Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1998

Comparative Methodology:
The Logic of Case-Oriented Research

Main Disciplines: Sociology,
Research Methods, Political Science
Lecturer: Professor Charles Ragin
Institution: Northwestern University, Evanston, USA
Dates: August 10th - 14th, 1998

This course is primarily for reading and thinking about comparative methodology within the context of social scientific research in general. The course constitutes an advanced introduction to comparative methods, especially as they are practised in sociology and political science today. The logic of comparative analysis will be contrasted with other analytic logics, with a special focus on 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 investigations, especially where the primary concern is to construct generalizations using cross- case evidence. The distinctions between variable-oriented and case-oriented approaches will be investigated, as well as the contrasts between case-study and cross-case research. The course will explore a wide range of comparative designs, from comparatively oriented case studies to large-N investigations.

Basic readings:

The lecturer
Charles Ragin is Professor of Sociology and of Political Science as well as Faculty Associate at the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA. He is also professor II of sociology at The University of Oslo. He has his PhD from the University of North Carolina, and earlier taught at Indiana University for several years. His main interests are comparative and historical sociology, methodology, and political sociology, with a special focus on such topics as the welfare state, ethnic political mobilization, and international political economy.

He is currently working on a new book that uses fuzzy logic as a basis for case-oriented study of social diversity (Fuzzy Social Science, forthcoming 1999, University of Chicago Press). His first book, The Comparative Method (1987) won UNESCO's Stein Rokkan Prize. He also wrote Constructing Social Research (1994) and edited Issues and Alternatives in Comparative Social Research (1991), and What Is a Case? (with Howard Becker, 1992). Recent work includes articles on the expansion of the welfare states in advanced industrial democracies and essays on methodology.