This course aims to give students an introductory overview of challenges, choices, and ways of justifying those choices, in the use of concepts and measurement in case-based research. The first day introduces classic issues of conceptual contestation, stretching, and ideal-types articulated in both much-cited articles by W. B. Gallie, Giovanni Sartori, and Max Weber, and contemporary extensions of their work. The second day focuses on recent refinements in the social scientific literature on concepts addressing issues such as subtypes, dichotomization, and measurement; it then closes by stepping back to consider whether use of concepts and measurement in case-based research embodies a distinctive culture of qualitative research. Throughout the course the stakes of methodological issues will be substantively explored using examples of key concepts in social science research. The most extensive running example in the course, as in the concepts literature, is “democracy.” We will, moreover, also consider the concepts of “neoliberalism,” “revolution,” and “culture,” as well concepts raised by students.
The course format will combine lecture, discussion, and group exercises. One session each day will be devoted to group exercises to develop the methodological skills of students. On day one students will work in groups to analyze the meaning of a social scientific concept of the group’s choice. Then, on day two, each group will formulate a strategy for measuring its chosen concept.
This course can either be followed as a stand-alone two-day module, or preferably as part of a two-week introduction to case study methods in the WSSR.