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

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 02 December 2021

p. 185N. Nomothetic and Idiographic Methodslocked

p. 185N. Nomothetic and Idiographic Methodslocked

  • Nicky Hayes

Abstract

This chapter looks at nomothetic and idiographic methods. Knowing the purpose helps the researcher define the scope conditions of the research, and will also reveal whether the research should be nomothetic or idiographic. Nomothetic research aims to identify laws about human behaviour — the Greek word ‘nomos’ means ‘law’. It assumes that it is possible to discover regularities of influence or behaviour, allowing experts to predict the likely outcomes of possible actions or innovations. As such, it looks for general principles, not special cases. Idiographic research, by contrast, is all about exploring individuality or uniqueness. Idiographic research tends to focus on a single example, which might be a person, an event, a phenomenon, or an organization, and to analyse that example in-depth. As a result, idiographic methods are often used in case studies, and are characteristic of ethnographic research.

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