, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 7-28

Four varieties of comparative analysis

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Abstract

The article starts by examining the definition of comparative analysis and what distinguishes it from analysis in general. It then identifies four varieties of comparative analysis according to (a) whether they aim to explain differences or similarities and (b) the assumptions they make about the underlying causal patterns present. While the former contrast is well known, it is argued that the latter contrast is fundamental and opens up many possible avenues for comparative analysis, which would otherwise be closed. Although the examples are drawn from the housing and urban studies field, the argument is of general applicability. The article considers in turn what is meant by comparative analysis, its main varieties, the research designs needed to undertake it, and some of the problems that arise.