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Research Design in Qualitative Analysis (European University Institute)


The seminar from 2010 moves from the general questions about approaches in the social sciences towards practical issues of how to design a research project. It is useful for researchers using qualitative methods in the broadest sense. We start off asking about the different questions that might be asked and what are the implications for choice of methods. Then we follow through the steps in research design.

Donatella della Porta is a professor of political science and political sociology, known for her research in the areas of social movements, corruption, political violence, police and policies of public order. She is currently professor at the European University Institute and co-editor of the European Political Science Review. The entire course syllabus, along with a week-by-week bibliography, can be found here:

For more information, see:

For a list of selected readings, see below.

Research design and qualitative methods: Theory Driven versus Field Driven

 Mahoney, James, and Gary Goertz, “A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research”, Political Analysis14, 2006, 227-249.

 Gerring, John, Social Science Methodology. A Criterial Framework, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, Chapter 5 and 10.

 Glaser, Barney and Anselm Strauss, The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Aldine Transaction, 1999, pp. 1-43.

 Eliasoph, Nina and Paul Lichterman.. “’We Begin with Our Favorite Theory...’: Reconstructing the Extended Case Method.” Sociological Theory 17,1999: 228-234.


Case Studies and How We Learn from Them

Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, “Can One or a Few Cases Yield Theoretical Gains”, in James Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschenmeyer (eds.), Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 305-336.

 Timothy McKeown, “Case Studies and the Limits of the Quantitative Worldview.” In Henry E. Brady and David Collier (eds.), Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools and Shared Standards. Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield, 2004, pp. 139-167.


Process Tracing and Systematic Process Analysis

 George, Alexander L., “Case Studies and Theory Development: The Method of Structured, Focused Comparison,” in Paul Gordon Lauren, ed., Diplomacy. New Approaches in History, Theory, and Policy, New York: The Free Press, 1979. Pp. 43-68.

 Hall, Peter, “Aligning Ontology and Methodology in Comparative Politics.” In J. Mahoney and D. Rueschemeyer (eds.). Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 373-404.

 James Mahoney, “Nominal, Ordinal, and Narrative Appraisal in Macrocausal Analysis,” American Journal of Sociology 104: 4 (January 1999): 1154–96.


Interview types: in depth interviews, life histories and focus groups

 Blee, Kathleen M. and Verta Taylor, “Semi-Structured Interviewing in Social Movement Research”, in Bert Klandermans and Suzanne Staggenborg (eds), Methods of Social Movement Research, Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota Press, 2002, pp. 92-117.

 Della Porta, Donatella, “Life Histories Analysis of Social Movement Activists”, in M. Diani e R. Eyerman (eds.), Studying Social Movements, London, Sage, 1992, pp. 168-193.

 Della Porta, Donatella,“Multiple Belongings, Tolerant Identities, and the Construction of ‘Another Politics’: Between the European Social Forum and the Local Social Fora.” in D. della Porta and S.Tarrow Transnational Protest and Global Activism, Lanham, UK: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005, pp. 175-202


Interviewing: What and How

 Weiss, Robert, Learning from Strangers, New York, Free Press, 1994, chapter 4. Holstein, James A. and Jaber F. Gubrium, “Active Interviewing”, in D. Wenberg (ed.), Qualitative Research Methods, Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 112-126. Seale, Clive, “Qualitative Interviewing”, in Clive Seale (eds.), Researching Society and Culture, London, Sage, 1998, 202-216.


Ethnography and How We Learn From It

Agrosini, Michael V. and Kimberly A. Mays de Pérez, “Rethinking Observation: From Method toContext”, in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds.), Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials, Sage Publication, 2003.

 Marcus, George E. 1995 “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 95-117.

 Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, Promises I can keep: Why Poor Women put Motherhood before Marriage, University of California Press, 2005, Introduction (pp. 1-26) and Appendices A and B (pp.225-247).


Analyzing text

 Adcock, Robert and David Collier, “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research”, in American Political Science Review, 95, 2001, pp. 529-545.

 Tonkiss, Fran, “Analyzing discourse”, in Clive Seale (eds.), Researching Society and Culture, London, Sage, 1998, 245-250.

 Culpepper, Pepper D., Chapter 4 of Quiet Politics and Business Power: Corporate Control in Europe and Japan, Cambridge University Press 2011, pp. 82-114 (pay particular attention to the section on “The Framing of Hostile Takeover Politics in the Netherlands” and to the appendix to the chapter.

 Heike Klüver, “Measuring Interest Group Influence Using Quantitative Text Analysis,” European Union Politics 10(4): 535-549.


Triangulating methods

 Lieberman, Robert, “Nested Analysis as a Mixed Method Strategy for Comparative Research”, American Political Science Review, 99, 20005, 435-52.

 Flyvbjerg, Bent, “A Perestroikan Straw Man Answers Back: David Latin and Phronetic Political Science”, in Brian Caterino and Sanford F. Schram (eds.), Making Political Science Matter, New York, New York University Press, 2006, pp. 56-85.

 Tarrow, Sidney, “Bridging the Quantitative-Qualitative divide”, in Brady, Henry E. and David Collier (eds.), Rethinking Social Inquiry. Diverse Tools, Shared Standards, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004, pp. 21-50.


Writing qualitative research...or a prospectus

 McCracken, Grant, The Long Interview, London, Sage; 1988, pp. 53-58.

 Gerardo Munck and Richard Snyder, Passion, Craft and Method in Comparative Politics, 2007, pp. 370-371 (James Scott on writing).

 Peter A. Hall, “Helpful Hints for Writing Dissertations in Comparative Politics,” PS: Political Science and Politics 23 (4): 596-598, December 1990.

 Jonathan Kirshner, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Art of Research,” PS: Political Science and Politics 29 (3): 511-513, September 1996. March 14, 2010


Ethical issues in qualitative research

 Punch, M., 1994, “Politics and Ethics in Qualitative Research”, in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research, London, Sage.

 Steinmetz, George. 2004. “The Uncontrollable Afterlives of Ethnography: Lessons from ‘SavageColonialism’ in the German Oversees Empire.” Ethnography 5: 251-288.

14 Nov 2013

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