Lecture#2-Key Concepts in Comparative Research Key concepts
University of Toronto St. George
Lecture#2-Key Concepts in Comparative Research
1. Qualitative vs. Quantitative approaches
2. Descriptive exploratory and explanatory research
3. Ideographic and nomothetic explanation
4. Building and testing theories
5. Population and samples
6. Measurement sampling and error
7. Credibility, transferability and validity
8. Dependability and reliability
9. Confirmability and repicability
10. Validity reliability and bias
11. Cases UFA and bases of comparison
Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches to Comparative Research
Qualitativelinguistic and discursive analysis
Quantitativefocus on statistical analyses of quantifiable data (analytical)
Comparisons between the two of them.
E.g. #1 Interviews vs. Survey Research
One Qualitative approach to poli sci research is to interview subjects about their knowledge of
particular political events or processes
Such an approach is highly analogous to survey research which is a quantitative approach that
also asks research subjects to respond to a series of questions
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two research approaches is that the set of
responses that research subjects can provide are highly structured in survey research (fixed
o Survey research limits choices and takes these responses/treat them as numbers
Interviews allow research participants greater latitude to respond to questions in whichever way
o There are unstructured, semi structured or highly structured interviews
o Although they are structured, interviews allow respondents to answer freely and not
limited by the choices that they have been presented.
For the survey researcher, having a fixed set of possible response is crucial b/c it allows for
application of statistical techniques to the data
Interviewsforce subjects to respond in limited number of ways to eliminate original creative
or unexpected responses.
E.g.#2-Qualitative vs. Quantitative content analysis
Qualitative content analysis involves reading and coding passages of text
QUANTITATIVE involves mechanize analytic processes such as generating counts of specific
words in a given set of documents
Difference: degree of involvement of researcher in the analytic process.
The outcome is a relative de-emphasis of linguistic or discursive detail in quantitative research. Rather than focusing on details of text in terms of survey research, the emphasis is on what the
respondents have to say.
Example Public Policy Analysis
Poli sci researchto determine the effects of specific policies on particular social outcomes
E.g. what is effect of varying approaches to health?
Social policies and citizens’ health.
Researchers use quantitative approaches to assess these relationships by attempting to
establish correlations between types of social policies and level of citizen’s health.
Qualitative allows for inclusion of more detailed analysis.
What do we mean by a greater quantity of data?
E.g. interviews vs. Survey Research
o > more subjects
E.g. Content analysis
o > more texts
E.g. Public Policy Analysis
o >more countries (or provinces, etc…)
Descriptive, Explanatory and exploratory research are three categories.
Descriptive research is research that describes. An example: researcher describes an “occupy”
Exploratory research is exploring. E.g. initial analysis of possible causes of Occupy
movementconclusions o exploratory research is tentative
Explanatory research explains. E.g. detailed analysis of a variety of causes of Occupy Movement
and determine which variety of causes seems to be the most important for explaining citizen
Broad conclusion: Qualitative approaches tend to be more closely linked with descriptive AND
exploratory research while QUANTITATIVE approaches are often linked with explanatory
Qualitative research can be explanatory and qualitative research can be descriptive or
Ideographic and Nomothetic Explanations
Quantitative research often provided nomothetic explanations
A nomothetic explanation is what might be regarded as a typical scientific explanation which
posits specific cause and effect relationships and tests competing hypotheses in order to provide
a parsimonious (frugal) explanation for the observed phenomenon.