Philip Edward Howard
Comparative research is the process of asking and answering questions with evidence from carefully chosen cases. Comparative research is exciting because defining cases is tough analytical work, and they can be people, artifacts, communities, field sites, organizations, countries, focus groups, periods of time, or texts. This course is designed help students make definitional decisions in their own work and look at how other scholars do comparative research. In this course, students explore the inquiry process by thinking about how to generate transportable theory by working with people, artifacts, or events in a comparative context. This course has four objectives:
• to teach students about the assumptions, applications, strengths, and limitations of comparative research; • to give students a sophisticated methodological literacy, enabling them to read broadly and critically, to engage with colleagues who have different approaches to comparison, and to better interpret their own comparative findings; • to have students develop their scholarly identity by developing a comparative research agenda through a thesis proposal, an article draft, or thesis chapter (as relevant for where they are in their graduate career).
By the end of this class, students should be able to assess the impact of methodological choices on research findings. As much as this is a class in methods, it is also an opportunity for students to choose the questions and themes they find most interesting in comparative. This class will be a workshop in which the instructor, students, and guest lecturers can present ideas on how and when to use different methods of inquiry. Although students are required to try different methods, they have wide freedom to select your line of inquiry, and much of the content of this class will depend on the topics that student interests. Students will finish the course with a good reference packet of notes, reviews, and other handouts.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading
Students will be evaluated through their participation in class discussions (25%), the drafting of a publishable review of a recent scholarly book on some aspect of comparative research (25%), and the submission of a manuscript, the content of which can be negotiated at the beginning of the course (50%). Students are encouraged to draft or redraft a conference paper, thesis proposal, dissertation chapter, or other manuscript as appropriate for the stage they are in for their academic career. In important ways, the freedom to develop a manuscript over the course of our 10 weeks of conversations is more challenging than writing a class-specific paper, so students should come to the first meeting with a sense of what they want to draft or redraft.