Selecting Cases and Inferential Types in Comparative Public Policy Research

  • Jeroen van der Heijden
Part of the Research Methods Series book series (REMES)


Although many scholars claim to present comparative public policy research (see the various journals and books in this field with the word ‘comparative’ in their titles), only a few scholars appear to have designed a comparative study. My critique here echoes Benoît Rihoux’ observation that, in practice, comparisons are too often ‘rather loose or not formalized’ (Rihoux, 2006: p. 681), and Ahrend Lijphart’s observation that the comparative method appears so basic and apparently simple that when applied it often ‘indicates the how but does not specify the what of the analysis’ (Lijphart, 1971: p. 682). Playing the devil’s advocate, I would like to take these observations a step further and claim that much of published comparative public policy research is ex-post facto comparative and not a priori comparative in nature. I understand this is a bold and sweeping statement, but in reading classic and contemporary comparative works, only a handful may be termed comparative by design (for example, Verba and Nie, 1972; Skocpol, 1979; Vogel, 1996; Levi-Faur, 2006b), whereas many works are comparative by outcome, or are studies that present various examples of a phenomenon of interest without actually having a rationale for comparatively studying these examples. Throughout this book many guidelines will be provided as to how to design comparative public policy research.


Explanatory Variable Voter Turnout Party System Policy Sector Qualitative Comparative Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aliseda, Atocha (2004) ‘Logics in Scientific Discovery’, Foundations of Science, 9 (3), 339–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bennett, Andrew and Elman, Colin (2006) ‘Complex Causal Relations and Case Study Methods: The Example of Path Dependence’, Political Analysis, 14 (3), 250–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brady, Henry and Collier, David (eds) (2004) Rethinking Social Inquiry Diverse Tools, Shared Standards (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield).Google Scholar
  4. Braithwaite, John and Drahos, Peter (2000) Global Business Regulation (Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  5. Collier, David, Brady, Henry and Seawright, Jason (2004) ‘Sources of Leverage in Causal Inference’, in Henry Brady and David Collier (eds) Rethinking Social Inquiry (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield), 229–66.Google Scholar
  6. Creswell, John and Miller, Dana (2000) ‘Determining Validity in Qualitative Inquiry’, Theory Into Practice, 39(3), 124–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Della Porta, Donatella (2008) ‘Comparative Analysis: Case-Oriented Versus Variable Oriented Research’, in Donatella Della Porta and Michael Keating (eds) Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences: A Pluralist Perspective (Cambridge University Press), 198–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Della Porta, Donatella and Keating, Michael (eds) (2008) Approches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences. A Pluralist Perspective (Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  9. Franklin, Mark (2008) ‘Quantitative Analysis’, in Donatella Della Porta and Michael Keating (eds) Approaches and Methdologies in the Social Sciences: A Pluralist Perspective (Cambridge University Press), 240–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Freeman, G. P. (1985) ‘National Styles and Policy Sectors: Explaining Structured Variation’, Journal of Public Policy, 5 (4), 467–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Frendreis, John (1983) ‘Explanation of Variation and Detection of Covariation: The Purpose and Logic of Comparative Analysis’, Comparative Political Studies Comparative Political Studies, 16 (2), 255–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Geddes, Barbara (1990) ‘How the Cases You Choose Affect the Answers You Get: Selection Bias in Comparative Politics’, Policy Analysis, 2 (1), 131–50.Google Scholar
  13. Gerring, John (2007) ‘Is There a (Viable) Crucial-Case Method?’, Comparative Political Studies, 40 (3), 231–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hollingsworth, Roger, Schmitter, Phillipe and Streeck, Wolfgang (1994) ‘Capitalism, Sectors, Institutions and Performance’, in Roger Hollingsworth, Phillipe Schmitter and Wolfgang Streeck (eds) Governing Capitalist Economies: Performance and Control of Economic Sectors (Oxford University Press), 3–16.Google Scholar
  15. Hopkin, Jonathan (2010) ‘The Comparative Method’, in David Marsh and Gerry Stoker (eds) Theory and Methods in Political Science (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 285–307.Google Scholar
  16. Jordana, Jacint and Levi-Faur, David (2004). The Politics of Regulation: Institutions and Regulatory Reforms for the Age of Governance (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. King, Gary, Keohane, Robert and Verba, Sidney (1994). Designing Social Inquiry. Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (Princeton University Press).Google Scholar
  18. Levi-Faur, David (2004) ‘Comparative Research Designs in the Study of Regulation: How to Increase the Number of Cases Without Compromising the Strengths of Case-Oriented Analysis’, in Jacint Jordana and David Levi-Faur (eds) The Politics of Regulation. Institutions and Regulatory Reforms for the Age of Governance (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar), 177–99.Google Scholar
  19. Levi-Faur, David (2006a) ‘A Question of Size?’, in Bernhard Rihoux and Heike Grimm (eds) Innovative Comparative Methods for Policy Analysis (New York: Springer and Kluwer), 43–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Levi-Faur, David (2006b) ‘Regulatory Capitalism: The Dynamics of Change beyond Telecoms and Electricity’, Governance, 19 (3), 497–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Levi-Faur, David (2006c) ‘Varieties of Regulatory Capitalism: Getting the Most Out of the Comparative Method’, Governance, 19 (3), 367–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Levy, Jack (2008) ‘Case Studies: Types, Designs, and Logics of Inference’, Conflict Management and Peace Science, 25 (1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lieberson, Stanley (1992) ‘Small N’s and Big Conclusions’, in Charles Ragin and Garry Becker (eds) What is a Case? (Cambridge University Press), 105–18.Google Scholar
  24. Lijphart, Ahrend (1971) ‘Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method’, The American Political Science Review, 65 (3), 682–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lynggaard, Kennet (2011) ‘Domestic Change in the Face of European Integration and Globalization: Methodological Pitfalls and Pathways’, Comparative European Politics, 9 (1), 18–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mahoney, James (2000) ‘Strategies of Causal Inference in Small-N Analysis’, Sociological Methods Research, 28 (4), 387–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Meckstroth, Theodore (1975) ‘“Most Different Systems” and “Most Similar Systems”: A Study in the Logic of Comparative Enquiry’, Comparative Political Studies, 8 (2), 132–57.Google Scholar
  28. Mill, John Stuart (1851) A System of Logic, 3rd edn (London: Longmans, Green, and Co.).Google Scholar
  29. Paavola, Sami (2004) ‘Abduction as a Logic and Methodology of Discovery: The Importance of Strategies’, Foundations of Science, 9 (3), 267–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Payne, Geoff and Williams, Malcolm (2005) ‘Generalization in Qualitative Research’, Sociology, 39 (2), 295–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Peters, Guy (1998) Comparative Politics: Theory and Methods (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Powell, Bingham (1982) Contemporary Democracies: Participation, Stability, and Violence (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).Google Scholar
  33. Przeworski, Adam and Teune, Henry (1970) The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry (New York: Wiley-Interscience).Google Scholar
  34. Putnam, Robert, Leonardi, Robert and Nanetti, Raffaella (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton University Press).Google Scholar
  35. Ragin, Charles (1987) The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies (Berkeley: University of California Press).Google Scholar
  36. Ragin, Charles and Becker, Howard (1992) What is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry (Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  37. Rihoux, Benoit (2006) ‘Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Systematic Comparative Methods’, International Sociology, 21 (5), 679–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seawright, Jason and Gerring, John (2008) ‘Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research: A Menu of Qualitative and Quantitative Options’, Political Research Quarterly, 61 (2), 294–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Singer, David (1961) ‘The Level-of-Analysis Problem in International Relations’, World Politics: A Quarterly Journal of International Relations, 14 (1), 77–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Skocpol, Theda (1979) States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of Trance, Russia, and China (Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tarrow, Sidney (2010) ‘The Strategy of Paired Comparison: Toward a Theory of Practice’, Comparative Political Studies, 43 (2), 230–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Van der Heijden, Jeroen (2012) ‘Voluntary Environmental Governance Arrangements’, Environmental Politics, 21 (3), 486–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Van Waarden, Frans (1995) ‘Persistence of National Policy Styles,’ in Brigitte Unger and Frans Van Waarden (eds) Convergence or Diversity? Internationalization and Economic Policy Response (Aldershot: Avebury), 333–72.Google Scholar
  44. VanWynsberghe, Rob and Khan, Samia (2008) ‘Redefining Case Study’, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 6 (2), 80–5.Google Scholar
  45. Venesson, Pascall (2008) ‘Case Studies and Process Tracing: Theories and Practices’, in Donatella Della Porta and Michael Keating (eds) Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences (Cambridge University Press), 223–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Verba, Sidney and Nie, Norman (1972) Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality (New York: Harper and Row).Google Scholar
  47. Vogel, Steven (1996) Freer Markets, More Rules: Regulatory Reform in Advanced Industrial Countries (London: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
  48. Yin, Robert (2003). Case Study Research. Design and Methods, 3rd edn (Thousand Oaks: Sage).Google Scholar
  49. Young, Oran (1999). The Effectiveness of International Environmental Regimes (Cambridge: MIT Press).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jeroen van der Heijden 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeroen van der Heijden

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations