1.4 Qualitative Analysis Methods

Section Not Fully Complete

Several qualitative analysis methods, commonly used in Politics and International Relations research, are listed below with brief summaries.

A good text for further reading on each of the methods below is "Qualitative Methods in International Relations" published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Deepa Prakash, A. K., & Klotz, A. D. P. (2008) Qualitative Methods in International Relations New York: Palgrave Macmillan

  • Case Studies
  • Analytic Induction
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Content Analysis
  • Pragmatic Analysis
  • Ethnographic Research

Case Study

Using Case Studies in your dissertation requires a broader frame of reference, the Case Study does not remain independent, but rather a means to understand something larger than itself. There are two major types of Case Study analysis, Single Case Study analysis and Comparative Case Study analysis.

Both of these methods require a broader context for your study, the previous example of Tunisia is below.

General Topic: Looking at the Arab Spring, in particular Tunisia, with an interest in the post-revolution political dynamics

Potential Title: Democracy Transition: Tunisia after the Revolution

This places the

Analytic Induction

Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis uses relevant discourse (speech - usually, but not always, in a written form such as media articles, public speeches, official documents and others) to understand the situation, topic or area under study.

The underlying idea driving discourse analysis is that meaning (of words, speech and texts) are socially constructed and reproduced, they are 'representations' of deeper concepts that can be studied through the use of language. As such this requires a degree of cultural competence in the area or region being studied.

Discourse analysis can be useful in trying to understand an issue through the lens of socially constructed meaning - for example a dissertation on the topic of the refugee crisis in Europe may use discourse analysis to understand the shifting meaning and 'representation' of refugee, migrant and other terms, thus shedding light on the underlying social reality.

This requires the identification and collection of data in the form of either speech or text (with appropriate sampling methods) and usually a form of textual analysis such as coding.

Content Analysis

Content analysis is a research method which aims to produce contextualised interpretations of documents (which can be written, spoken or audio-visual) to try and establish a valid understanding.

A key part of this valid understanding stems from a robust set of procedures to produce your interpretation, which systematically takes into account situation, culture and history amongst other factors. This must be explicitly designed and stated, it cannot be implicit or "common sense".

Appropriate material for research must be selected or generated. Analysis can be done through quantitative as well as qualitative means, with qualitative being particularly useful if the subject matter is highly contested. Several tools may prove useful, such as frequency, contingency and evaluative analyses, but the precise method must be decided upon in relation to the aims and objectives of the research.

Pragmatic Analysis

Ethnographic Research

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