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There are various research methods utilized in not only the political but also in other broad range of scientific fields. Using them is significant in order to make the argument less biased and more valid and convenient. As in other scientific fields, there are several types of research methods, which are used in political sciences such as International Relations. There are three main groups of them: qualitative, quantitative, mixed analysis (British Library n.d.). The example of qualitative tools could be interviews or case studies.
The tools of quantitative approach could be regressive, spatial analysis, and statistical data (McLeod 2008). The following paper is going to briefly describe three research methods, which are case study, regressive analysis and experimental survey analysis, respectively. It will also demonstrate the works of some political scholars, who used each of these methods in order to answer the proposed research question. Lastly, the essay will evaluate how the methods were used and the extent to which these tools contributed to answering the main question.
The first method that is going to be considered is called Case Study. It belongs to the group of Qualitative tools since it deals with questions like why, how, or to what extent. In political sciences the ‘cases’ mostly refer to different states or other actors (e.g. non-governmental organizations) (Wikipedia 2015). Thus, the research is mainly concentrated on things like its internal/external politics, and also it can be used as practical application of some hypothesis (Lacono et.al. 2011). Even though case studies provide deep understanding of particular actor, they have a potential to be narrow and biased to some extent (Willis 2014).
The usage of Case Study could be observed in the study of Miller (2012, 455-469). The main question the author is tackling here is whether the process of democratization has any effect on the extent of war or peace in the state. In order to answer the proposed question the author first used the so-called state-to nation balance theory (s/n). It suggests that such things as ability of the state to maintain control over its subjects and congruence (i.e. the correspondence between political boundaries of the state and national identity, which includes both ethnic and civic) seem to have large effect on war or peace. However, the author added that the democratization could contribute to peace if it is used in s/n balance (balance’= strong state + congruence) or conversely, make the situation worse if it is used in s/n imbalance (‘imbalance’= weak state or incongruence). In order to support such theoretical model he used the cases of Iraq (pre and post 2003) and Germany (Interwar period and post WWII). In the article, he tried to fit these cases’ into the s/n theoretical model. For example, when considering Germany after WWII, democratization appeared in combination with s/n balance, so it helped to establish peace. The similar analyzes were conducted with pre 2003, and post 2003 Iraq. Thus, the case study research method helped him to support this model and conclude that the democratic regime itself cannot dictate the war or peace but can only contribute to one of them. Overall, the author seems to answer the proposed question but still, he lacks the explanation of his choice of ‘cases’ and hence, it appears to be quite debatable whether other ‘cases’ would also fit in the proposed model.
The second research method that is going to be analyzed is regression analysis. This method demonstrates the relationship between the dependent and independent variables (Wikipedia 2014). It is a Quantitative tool since it deals with statistical and data results, which can demonstrate some trends. However, there is usually lack of causal analysis of these results (e.g. no explanation of how the variables are chosen).
This method was used in the study of Koubi (2005, 67-82). Here, he was mainly addressing the question whether the warfare has any impact on economic growth. In order to answer this question he used average growth/capita in 114 countries as dependent variable. The independent variables were war and non-war factors. So, he tried to establish the relationship between severity, duration and intensity of conflict and the annual growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The data results demonstrated that in short term, there is a negative relationship between the war and economic growth (i.e. the war harms the economic activity). However, when considering the longer terms, the relation turns out to be more positive (i.e. war ‘helps’ the economic growth). The author proposed that such outcomes could be the result of technological advancement. Thus, the regressive analysis demonstrated that there is certain relationship between these variables. It also demonstrated that it tends to be negative in short-term and positive in the long term. Nevertheless, the explanation of such outcomes seems to be tied only with technological advancement and hence, appear to be not persuasive enough. Technology has considerable influence on economic activity but still, there was lack of evidence about how exactly it affected different parts of GDP such as Consumer consumption, for example.
The last method is experimental survey analysis. Experimental survey is a quantitative approach since it collects the responses from people who were offered some hypothetical scenarios (Gaines and Kuklinski 2006). Such approach gives the opportunity to observe trends, tendencies and eventually, see how the public opinion is formed. However, the potential problem with experimental survey is that if hypothetical scenarios are replaced by real-life situations, the outcomes may be quite different (Lacina and Lee 2013, 163).
The research carried out by Lacina and Lee (2013, 143-170) could be a good example of experimental survey analysis. The main question they were trying to address was how political regimes and religious culture could affect public opinion about different countries. The participants of the experiment were suggested two hypothetical scenarios: the nuclear proliferation, and the threat of terrorism towards the United States. The potential ‘threats’ (i.e. other states) were presented as following: Democracies, non Democracies, Islamic states and Christian states. The data revealed that overall, American people equally evaluated the threat from Democracies and non-Democracies as moderate. Participants seem to assess the threat from both, Christians and Muslims as moderate, as well. Overall, the survey revealed that differences in regimes or religious culture have little effect on public opinion. Nevertheless, the results appear to be ambiguous and authors themselves added that further research is needed in order to provide more clear answer. In addition, it did not provide enough explanations about why for example religious culture of the state has little impact on the public opinion. It did not clarify what kind of people were included into the experiment (i.e. no information about which states they come from, what age or sex they are; these factors could alter the data results). Lastly, there is a problem of the hypothetical situation itself. As mentioned earlier, if researchers suggested real-life conditions, the responses might have been different.
To sum up, the following essay briefly described three research methods that could be used in the sphere of political science. For each of them, the article was demonstrated respectively. The paper described what questions the research tried to address, what kind of method was used, how it was used and finally, did it help to answer the proposed question. It was revealed that in the first two examples the method significantly contributed to answering the initial question despite it still has some flaws in the argument. The last one tries to address the question but still there were some fallacies in the survey itself. Nevertheless, overall it was demonstrated that utilization of such research methods is quite important in order to tackle the research question and build strong, valid argument.
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