Comparative-Historical Analysis in Contemporary Political Science

James Mahoney and Larkin Terrie

in The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199286546
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577307 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Comparative-Historical Analysis in Contemporary Political Science

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  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Methodology


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This article indicates that comparative historical analysis is complementary to statistical analysis because it deals with ‘causes of effects’ rather than ‘effects of causes’. It also presents some ideas about how one can tackle the problems posed by engaging in comparative historical inquiry. In addition, the article argues that comparative-historical analysis and statistical analysis pursue different research goals, and that while they both face methodological challenges, they both play an essential role in generating knowledge in political science. Comparative-historical studies that use regression analysis in the course of process tracing are not necessarily more powerful than comparative-historical studies that do not use any statistical testing. There is nothing inherently wrong with conducting comparative-historical work that does not include a statistical component (and vice versa).

Keywords: comparative-historical analysis; regression analysis; political science; process tracing; statistical testing

Article.  8204 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics ; Political Methodology

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