Charles C. Ragin: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative by The Comparative Method

By The Comparative Method

Professor Ragin proposes a man-made new technique, in response to an software of Boolean algebra, that might mix the strengths of either qualitative and quantitative sociology. Elegantly obtainable and germane to the paintings of the entire social sciences, this publication will garner curiosity, debate, and compliment from many quarters.

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Extra resources for Charles C. Ragin: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies

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A preference for generality over specificity enhances the compatibility of the second strategy with the goals of mainstream social science which, in turn, has allowed the use of mainstream methods, especially techniques of statistical control. This strategy attempts to approximate the rigor of experimental methods through statistical manipulation. The effects of competing and confounding variables are "removed" or "partialed" in estimating the effect of each variable. In this way conditions are "controlled," and a basis for generalizing about confounded causes is manufactured mathematically.

It is inferior, according to Smelser, because it must be used when the number of relevant cases is small and the possibility of establishing systematic control over the sources of variation in social phenomena is reduced. The possibilities for social scientific generalization are reduced. In fact, the method that Smelser calls "the method of systematic comparative illustration" is what social scientists traditionally have called the comparative method. It forms the core of the case-oriented strategy and is quite different from correlational methods which form the core of the vari- COMPARATIVE SOCIAL SCIENCE 13 able-oriented strategy (see Chapters 3 and 4).

The closer the approximation to the type of comparison fundamental to experimental design, the more sound the statement of empirical regularity. Obviously, social scientists rarely come close, and some argue that social scientists should simply acknowledge the limitations of their efforts and give up the experimental design standard. While it might be possible to abandon the standard, comparison still provides the primary basis for empirical generalization. As Swanson (1971:145) notes, "thinking without comparison is HETEROGENEITY AND CAUSAL COMPLEXITY 31 unthinkable"—and comparison, at its social scientific best, involves experiment-like contrasts.

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