Walden University Comparative Politics and The Comparative Method Essay


The student will post a reaction paper that critically responds to an argument, methodological issue, and/or empirical finding of relevance in the readings on the syllabus. You are encouraged to incorporate additional readings not included on the syllabus into your reaction papers.

Each paper should be 2-3 pages, double-spaced, using Times New Roman 12-point font and 1-inch margins. On separate pages, the paper should begin with a title page and end with a list of references (using any standard formatting); the paper should be carefully proofread and paginated.

Given the length of these papers, you should assert, develop, and defend a single coherent argument. A paper that tries to address multiple issues given these space constraints will inevitably lack depth. For each of these papers you are expected to a) synthesize (i.e., weave together relevant comments on the texts, but do not ever simply summarize); b) critique (carefully identify strengths and weaknesses that relate to your thesis); and c) propose modifications (i.e., ways to improve and/or extend the research). Justify the theoretical relevance and normative importance of your argument, critiques, and proposed modifications. Weekly Readings

  • Lijphart, Arendt. 1971. “Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method.” American Political Science Review 65, 3: 682-693.
  • Geddes, Barbara. 1990. “How the Cases You Choose Affect the Answers You Get: Selection Bias in Comparative Politics.” Political Analysis, 2, 1: 131-150.
  • Gerring, John. 2007. The Case Study: What It is and What It Does, In Carles Boix and Susan C. Stokes (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, pp. 90-122.
  • Sartori, Giovanni. 1970. “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics.” American Political Science Review 64, 4: 1033-1053.
  • Adcock and Collier. 2001. “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research” American Political Science Review 95, pp. 529-546.
  • Magaloni, Introduction

The readings of Week 2 serve as a methodological primer for this course. That is, they introduce you to key analytic tools in the comparativist’s toolbox. Lijphart’s classic description of the comparative method gives you a flavor of the the methodological distinctiveness of comparative politics research, especially work dealing with few cases. Gerring’s chapter gives you a sense of the value a case study can bring to the scientific enterprise. Geddes’s famous article on selection bias makes it clear why case selection is hugely important for drawing valid inferences. Sartori, along with Adcock and Collier, encourage scholars to think carefully about their concepts and how they operationalize them empirically. 

This slew of works should prepare you to meet Magaloni’s introductory chapter head on. While she spends a great deal of time on her theory, she also describes the main concepts within it, addresses case selection, and grapples with the implications of her choices along these dimensions. Is she convincing? What are the threats to her research given the methodological issues at hand? Your reflections may seek to draw parallels with Magaloni’s discussion and major points highlighted in the other readings.