Toward a Pluralistic Vision of Methodology

Political Analysis, Vol. 14, pp. 353-368, 2006

16 Pages Posted: 31 May 2012

See all articles by David Collier

David Collier

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science

Jason Seawright

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science

Henry E. Brady

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 12, 2006

Abstract

Both data-set observations (DSOs) and causal-process observations (CPOs) are important for causal inference. DSOs – located in the standard “rectangular data set” of statistical analysis – make their contribution through a quantitative logic of comparison, frequently using different forms and extensions of regression analysis. They are deservedly a major research tool in political science. Yet when based on observational data, they must be analyzed with great care. Problems such as cofounders, for example, can be hard to address. DSOs are therefore valuable, but serious limitations must be recognized. CPOs provide a different form of analytic leverage. They are carefully selected “nuggets of data” that are a foundation of qualitative research and can have great probative value in evaluating hypotheses. Achieving rigorous inference with CPOs depends on exact specification both of the inferences to be evaluated, and of standards of evaluation. If such specification is inadequate, CPOs likewise have serious limitations. A more powerful option – which can help address limitations on both sides – is to use DSOs and CPOs together in a single study. As our examples show, major studies have indeed adopted this multi-method approach, thereby achieving strong inferential leverage.

Keywords: methodology, causal inference, multimethod research, qualitative methods

Suggested Citation

Collier, David and Seawright, Jason and Brady, Henry E., Toward a Pluralistic Vision of Methodology (June 12, 2006). Political Analysis, Vol. 14, pp. 353-368, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1676537

David Collier (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Jason Seawright

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Scott Hall
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Henry E. Brady

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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