Quality & Quantity 32: 399–418, 1998.
© 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The Case of Case Studies: On the Methodological
Discussion in Comparative Political Science
Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Martin-Luther Universität Halle, Postfach 8, D-06099 Halle,
Germany, E-mail: email@example.com
Abstract. A look at comparative political science shows that many contributions to the ﬁeld do
compare, but do not reﬂect the methods used. This paper discusses the analytical differences between
the comparative method, the statistical method and experiment. An overview of the methodological
discussion shows that a case study and namely the analysis of deviant cases has its place in com-
parative analysis. The last part of this paper consequently deals with different forms of case study
analysis and the underlying research interest. The discussion emphasizes that in-depth analyses of
a limited number of cases is the core of comparative political science with a good ratio between
methodological input and analytical results.
Is there a place for case studies in comparative political research? Are not case stud-
ies and comparative politics a contradiction in terms? In order to ﬁnd an answer to
these questions, I shall ﬁrst outline the methodological basis on which comparative
political science works and how the ﬁeld is perceived. To this end, I shall consider
the debate about the contents of comparative political science, I will then go on
to the relation between content and method and ﬁnally I will turn to questions of
comparative methods in more detail. On the basis of this overview, the role and
relevance of case studies for comparative analysis can be more precisely deﬁned
and the apparent contradiction between case studies and comparative method in
political science resolved.
1. Comparative Politics and Comparative Political Science
Again and again contributions to comparative politics emphasize that there can be
no ﬁndings without comparison. “Virtually all empirical social research involves
comparison of some sort. Researchers compare cases to each other; they use sta-
tistical methods to construct (and adjust) quantitative comparisons; they compare
cases to theoretically derived pure cases; they compare cases’ values on relevant
variables to average values in order to assess covariation. Comparison provides a
basis for making statements about empirical regularities and for evaluating and
interpreting cases relative to substantive and theoretical criteria” (Ragin, 1987: