comparative method

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Fig. 5 Comparative method. Mill's methods.

comparative method

  1. any method that involves the examination of similarities and differences between phenomena or classes of phenomena with the aim of:
    1. establishing classifications and typologies of social phenomena; and
    2. the testing of hypotheses about casual relations by examining the empirical association and temporal ordering of factors.
  2. specifically cross-cultural or cross-societal (including historical) comparison of similarities and differences between social phenomena with the above aims (see CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON, HUMAN RELATIONS AREA FILES).
Since the comparative method is used in the absence of strict experimentation in sociology, it is also sometimes referred to as the quasi-experimental method. See also EXPERIMENTAL METHOD.

An early systematization of the comparative method was provided by J. S. MILL. The three most used of these methods within sociology are outlined in Fig. 5. Explicit use of Mill's methods is seen in classical sociological studies such as DURKHEIM's Suicide (1897) and WEBER's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904-05). The method of concomitant variation receives further elaboration and systematization in modern statistical analysis (especially see STATISTICS AND STATISTICAL ANALYSIS, CORRELATION).

Compared with the experimental method proper, the problems which occur when the comparative method is used arise from an in ability to manipulate truly ‘independent’ variables. The main problem is the possible influence of unknown variables which, in the natural settings observed, may affect in unknown ways the variables for which a direct causal or concomitant relation is suggested.

The early use of the comparative method in cross-cultural analysis was in the work of evolutionary sociologists who have often been accused of suspect judgements of similarity and difference, and of studying units out of context.

Generally, the use of the comparative method is not invalidated by such problems, but they do underline the difficulties which can attend the use of the method, especially in its cross-cultural forms.

A more root-and-branch objection to the use of the comparative method in sociology arises from theorists who emphasize the importance of MEANINGFUL UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLANATION, or VERSTEHEN. In extreme cases (e.g. WINCH,1958),no place is seen within sociology for the testing of general hypotheses of the conventional scientific kind. However, most sociologists reject the RELATIVISM involved in this view and continue to examine general hypotheses.

With implications for both experimental and quasi-experimental methods, modern philosophical analysis has rejected Mill's view that INDUCTION AND INDUCTIVE LOGIC and the comparative method can provide the conclusive proof possible in deductive LOGIC (see EMPIRICISM, FALSIFICATIONISM). However, this does not undermine the usefulness of the comparative method any more than it undermines the experimental; it merely points to there being no recipe for establishing causality.

References in periodicals archive ?
In the case of comparative historical analysis, it is appropriate that the researcher derives from his hypotheses the type of tests that he expects to conduct in the fieldwork.
Strategies of Causal Assessment in Comparative Historical Analysis", en J.
Theda Skocpol and Charles Ragin are some of the scholars that have tried to develop methodological strategies for conducting comparative historical research studies.
Appreciation of the complex and contingent nature of the labour process was highlighted particularly in a number of cross-national comparative historical studies.
By grounding the analysis in a theoretical framework that draws on "the bellicose tradition in social thought" it offers a salutary reminder of first, the continuing importance of ideas from substantive social theory that are often obscured in contemporary, formalist and poststructuralist theorizing, and second, the variables that derive from the rich empirical tradition of comparative historical sociology.
That could be demonstrated in a comparative historical analysis that also examines Europe, but such an analysis is largely lacking.
Accordingly, the comparative historical financial information of Agennix AG is that of GPC Biotech AG for the respective comparative periods.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the Viewpoint of Comparative Historical Sociology (2009) for some reasons.
China Goes to Sea: Maritime Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective.
In this essay, I have two goals: to correct some of the misunderstandings of "quantitative" methods expressed in this book and to examine the main differences between the two most prominent kinds of nonstatistical research: comparative historical analysis and in-depth, in-country research.
Train students to do comparative historical research--not only to study individual countries in depth, but also to explore thematic issues in a broader transnational context.
In line with structural theory of democratization (societal modernization and comparative historical approach), the level of transformation within the previous regime (e.

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