Paradigms & Sand Castles

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Paradigms and Sand Castles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics

Barbara Geddes

Publisher: University of Michigan PressFormat: Paperback

Paradigms and Sand Castles describes in a lively and provocative manner the methodological pitfalls most characteristic of the study of developing countries. Although much of this book focuses on the concrete details of empirical research, its primary goal is to aid theory building. Its central message is that theoretical knowledge could be accumulated more rapidly if certain research norms in the field of comparative development were changed.The book deals with several standard methodological practices, showing their unfortunate consequences and making suggestions for their improvement. Traditionally, big subjects of immense real-world importance, such as democratization, economic development, and ethnic mobilization, have fascinated scholars of comparative politics. But the choice of a big question for study does not translate automatically into a feasible research design. Barbara Geddes offers a strategy for approaching big questions and addresses empirical issues such as effective use of evidence found in case studies to test arguments, the intricacies of operationalizing complicated and often “fuzzy” concepts, the nonquantitative “measurement” of such concepts, and determining the criteria for setting the boundaries of the domain within which an argument should apply.Barbara Geddes is Professor of Political Science, University of California at Los Angeles.

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