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Chapter 3 offers an inventory of contributions to knowledge. In order to get started it is helpful to understand where one wishes to end up, i.e., what the completed study is intended to accomplish. We show that there are many ways to make your mark. Contributions may focus on (a) phenomena, (b) concepts, (c) data and measures, (d) causes, (e) mechanisms and frameworks, (f) research designs, or (g) empirical refinements and extensions.
Chapter 9 introduces the general desiderata of a good theory and tradeoffs that flow from this set of oft-conflicting criteria. Next, we discuss various complexities of theorizing – the number of causes and effects embraced by a theory, the specification of mechanisms, and the problem of defining units and levels of analysis.
Chapter 2 surveys current practices. How do social scientists arrive at ideas for their work? How does the process of research unfold? How often does research end up in the dustbin (“file-drawer”)? What different intellectual trajectories are exemplified by the careers of social scientists? Using surveys and interviews, this chapter maps the lay of the land.
Chapter 10 offers tools and tips for theorizing. We lay out multiple modes of theorizing – spoken word, written word, pictures, key cases, and formal models. Then, we offer some general guidance on the construction of theories.
Chapter 4 discusses general strategies for finding a topic. This includes (a) finding your passion, (b) the life of the mind, (c) reading the secondary literature, (d) appraising the state of the world, (e) the familiar and the unfamiliar, (f) specializing and generalizing, and (g) the old and the new.
Chapter 8 lays out a menu of well-travelled theoretical frameworks. This includes (a) motivational frameworks (interests, norms, psychology), (b) structural frameworks (material factors, human capital/demography, institutions), and (c) interactive frameworks (adaptation, coordination, diffusion, networks, path dependence).
Chapter 6 introduces a case-based approach to exploratory research. Here, a tight focus on particular case or a small number of cases allows for a detailed but preliminary exploration of phenomena. For this purpose, we lay out techniques of case selection where the analysis is exploratory rather than confirmatory. These techniques may be categorized as (a) extreme, (b) index, (c) deviant, (d) most-similar, or (e) diverse.
Chapter 5 offers a variety of heuristics for discovery. This includes (a) turning answers into questions, (b) play, (c) skepticism towards words and numbers, (d) error and anomaly, (e) analogies, (f) intellectual arbitrage, (g) thought experiments, (h) processes and variables, (i) hermeneutics, (j) abstraction, and (k) failure.
Chapter 7 lays out methods for soaking and poking, which we categorize broadly as (a) ethnographic, (b) archival, or (c) statistical. These techniques may be focused on a chosen case, on many cases, or may be enlisted in situations where cases are not well-identified.