Connecting Qualitative and Quantitative Methods: Close Encounters – of What Kind?


Center for the Study of Law and Society
Miniseries in Empirical Research Methods

Friday, January 27, 2011, 9 a.m. – 12 noon. Lunch to follow.
JSP Seminar Room, 2240 Piedmont Avenue, Berkeley

David Collier
Chancellor’s Professor of Political Science, The Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

This workshop addresses current debates on multi-method research.

1. Context of the Discussion. Important controversies have emerged over methodology in political and social science. (a) According to one line of analysis, which draws on conventional quantitative methods, qualitative analysis makes no distinctive contribution, and some commentators are skeptical that it makes any serious contribution at all.1 (b) A second perspective, by contrast, maintains that qualitative tools make a large contribution, addressing some analytic challenges more effectively than quantitative methods, and that with additional refinement the contributions of the qualitative tradition will be further enhanced.2 (c) Yet another standpoint is sharply critical of conventional quantitative methods and advo-cates parsimonious research designs and careful integration of quantitative and qualitative evidence.3 The workshop considers the implications of these and other perspectives for methodologically-informed research, focusing both on concept-formation and measurement, and on causal inference.

2. Concept-Formation and Measurement: Typologies. Conceptual typologies, which might be considered a qualitative tool par excellence, are of great importance in political science – and in the study of law.4 Yet typologies have been disparaged as failing to meet the norms of good measurement. The workshop examines critiques of typologies advanced by some (but definitely not all) quantitative methodologists, evaluates typologies with more appropriate standards for measurement, and shows how typologies can address analytic challenges in both qualitative and quantitative research.

3. Causal Inference: Process Tracing. Quantitative researchers have long been concerned about the weakness (indeed, for some skeptics, the illusion) of causal inference in qualitative analysis. Yet a new literature on process tracing offers qualitative investigators a new, more systematic basis for careful inference.5 The workshop reviews emerging standards and presents illustrative examples.6 The examples show that while process tracing might be seen primarily as a qualitative tool, it routinely incorporates quantitative evidence as well.

1 King, Keohane, and Verba (1994); Epstein and King (2002); Beck (2006, 2010).
2 Brady and Collier (2010); Collier, Brady, and Seawright (2010).
3 Freedman (2010a); Berk (2004).
4 For a general discussion of typologies, see Collier, LaPorte, and Seawright (2012, forthcoming). On typologies in legal research, see Kagan (1993).
5 Bennett (2010); Collier (2011b); Zaks (2012).
6 Collier (2011a); Brady (2010); Freedman (2010b).

Workshop materials: bibliography

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