The Fourth Problem: Methods
As was noted in Section 1 above, strictly, the very act of comparison is itself a method,106 a method of analysing data for purposes of understanding and explaining. But in the broader context of comparative research, methodology — the selection and employment of suitable methods for obtaining and analysing data — is more than a simple decision ‘to compare’; it involves the choice of methods which will be practicable in use, congruent with the strategies being pursued, reliable as a means of obtaining the required information, and suited to the theoretical and conceptual frameworks being employed. Methods, therefore, represent a fourth aspect of comparative analysis, which will affect and be affected by the theories, strategies and concepts chosen. Holt and Turner107 regard methodology as involving primarily the rules of interpretation and criteria for admissible explanation, and secondarily the research designs, routines and techniques derived from these. These rules and criteria are, at least partially, derived from theory. Sartori has noted that a disciplined methodology of comparison depends on the provision of precise conceptualisation,108 while Eulau has stressed the necessity for strategic decisions about techniques of comparison in advance of undertaking research.109
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