Discussion Questions

  1. Review the differences between case-oriented, historically specific, inductive explanations and those that are more variable oriented, theoretically general, and deductive. List several arguments for and against each approach. Which is more appealing to you and why?
  2. What historical events have had a major influence on social patterns in the nation? The possible answers are too numerous to list, ranging from any of the wars to major internal political conflicts, economic booms and busts, scientific discoveries, and legal changes. Pick one such event in your own nation for this exercise. Find one historical book on this event and list the sources of evidence used. What additional evidence would you suggest for a social science investigation of the event?
  3. Consider the comparative historical research by Rueschemeyer et al. (1992) on democratic politics in Latin America. What does comparison between nations add to the researcher’s ability to develop causal explanations?
  4. Kathleen Fallon, Liam Swiss, and Jocelyn Vitema (2012) developed a nomothetic causal explanation of variation in representation of women in national legislatures over time, whereas Griffin’s (1993) explanation of a lynching can be termed idiographic. Discuss the similarities and differences between these types of causal explanation. Use these two studies to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of each.
  5.  Select a major historical event or process, such as the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, or Brexit. Why do you think this event happened? Now, select one of the four major types of historical and comparative methods that you think could be used to test your explanation. Why did you choose this method? What type of evidence would support your proposed explanation? What problems might you face in using this method to test your explanation?
  6. Consider the media that you pay attention to in your social world. How could you design a content analysis of the messages conveyed by these media? What research questions could you help to answer by adding a comparison to another region or country to this content analysis?