Case Study Methods. The Oxford Handbook of International Relations. Read More. Subscriber sign in. Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution. Sign in with your library card. Search within Related Content Counterfactuals and Case Studies. Abstract and Keywords This article focuses on a third generation of qualitative methods research. Buy This Book in Print. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.
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The result may be the impression that influencing the public is best done through indirect means: by shaping policy and influencing elite debate through focussed and private briefings. A total of corroborating sources were cited—an average of 8. Although tracking down people who could assist in evidencing impact may have been the result of an absence of documentary evidence Manville et al. For it is in these quotes that readers are given a sense of why a piece of research made the difference. We offer an anatomy of the first set of politics and international studies impact case studies based on original data analysis of all publically available submissions.
While this is just a snapshot image of some the benefits UK politics and international studies brings to the world beyond the academy, when we look at this big picture, it is clear that by , the discipline and users had well-developed impact stories to tell. Despite separation from other disciplines and specialisation in theory and methods, scholars remain able and are willing to develop effective relationships with an array of increasingly receptive practitioners. Let us be clear about the implications of this positive analysis and specifically what it does not imply.
We do not propose the tensions involved in relationships between academics and practitioners have been resolved. Debates about relevance, and the role of the academic beyond the academy, will and must continue; they are one of the best guardians we have of academic and impact quality. Rather, given that impact is now institutionalised in the regulatory landscape, we must attend to the ramifications of our case analysis for the discipline.
First, we know politics and international studies scholars are informing decision-makers, government and Parliaments at all levels and jurisdictions of the UK and beyond. So, we can have some degree of confidence that academic research is informing policy.
But, when we explore what the profession is actually doing, what is being affected is the wider climate of policy not policy itself see John This may be as good as it gets. We cannot assume that other knowledge providers are cutting through in a way academics are not.
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There is a huge literature from the s onwards that explores the difficultly in moving social scientific evidence beyond this conceptual function where research enlightens but does not direct Weiss A recent report suggests academics are the most trusted source for policymakers McCormick , Sect. For some, the answer to narrowing this gap lies in our methods—for example, the promise that design thinking Stoker and experimental techniques may reach the parts that others cannot are currently being championed in UK social sciences and government Halpern ; Haynes et al.
Evaluating Methodology in International Studies
Of course, we may well consider the utility of downplaying change as a way to manage expectations about what can reasonably be expected from politics and international studies. This is not simply a matter of opening-up to wider audiences but may also boost the impact profile of those academics whose works offer radical critiques of prevailing political norms see Smith in Watermeyer , p. Second, we have the challenge presented by our heroic impactors.
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While it is clear that building an impact case study is a team effort involving many actors, the case study narratives often focus on the intellectual heavy lifting of single heroes. For some, this will be a necessary evil of writing for the audit. Yet, might the pre-eminence of single academics holding up case studies risk feeding an instrumental model of research where universities aim to recruit impact stars or alienate early career researchers from engaging in impact?
The increased understanding of the risk of letting a case study slip if impact heroes leave institutions with scant evidence trails with which to piece together a case study impact case studies are non portable may result in a more explicitly inclusive approach to build resilience by spreading case study knowledge and boost institutional memory. The university level challenge is to reward impact effort not just outcomes. The third challenge concerns the temporal dimension of impact.
Second time around, to what extent will academics be able to tell continuation impact stories that build on from the last submission. This number of follow-up cases will reveal much about the strength and depth of politics and international studies impact relationships.
REF will also tell us much about how long it takes to consciously generate impact. Now we turn to beneficiaries. Governments and parliaments at home and abroad are the big winners. Even with some re-balancing from a wider definition of impact, these will likely remain our primary impact partners. Given the rhetorical backlash against experts in political debate, this poses interesting challenges—intellectually and in terms of impact.
One possible insurance against this is the incompatibility of academic and policy timelines. But, we should go further than this and equip researchers with an ability to reflect on how to draw and maintain clear boundaries in their impact work.
The challenge of beneficiaries not simply about boundaries but also about diversification. The Stern review has changed this and as the definition of impact loosens to include teaching at all levels, colleagues are well placed to make imaginative links between an array of hitherto unlinked agendas—impact, research-informed teaching, Teaching Excellence Framework TEF and Widening Participation WP. Publics have lost out also. Rather than asking what we can do for citizens, politics and international studies academics need to ask: what can the real world do for political science?
Booth , p. But, the methodological challenge of evidencing claims to influencing public debates requires discipline-level support. Moving beyond these evidencing challenges, we can think about the absence of publics as linked to knowledge production itself.
Mono-disciplinarily means problems are explored in closed systems. It demands that academics think beyond simplifying and clarifying their ideas to sharing ownership and co-producing impact in a way that empowers practitioners and society. We are some way off that ideal. Analysis demonstrates a healthy methodological pluralism. The mixed approaches informing most case studies, and the centrality of descriptive evidence summaries, suggest professionalisation has not resulted in a flight from reality Shapiro ; see also Crick , ; Bull ; Flyvbjerg ; Moore ; Ricci ; Wallace That said, our overwhelmingly disciplinary approach to impact is less well matched with the complex and multifaceted reality of policy and social problems.
Of course, we might well ask whether it matters at all. Yet, we can think about this in a different way by asking counterfactual question: what work is closed-off by the lack of interdisciplinary thinking?
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Indeed, when we consult analysis on this, we are left with the nagging concern that opening up other disciplines—becoming more like foxes and less like hedgehogs Berlin —could help political scientists effect a step change in the nature of their impact—forecasting problems and influencing action as opposed to analysing the wider climate see Tetlock Moreover, broadening out might offer a way for under-represented sub-fields to play a deeper role in impact—for example, political theory to use its obvious links with history and philosophy to find a stronger impact voice.
Although using journal rankings and research grants as proxies for output quality is partial, our analysis is sufficient to suggest the discipline has avoided the perverse possibility of poor-quality research generating the biggest impact. We could go further still to advocate a further layer of complexity to the audit and require scoring of underpinning research. But, there is probably little wisdom in adopting either complacency or pedantry.
Rather, let us think about two key questions that the issue of quality raises. First, what does the impact imperative do to the quality of research? The obvious way to think about this is in negative terms.
Qualitative Political Methodology
Pressure to produce a large number of case studies could certainly result in tail wagging the dog where research quality reduces as academics spread their intellectual energies too thinly. Yet, we can think about this in more positive terms. By linking the theory and methods of a discipline with problems, we can improve the quality of social science itself. Second, what does quality have to do with impact, in any case? Let us unpack the assumptions behind this question. Scientific quality in research is judged by peer review and underpinned primarily by concerns with objectivity and methodological rigour.
Yet, in a world where facts are increasingly challenged in the political arena, is this really all that is needed for impact? We may say yes, the rise in fact-checking by social scientists is perhaps the archetypal way for us to engage with anti-intellectualism Tyler It certainly provides one way to demonstrate that the ability to evaluate evidence and value of the research process is the major contribution we can offer society Holt Yet, there is another view.
Might we not need more mission-driven academics who take unashamedly normative positions on issues of the day? Certainly, focussing more on bodies of knowledge offers one way to encourage more boundary spanners to enter the impact fray where impact is not focussed around simply speaking truth to power but talking values as well.
The final challenge is one of impact communication. We have covered a good deal of ground on evidencing already.