Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond

Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond

Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond

Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond

Synopsis

For over twenty years Charles C. Ragin has been at the forefront of the development of innovative methods for social scientists. In Redesigning Social Inquiry, he continues his campaign to revitalize the field, challenging major aspects of the conventional template for social science research while offering a clear alternative.
Redesigning Social Inquiry provides a substantive critique of the standard approach to social research- namely, assessing the relative importance of causal variables drawn from competing theories. Instead, Ragin proposes the use of set-theoretic methods to find a middle path between quantitative and qualitative research. Through a series of contrasts between fuzzy-set analysis and conventional quantitative research, Ragin demonstrates the capacity for set-theoretic methods to strengthen connections between qualitative researchers' deep knowledge of their cases and quantitative researchers' elaboration of cross-case patterns. Packed with useful examples, Redesigning Social Inquiry will be indispensable to experienced professionals and to budding scholars about to embark on their first project.

Excerpt

First, a word about this books title, Redesigning Social Inquiry: while I sometimes have ambitions of truly redesigning social inquiry, it is a huge task that will require the work of many thoughtful scholars over several decades. in this book, my goal is to provide some possible leads for this important undertaking. of course, there are those who would say that social inquiry does not need to be redesigned; it simply needs to be properly executed. the usual argument is that there is a well-developed and well-known template for conducting social research and that the problem is that too few researchers adhere to it. According to this view, the proper template is provided by large-N quantitative research, with its well-defined and seemingly limitless populations and its focus on calculating the net effects of “independent” variables in properly specified linear models. It is this template for conducting research that is at issue in this book. But the problem is not that it is a bad template. It is a wonderful, well-articulated template. the problem is that it is too often promoted as the best template or even the only template (e.g., by King, Keohane, and Verba 1994), when in fact there are powerful and productive alternatives. This book promotes a new alternative, one based on the analysis of set relations.

While critical of the conventional quantitative template, Redesigning Social Inquiry is not a critique of Gary King, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba's Designing Social Inquiry (1994). Henry Brady and David Colliers Rethinking Social Inquiry (2004) offers a thorough analysis and critique, from the perspective of both statistical theory and qualitative research. Instead, my book charts a middle path between quantitative and qualitative social research. This middle path is not a . . .

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