Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1996
Comparative Methodology: New Directions in Case-Oriented Research
Main disciplined: Sociology, Political Science
Lecturer: Professor Charles C. Ragin
Institution: Northwestern University, USA
Dates: 5 - 9 August, 1996
This course explores current issues in comparative methodology, with a special focus on possibilities for increasing the rigor of case-oriented research. Comparative social science is defined by the presumption of singular "cases." Comparativists treat cases as meaningful entities purposefully selected, not as homogeneous observations drawn at random from a large pool of equally plausible selections, as in most variable-oriented research. Case-oriented discourse speaks directly to the events and experiences of cases, abstracting from their histories and their specific characteristics and circumstances to draw out their theoretical significance. But discourse that is too case-oriented has its own problems: Every case may seem too different to be compared with any other, and scholarly authority may derive exclusively from in-depth knowledge of cases, not from explication of their theoretical relevance.
In the extreme, discourse that is too slanted toward cases can atomize comparative social science, with each scholar attached to a seemingly unique case and deriving scholarly authority from a store of knowledge that cannot be easily shared. Thus, some balance between case- oriented discourse and variable-oriented discourse must be achieved. This course offers instruction in research strategies and techniques that help achieve this balance. The logic of comparative analysis will be contrasted with other analytic logics, with a special concern for the differences between comparative analysis and other forms of qualitative and quantitative analysis. Another central concern will be the comparative analytic techniques appropriate for different types of comparative investigations. The logic of comparative research is powerfully influenced by the number of cases included in a study. This course will examine a wide range of comparative designs, from comparatively oriented case studies to research on large numbers of cases.
- Social research as a process of representing social life. Readings: Constructing Social Research, Part I; What Is a Case?
- Differences among major research strategies: comparative versus qualitative research. Readings: Constructing Social Research, Part II; The Comparative Method, chapters 2, 3
- Differences among major research strategies: comparative versus quantitative research. Readings: selections from Comparative Social Research(1966); The Comparative Method, chapter 4; Designing Social Inquiry
- The logic of comparative research: basic concepts. Readings: The Comparative Method, chapter 6; Understanding Diversity, Part I.
- The logic of comparative research: advanced concepts. Readings: The Comparative Method, chapters 7, 8; Understanding Diversity, Part I.
- Evaluating comparative research designs: small-N studies. Readings: selected research articles; Understanding Diversity, Part II.
- Evaluating comparative research: moderate and large-N studies. Readings: selected research articles.
- Qualitative-comparative analysis of quantitative data. Readings: selected research articles; Understanding Diversity, Part III.
- Using comparative methods to assess theory. Readings: The Comparative Method, chapters 8, 9.
- The dialogue of theory and evidence in comparative research. Readings: The Comparative Method, chapters 8, 9; Understanding Diversity, Part III.
- King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (230 pp)
- Ragin, Charles C. 1987. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (170 pp)
- Ragin, Charles C. 1994. Constructing Social Research: The Unity and Diversity of Method. Newbury Park, CA: Pine Forge Press. (175 pp)
Articles, chapters and other short pieces
- Esping-Andersen, Gösta. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (10 pp?)
- Mjøset, Lars (editor). 1966. Comparative Social Research. Special issue of research annual devoted to discussion of current issues in macrosocial research; selected articles. (50 pp?)
- Nichols, Elizabeth. 1986. "Skocpol and Revolution: Comparative Analysis Versus Historical Conjuncture." Comparative Social Research 9:163-186.
- Ragin, Charles. 1994. "Introduction to Qualitative Comparative Analysis." and "A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of Pension Systems." Both published in The Comparative Political Economy of the Welfare State: New Methodologies and Approaches, edited by Thomas Janoski and Alexander Hicks. New York: Cambridge University Press. (30 pp)
- Ragin, Charles. 1995. "Using Qualitative Comparative Analysis Study Configurations. Published in Udo Kelle, Computers and Qualitative Analysis. London: Sage. (15 pp)
- Ragin, Charles C. 1996. Understanding Diversity: New Directions in Case-Oriented Social Research. Book in progress; selected chapters. (150 pp)
- Ragin, Charles C. and Howard S. Becker. 1992. What is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry.Edited collection of essays. New York: Cambridge University Press; selected chapters. (50 pp)
- Ragin, Charles and Jeremy Hein. 1993. The comparative study of ethnicity: methodological and conceptual issues. Published in Race and Ethnicity in Research Methods, edited by John Stanfield II and Rutledge Dennis. Newbury Park: Sage Publications (1993). (20 pp)
- Skocpol, Theda. 1979. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China. New York: Cambridge University Press. (20 pp)
- Wade, Robert. 1988. Village Republics: Economic Conditions for Collective Action in South India. New York: Cambridge University Press. (20 pp)
There will be a one or two class sessions devoted to the use of a software package called Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), a computer program designed for the analysis of configurations of characteristics across cases. While students should know how to use IBM compatible microcomputers, no special knowledge of any specific software package is expected. QCA will be provided free of charge to students enrolled in the course.