The SAGE Handbook of Comparative Politics presents in one volume an authoritative overview of the theoretical, methodological, and substantive elements of comparative political science. The 28 specially commissioned chapters, written by renowned comparative scholars, guide the reader through the central issues and debates, presenting a state-of-the-art guide to the past, present, and possible futures of the field.
Chapter 1: The Distinctiveness of Comparative Research
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 ...