The comparative analysis is one of the most effective methods to enhance data analysis for intelligence products. It is widely used to study various combinations of attributes that are called configurations and are common to a certain number of cases. Diverse combinations of conditions which determine the categories of cases are also thoroughly investigated to achieve a deeper understanding of the matter by finding uniformity within the categories and establishing contrasts between the categories in combinations of conditions.
Over the past sixty years a rich storehouse of information about social and political structures has been accumulated, and the interest in comparative social science is still growing nowadays. Research is a craft that requires both creativity and judgment, in which scientific principles go hand in hand with human imagination. Various data collection techniques reinforce one another rather than compete, and help the researchers find a golden means between qualitative and quantitative methods. The comparative analysis is an efficient method based on a comparative approach to diversity, which investigates complex patterns of similarities and differences in a wide variety of cases. The comparative analysis studies causes and effects that are also the objects of research of quantitative methods. However, the investigation of configurations of causal conditions is of primary importance to comparative analysis. The comparative approach regards every case as a combination of causal conditions that lead to a certain outcome. Investigating the effect of each case and specifying causal conditions that triggered that particular outcome is essential for enhancing the ability to process the data.
Simplifying Comparative Methods
The comparative analysis presupposes using presence-absence dichotomies that include only two options, meaning that causal conditions and their effects can be present or absent in every case. The truth table is a convenient method to summarize the causal configurations, which are listed in a data table. Nevertheless, this comparative analysis technique can be further simplified to identify patterns rather than just to list configurations, which is essential for a dedicated investigator. Therefore, uppercase letters can be used in the truth table to indicate the presence of a certain condition, while lowercase letters can indicate that the condition is absent.
The process of research does not include only inquiries and listing the material, it also demands imagination and judgment. The abovementioned comparative techniques increase the efficiency of data input into the analysis and can be further modified to simplify the investigation process and make more valid comparisons across national boundaries.
Paul S. Gray, John B. Williamson, and David A. Karp. The Research Imagination: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods. Cambridge: UK, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Ragin, Charles C. Constructing Social Research, The Unity and Diversity of Method. Thousand Oaks: CA, Pine Forge Press, 1994. pages …