and consequences for future research.

Book

Political Research: Methods and Practical Skills provides a practical and relevant guide to the research process for students. It equips readers with the knowledge and skills needed to evaluate research findings and successfully carry out independent study and research. Taking a helpful step-by-step approach, the chapters guide the reader through the process of asking and answering research questions and the different methods used in political research, providing practical advice on how to be critical and rigorous in both evaluating and conducting research. Topics include research design, surveys, interviewing and focus groups, ethnography and participant observation, textual analysis, quantitative analysis, bivariate analysis, and multivariate analysis. With an emphasis throughout on how research can impact important political questions and policy issues, the book equips readers with the skills to formulate significant questions and develop meaningful and persuasive answers.

Chapter

Theofanis Exadaktylos, Paolo R. Graziano, and Maarten P. Vink

This chapter explores a number of fundamental issues that arise when studying Europeanization. It first explains what Europeanization is and what it is not, why some parts of political life seem more affected by the process of European integration than others, and how to interpret variation between member states of the European Union. It then considers the theoretical debates about the relevance of Europeanization, focusing on new institutionalism, goodness of fit, mediating factors, and domestic compliance. It also provides examples of Europeanization studies. It reviews main trends in Europeanization research on policy domains, politics, and polity. Finally, the chapter considers research design issues in Europeanization studies.

Chapter

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.