WHAT RESEARCH METHODS FOR WHAT QUESTIONS?
USING QUALITATIVE METHODS TO ANALYZE INSTITUTIONS
SEPTEMBER 23, 2021
Researchers are often encouraged to use only the most sophisticated quantitative techniques in their work. This view is incomplete, David Skarbek argues. Qualitative methods are well suited to address many institutional questions, and they can utilize a wealth of previously neglected evidence. For many questions, quantitative evidence is lacking, there is no plausible identification strategy, or there may be multiple possible causal pathways. And institutions themselves are often multifaceted and multidimensional. Skarbek discusses how methods such as case studies and process tracing can be used to establish causality, using examples from his prize-winning work on prisons. Mary Shirley chairs the program; Alexandra Benham and Lee Benham curate the Q&A session.
About the Speaker
David Skarbek is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Political Theory Project at Brown University. He is an alumnus of the Ronald Coase Institute and has been a faculty member in its workshops and a presenter at its panels and conferences.
Skarbek studies the political economy of institutions and institutional change, with a focus on collective action, norms, and ethnic conflict. His research seeks to understand how extralegal governance institutions form, operate, and evolve. He has published extensively on the informal institutions that govern life in prisons in California and around the globe. His work has appeared in leading journals in political science, economics, and criminology, including the American Political Science Review, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Journal of Law, Economics & Organization, and Journal of Criminal Justice. He has published two award-winning books: The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System, and The Puzzle of Prison Order: Why Life Behind Bars Varies Around the World.