Comparative Method for Social and Political Research
In social science, there are at least four research method commonly used. They are sampling, statistic, case study, and comparative. Each of them would not be applicable for every social science studies. In case of political science research, the method perceived as most useful is comparative.
In order to facilitate students of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in understanding and using the method comprehensively, Institute of International Studies, Department of International Relations UGM conducted a workshop on Comparative Method in Political Science. The event was held on Thursday (2/8) at BA 504, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. It was facilitated by Dr. Gyene Pal from Budapest Business School, Hungary. Gyene Pal is an Associate Professor of Political Studies who has conducted a considerable number of comparative researches regarding democratic condition in Moslem-dominated countries, especially in Middle and Southeast Asia.
In his explanation, Gyene Pal showed advantages and weaknesses of all four methods mentioned previously, particularly when those methods were applied in political researches. First, there is no exact model or simulation which is able to depict an abstract phenomenon, such as democratic system. Second, in statistical method, accuracy of research would highly depend on the amount of cases being researched upon. The same method would require limited variables in cases being researched. This resulted difficulty in finding answer of specific and special cases. Third, in study case method, a political researches would be able to formulate hypotheses but the same method doesn’t allow researcher to test the hypotheses.
At this point, comparative method become the most relevant for analyzing a political phenomenon. Gyene Pal based his argument upon four virtues of comparative research method. First, comparative research method allows researchers to test their hypotheses from several case studies, while still considering other comparative variables. Second, to explain causal relation from two phenomena happened more than once. Comparative method, for example, could find out whether poverty and suicide rates correlates. Researcher, then, could see how suicide cases in a few areas as well as the economic growth in each areas. As result, it is possible for a researcher to find unprecedented correlation in areas of research object. Third, comparative method is important in arranging a typology. Fourth, comparative method could explain deviant cases. For example, it can explain why Kyrgyzstan turned into the only democratic parliamentary country among other Central Asian post-Soviet countries. Similar method could find out why Indonesia is the only Moslem-majority country categorized democratic among other Muslim countries in Southeast Asia.