Friday, October 14, 2005

Approaching approaches

Been reading on comparative research and methodologies yesterday - and more today. Some of it is related to next week's seminar in Comparative Politics regarding democratisation studies while the rest is associated with comparative education.

There is some crossover between the two, not least in the extent to which findings are universally generalisable or specific to a particular situation (i.e. region or culture). Also this notion that selection of case studies can actually determine your findings, which is one incentive to take a broader perspective rather than focusing on a narrow topic (e.g. democratisation in Latin America as opposed to generally or comparing education outcomes between British schools as opposed to internationally).

Especially for the seminar next week I'm going to have to take a stance on which perspective is preferable. Yet I can see arguments both for and against the narrow and wide approaches. Indeed one text I read (Mahoney), argued for an accumulative approach to knowledge (i.e. scholars build on the analyses and findings of previous scholars to test and expand theory and methodology). This seems to implicitly argue for a broader approach. Yet as far as I can tell, doesn't most research build on the past? Does a research programme exist which hasn't 'borrowed' from others before? Even the use of game theory and rational choice in political science - coming from economics - has to be situated within a framework, in this case democratisation studies. Used alone it can't explain anything.

I see I'm going to have my work cut out over the coming few days...

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