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Usable Social Science$
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Neil J. Smelser and Bob Adamson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780520273566

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520273566.001.0001

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Methods of Research and Their Usability

Methods of Research and Their Usability

(p.254) 8 Methods of Research and Their Usability
Usable Social Science

Neil J. Smelser

John S. Reed

University of California Press

The aim of this chapter is to identify the major methods of research in the social sciences and to examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of each method with respect to their relevance and usefulness in the arenas decision making, social policy, and social problems. The different research methods are classified as laboratory-experimental, evaluation research, statistic methods and survey research, comparative-historical analysis, case studies, counterfactual reasoning and mental experiments. These methods are treated as variations—but identical in aim—in the process of varying and holding relevant variables constant in order to arrive at adequate causal explanations. The authors assess strengths and weaknesses of each as they are applied to “real” situations in the “real” world.

Keywords:   case study, comparative-historical methods, counterfactual reasoning, evaluation research, laboratory methods, statistical analysis, survey methods

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