It will be useful in concluding this guide to social science research to return to some of the points made in the Introduction, reminding readers about the origins of this guide to social science research in the Arab world and about the choices that have been made with respect to coverage and emphasis. The way that the information and insights presented in Chaps. 2, 3, and 4 come together and cumulate should also be noted. Finally, and importantly, we offer very briefly some thoughts about the audience for whom the guide is intended, about the ways in which the guide might be productively used, particularly in education, and about the ways in which and the degree to which the guide possesses an Arab sensibility.

FormalPara The Carnegie Grant and Project

The writing of this guide was made possible by a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 2017. The principal investigators were members of the Arab Barometer’s U.S.-based leadership team: Amaney Jamal, Michael Robbins, and myself.

Preparation of the guide is not the only activity that the grant supported. Ambitiously entitled “Understanding Marginalized Communities in the Arab World through Social Science Research: Gaining Insight, Enhancing Capacity, and Building Collaborations to Impact the Region,” the project brought together young Arab scholars and professionals for two years of workshops and a final international conference. The last workshop and the conference were held virtually in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Workshop participants worked with one another and with the organizers of the project to design and then carry out original data-based research projects on marginalized communities, broadly defined. For example, one of the participants, a Tunisian economist, chose to focus on intimate partner violence and used survey data from Tunisia to test the hypothesis that education decreases the likelihood that a woman will experience this kind of violence. Another, a political scientist from Morocco, conducted an original survey of Sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco in order to map and then account for variance in their perceptions of Moroccan society and culture. A third, a sociologist from Jordan, focused on Syrian refugee women in Jordan and built a database from the transcripts of audio-recorded interviews with a sample of these women. All three of these young scholars, like some of the other participants, are university professors in a social science department.

Working with these young women and men on the theory and method of research design and development over 2 years contributed to our understanding of the kind of guide to research that would be helpful to these and other young Arab social scientists, a community of scholars whose members vary considerably in their knowledge and experience with hypothesis-driven, quantitative inquiry. As elsewhere, some are quite advanced, others less so. We often thought about the interests and needs of the Carnegie project participants when making decisions about what to include, and in what detail, in the present volume.

FormalPara The Arab Barometer

Many of the explanations, examples, and exercises in this guide to social science research focus on public opinion research with the individual as the unit of analysis. This is partly, but not solely, because a ready resource is provided by the Arab Barometer survey project.

As many readers already know, the Arab Barometer has been carrying out nationally representative face-to-face public opinion surveys since 2006. Dozens of surveys have been conducted in Arab countries and tens of thousands of ordinary citizens have been interviewed about their social and political attitudes and values. Data from these surveys can be downloaded without charge from the Arab Barometer website (, and an online analysis tool on the website makes it possible to carry out univariate and some bivariate analyses without downloading the data.

FormalPara Choices

The enterprise of social science research is vast and there is no way to avoid choosing some approaches and topics for coverage and setting aside others. For reasons discussed in the Introduction, the present guide to social science research in the Arab world has focused on positivist, quantitative research and has sought the middle ground in depth and breadth.

  • The Middle Ground. Our experience with the Carnegie project, as well as our previous research in Arab societies, led us to focus on what in the Introduction we called the “middle ground” with respect to both depth and breadth. This, in our understanding, is the space between a comprehensive textbook, on the one hand, for which these chapters are by no means a substitute, and, on the other, study guides that are little more than checklists of key concepts and terms or glossaries with two- or three-paragraph definitions.

    The goal has been to find the sweet spot between too little information and too much information. Readers should, therefore, approach this guide with the sense of a continuum ranging from a detailed and very thorough approach, on the one hand, to a limited and introductory approach, on the other. The present volume seeks to make its contribution at an intermediate point on this continuum, a point that is distant to an appropriately equal degree from each of the two poles. This does mean that some readers may find the text to be a little too advanced and that others may judge the text to be a little too elementary.

  • Positivist Research. Choosing to situate Chaps. 2, 3, and 4 in the middle ground with respect to depth and breadth is not the only decision that shapes the content that this guide seeks to deliver. It has also, and self-consciously, decided to focus on positivist research, even while acknowledging that other approaches to social science investigation are also useful and legitimate.

    We associate a positivist approach with empirical, evidence-based, or data-based, inquiry that seeks to describe and/or explain variance. The concept of variance occupies a place of pride in positivist research, and for this reason it provides the structure for Chaps. 2, 3, and 4, which deal, respectively, with univariate analysis, bivariate analysis, and multivariate analysis. Again, however, the volume’s emphasis on positivism does not reflect a belief that other research methodologies are necessarily less useful or that other research objectives are necessarily less worthwhile.

  • Quantitative and Qualitative Research. The present guide also emphasizes quantitative research. Again, however, this should not be understood as arguing that qualitative research is less valid than quantitative research. Both have their place and have contributions to make, and qualitative research can also be positivist and have describing and/or explaining variance as its goal. To illustrate this point, Chap. 2 includes a short digression that includes an account of several qualitative studies in Arab countries that were based on empirical evidence and sought to offer explanatory insights about variance.

  • Unit of Analysis. The unit of analysis is often the individual in many of the examples and exercises included in this volume. This is, in part, because Arab Barometer survey data have been used to illustrate many points. This has worked well so far as providing information and advancing understanding of concepts and procedures are concerned. Of course, other units of analysis are frequently the focus of social science inquiry as well, and other units of analysis are also the focus of some of the research included in this volume as examples of concepts or procedures.

    Notwithstanding a disproportionate number of examples in which the individual is the unit of analysis, many other units of analysis are frequently the focus of social science research. The take-away, as emphasized in the Introduction and in Chap. 2, is that studies concerned with describing or explaining variance must be clear and specific about the unit of analysis, the unit that is doing the varying along the range of possible values defined by each variable the investigator includes in her study.

FormalPara The Chapters

Chapters 2, 3, and 4 deal, respectively, with univariate analysis, bivariate analysis, and multivariate analysis. Each chapter introduces concepts and procedures that can stand alone as a basis for meaningful analysis. More specifically, the central themes of Chap. 2 are measuring and describing variance; the central themes of Chap. 3 are hypothesized variable relationships and probability; and the central themes of Chap. 4 are causation, control, and conditionality.

Beyond the stand-alone analyses associated with the concepts and procedures introduced in each chapter, Chap. 2 also lays a foundation for Chap. 3, and Chap. 3 in turn lays a foundation for Chap. 4. Accordingly, the chapters cumulate. In order to understand and apply the information and insights provided in Chap. 3, in order to formulate hypothesized bivariate relationships and assess their statistical significance, in other words, knowledge and mastery of the elements of defining and measuring variance discussed in Chap. 2 are essential. Similarly, Chap. 4’s attention to causation, control, and conditionality is, in each case, about adding to, refining, or making more precise what can be learned about a hypothesized bivariate relationship.

FormalPara An Arab Sensibility

A legitimate question about this guide to social science research is whether and in what sense does the guide display an Arab sensibility, or an Arab feel. One part of the answer concerns the circumstances that led to its creation and the author’s experiences both before and during its drafting. As stated, the drafting of this guide was coterminous with working with a group of young Arab social scientists and reflecting on what they would find most useful as they designed and carried out original projects dealing with marginalized communities in one or more Arab countries.

A more specific way in which this guide endeavors to embed an Arab sensibility has to do with the text itself. On the one hand, mention is made of the Arab Barometer when discussing a number of concepts or procedures, and a number of exercises are based on survey data from the Barometer. Some exercises ask the reader to log onto the Barometer’s website and use the online analysis tool. On the other hand, almost all of the examples used to illustrate other concepts and procedures draw upon published reports of research carried out in one or more Arab countries.

Some of the published research reports cited for purposes of illustration in Chaps. 2, 3, and 4 report on projects designed and carried out by Arab scholars. But many are not by Arab scholars; many are by Western social scientists, and they are published in Western and in many cases disciplinary journals. These examples are valuable and should be effective in promoting a better understanding of relevant concepts and procedures. At the same time, it would be useful to have more examples of research carried out by Arab social scientists. Should this guide at some point be used for instructional purposes, perhaps in university classes in social science research design and methodology, an assignment might be for students to seek out and evaluate published reports of research conducted in Arab environments by Arab social scientists.

FormalPara Audience

The guide is intended, of course, for those interested in social science research in the Arab world. This applies in particular to those interested in an approach to research that is positivist, data-based, and quantitative.

  • Practitioners of Qualitative Research. Although much of the volume’s content deals with describing, presenting, and analyzing quantitative data, very substantial attention is also devoted to broader conceptual considerations relating to hypothesis formation, causal inference, probability, measurement, and conditionality. These latter considerations make the volume relevant for social scientists who collect and work with qualitative data.

  • Consumers of Research. Consumers of social science research are much more numerous than practitioners of this research, and these individuals must be able to understand and evaluate the research reports they read. Consumers cannot be well versed in the specific methodology of every study they read. But they should at a minimum be familiar with foundational conceptual and methodological considerations. The present volume devotes significant attention to these foundational concerns.

  • Instructors and Students. Another audience for which this guide is intended, and perhaps the most important, is composed of students and instructors, particularly at the university level, who are learning or teaching about social science research and its application in the Arab world. Providing a resource for classroom use is among the motivations for creating this guide.

    One possibility is that instructors will find it useful to borrow heavily from the guide as they decide what to cover, and what specific information to provide, in their lectures about data-based and quantitative social science research.

    But the volume’s chapters lend themselves to classroom use as well, and they might be included in the readings an instructor assigns. That the volume is available without charge removes what might otherwise be a serious impediment to such an assignment. Beyond simply reading and discussing the chapters, or sections of the chapters, there are exercises that students can profitably do and discuss with classmates and the instructor. Students can also read the published research reports that the chapters cite for purposes of illustration and make these the basis for additional class discussion. And students can also be asked to search out and then report on additional publications based on quantitative social science research carried out in the Arab world, perhaps giving special attention to projects and publications by Arab scholars.