Chapter 1: Introduction to the Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Comparative Policy Analysis
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This introductory chapter raises two central questions that run throughout the handbook: What are the best available methods to conduct systematic comparative policy analysis (CPA) across time, space and areas? And how can scholars and practitioners select them or combine them to improve the internal consistency and the external coherence of policy design in research and practice? This chapter presents four major theoretical issues currently under discussion in CPA, in order to show the methodological implications of theory-driven research and how these can be attended by the methods presented in this handbook. These include the structure versus agency debate, the study of policy change and the role of context and time. The authors present the methodological issues based on a sample of 80,000 peer-reviewed articles from the Web of Science, before describing the methodological shift in social sciences and the methods preferences by areas thereof. They then draw on the research design and methods selection stemming from the former sections. The authors build on a typological model to deal with the diversity and complexity of these methods, and compare the scope and limitations of extensive and intensive research designs in outcome explanation or interpretation. The difficulties raised by case selection in a within-case study or a small-N comparison are discussed. The conclusion stresses the importance of methods for comparative policy research and practice and presents the handbook organization.