Empirical Research Methods


Robin Stryker
University of Minnesota

This workshop provides an introduction to systematic case-oriented narrative and comparative methods for socio-legal research. Among topics covered are research design (what is this kind of "case" as opposed to a legal case, what is a "comparison," and how do you know you've picked good ones to research); data sources, including public and private documents and oral histories or in-depth interviews; best practice techniques for organizing and systematizing the research process; concepts and their measurement (including issues of validity, reliability and replicability as applied to qualitative research); coding issues (including how to do "content coding" and "action coding;"); and the analytic techniques of "strategic narrative" "process tracing" and "congruence testing" Key similarities and differences between strategic narrative for historical-comparative research and the extended case method for ethnographic (field) research will be highlighted.


Recommended Reading:

Additional Readings and References:

  • Amenta, Edward. 1991. “Making the Most of a Case Study: Theories of the Welfare State and the American Experience.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 32.
  • Harris, Beth. 1999. “Representing Homeless Families: Repeat Player Implementation Strategies, Law & Society Review 33: 911-939 (1999).
  • Gamson, William and Andrè Modigliani. 1987. “The Changing Culture of Affirmative Action.” Research in Political Sociology 3:137-177.
  • Griffin, Larry. 1993. “Narrative, Event Structure Analysis and Causal Interpretation in Historical Sociology.” American Journal of Sociology 98: 1094-1133.
  • Goldstone, Jack. 2003. “The Study of Revolutions.” Pp. 41-90 in Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, edited by James Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschemeyer. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
  • Kozak-Isik, Gulersen. 2007. “Organized Islam and the (Re)construction of Islamic Legal, Religious and Political Institutions: A Comparative Study of American and British Islamic Umbrella Organizations.” Dissertation Proposal, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota.
  • Mahoney, James and Dietrich Rueschemeyer (editors). 2003. Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Pedriana, Nicholas and Robin Stryker. 1997. “Political Culture Wars 1960s Style: Equal Employment Opportunity- Affirmative Action Law and the Philadelphia Plan.” American Journal of Sociology 103 (November): 633-691.
  • 2004 “The Strength of a Weak Agency: Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Expansion of State Capacity, 1965-1971.” American Journal of Sociology 110: 709-760.
  • Quadagno, Jill and Stan Knapp. 1992. “Have Historical Sociologists Forsaken Theory? Thoughts on the History/Theory Relationship.” Sociological Methods and Research 20: 481-507.
  • Ragin, Charles. 1987. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Quantitative & Qualitative Strategies. University of California Press: Berkeley.
  • Ragin, Charles and Howard Becker (editors) 1997. What Is a Case: Exploring the Foundations of Social Science Inquiry. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Stryker. Robin. 1989. “Limits on Technocratization of the Law: The Elimination of the National Labor Relations Board’s Division of Economic Research.” American Sociological Review 54: 341-358.
  • 1990. “A Tale of Two Agencies: Class, Political-institutional and Organizational Factors Affecting State Reliance on Social Science.” Politics & Society 18 (March) 101-141.
  • 1996. "Beyond History vs. Theory: Strategic Narrative and Sociological Explanation.” Sociological Methods and Research 24 (February): 304-352.
  • 2003. “Mind the Gap: Law, Institutional Analyses & Socio-Economics.” Socio-Economic Review 1: 335-367.
  • 2004. “Social Science in Government Regulation of Equal Employment Opportunity.” National Science Foundation Sociology Program #SES 0514700 (2005-2008).
  • Stryker, Robin and Pamela Wald. 2007. “Redefining Compassion to Reform Welfare: How Supporters of 1990s US Federal Welfare Reform Aimed for the Moral High Ground,” Paper presented at Research Committee 19 of the International Sociological Association, September 8-10, 2007, University of Florence, Florence, Italy and the 19 th Annual Meeting on Socio-Economics, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 28-30, 2007.
  • Stryker, Robin, Martha Scarpellino and Mellisa Holtzman. “Political Culture Wars 1990s Style: The Drum Beat of Quotas in Media Framing of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.” Research in Stratification and Social Mobility 17: 33-106.
  • Wald, Pamela. 2005. “Bringing Welfare State Theories to the States: How Ideas, Actors and State Structures Affect Welfare Reform Trajectories in Minnesota and Wisconsin. National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, Sociology Program. (#SES-0527035), 2005-06.

Additional Materials and Podcast:
Professor Stryker has made available the power point slides that accompanied the workshop. The slides are available here as Stryker CSLS Workshop in Historical-Comparative Methods.

She has also provided the handout distributed at the Workshop. The handout includes illustrations of coding various types of qualitative data and the list of references. The handout is available here.

Finally, by clicking on the link at the top of the page, you can watch a podcast of the seminar taped in the JSP Seminar Room on October 23, 2007.