Surveying democratization research in tandem with a critique of research methods has given us a more balanced and solid perspective on what we know and how confident we can be about it. Each type of research – conceptualization and measurement, checklists and frameworks, case studies, comparative history, formal models and theories, political culture, and quantitative analysis – is useful for developing certain kinds of knowledge but unhelpful for developing others. Chapters 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 concluded with a broad summary of findings and a critique of the methods used to produce them. This chapter pulls together what we have learned so far from all approaches and highlights the limitations of this understanding to focus attention on areas that should be high priorities for future research.
One priority is for each approach to do a better job of playing to its strengths: for comparative histories to generate more complex explanations, for formal modeling to produce more tightly integrated theories, and for quantitative methods to test general propositions more rigorously. Another priority, however, is for each approach to compensate for its weaknesses. Comparative historians could reach for greater generalization and a more systematic grounding in deductive propositions; formal models could become more realistic and make predictions that are more suitable for rigorous testing; and quantitative analysis could test more complex models and incorporate stronger theoretical guidance. The more these separate approaches compensate for their weaknesses, the closer we will get to a unified comparative method.
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