Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: August 16, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9780857021083 | Print ISBN: 9781412919760 | Online ISBN: 9780857021083| Publisher:SAGE Publications LtdAbout this handbook
Chapter 1: The Distinctiveness of Comparative Research
Charles C. Ragin & Claude Rubinson
The distinctiveness of comparative research Social research is inherently comparative (Lieberson, 1985). Researchers compare the relative effects of variables across cases; they compare cases directly with one another; and they compare empirical cases with counterfactual cases. But the comparative method – sometimes referred to as ‘small-N comparison’ – constitutes a distinctive approach to understanding social phenomena. Frequently, comparative methods are portrayed as a ‘bridge’ between qualitative, case-oriented research and quantitative, variable-oriented research. This interpretation is certainly valid. By embracing aspects of both qualitative and quantitative methods, comparative methods can circumvent some of the limitations of both approaches. But comparative research is not merely a bridge, for it has many distinctive features and strengths. We begin this chapter by reviewing the conventional view of comparative methods as simultaneously qualitative and quantitative. The moderate number of cases employed by comparative researchers allows them to engage in the development, testing, and revision of ...