The methods of political inquiry
According to Vernon Van Dyke, the term methods of political inquiry denotes processes for acquiring and treating data.” He identified a number of such methods, including the analytical method, the inductive and deductive methods, the comparative method, and the scientific methods. We shall attempt a brief exposition of each method or technique as follows:
The analytical method
The analytical method seeks to ascertain the different components of what is being examined and to explain how these parts are related and fitted into a whole.
Quantitative and qualitative methods
Quantitative methods are those that entail the measuring or counting of data. Numerical figures such as dates are also recognised as quantitative data. It is usually required that items to be counted be defined and identified with care and in such a way as to permit replication. In contrast to quantitative method, the qualitative method of data collection relies entirely on the logical abilities, judgement or insight, or the imagination or intuition or impressions of the researcher to generate data and establish relationships.
Inductive and deductive methods
The inductive method seeks to establish truth by observation. This is in contrast to the deductive method which attempts to draw conclusions from premises that are taken as given. Deductive methods are essentially logical whereas inductive methods are both logical and empirical
The comparative method
The comparative method seeks to establish similarities and differences among political phenomena as a source of data for concept formation and classification.
In this regard, it has been observed that by comparing and contrasting events, institutions, processes or even expectations and experiences, ‘one gets clearer image of things observed and a sharper understanding of the meanings of the symbols we employ.”
The principal operation of the scientific method usually involves: (i) the statement of the problem to be investigated; (ii) the formulation of hypotheses, that is tentative statements about the relationships among the variables to be examined. and (iii) the
collection of data to test the stated hypotheses, in other words, data is generated to prove or disconfirm the relationships which were assumed to exist among the variables. It is to be noted that these activities are not always undertaken in the order in which we have highlighted them.
We have attempted, in this chapter, to outline the nature of approaches and methods in political inquiry. We noted that an approach denotes a general framework, perspective or orientation for raising questions and considering data in political inquiry. Our examination of a sample of extant approaches shows that they differ in their focus. While some derive from the orientations of certain academic disciplines-philosophy, sociology, psychology, etc., others concentrate on specific features of political life such as institutions, the decision-making process, or political behaviour. We took the methods of political inquiry to consist of the various processes for acquiring and treating data. These include the analytical method, quantitative and qualitative methods, inductive and deductive methods, comparative method and the scientific method. It is to be stressed that while particular approaches help to underline particular features of the political process, specific methods have been found most useful in generating certain kinds of data. It is therefore not surprising that political scientists use combinations of approaches and methods in their investigations.