David Collier

Topics: Scientific method, Experiment, Statistics Pages: 4 (775 words) Published: March 16, 2013
David Collier - "The Comparative Method: Two decades of Change" in Dankwart Rustow and Kenneth Paul Erickson, Comparative Political Dynamics: Global research perspectives, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991, pp. 7-31.

The aims of comparison:
* It sharpens our powers of description
* It can be a stimulus to concept formation.
* It provides criteria for testing hypotheses
* It contributes to the inductive discovery of new hypotheses and to theory building.

The comparative method refers to the partially distinctive methodological issues that arise in the systematic analysis of a small number of cases, or a "small N".

Why study a small N?
* Because the phenomena under study occur relatively infrequently * Because, even if these phenomena are more common, it is believed that they are better understood through the close analysis of relatively few observations.

* The problem of having more variables to analyse than cases to observe: the quandary of "many variables, small N" (Arend Lijphart).

Synopsis of Lijpart:
Four methods of analysis:
1. The Case Study method
2. The Comparative method
3. The Experimental method
4. The Comparative method

Case Study method
Merit: permits intensive examination of cases even with limited resources. Inherent Problem: Contributes less to building theory than studies with more cases.Types of Case Studies: 1. Atheoretical 2. Interpretive 3. Hypothesis-generating 4. Theory-confirming 5. Theory-infirming 6. Deviant case studies|

Comparative Method
Defined as: Systematic analysis of small number of cases (small N analysis).Merit: "Given inevitable scarcity of time, energy, and financial resources, the intensive analysis of a few cases may be more promising than the superficial statistical analysis of many cases" (Lijphart, 1971).Inherent problem: Weak capacity to sort out rival explanations, specifically, the problem of...
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