Methodology of the social sciences

Metodología de las ciencias sociales

Second, Revised Edition

Our dilemmas methodological define us:

“God –point to Charles Lave and James March– has decided to leave the easy problems to the physicists”.1 What the authors want to say with this provocative comment is not that it is easy to practice the physical, but the results in this area immediately recognized. The implications of this fact are momentous. The natural scientist can afford to cultivate a safe method that their results, if they are significant, will be recognized. In contrast, the social scientist has to justify not only its findings but also its method.

Our curse and our blessing are both involved in the topics we study and in the study of issues that are subject, in the most complete sense of the kantian. Therefore, those who work in the social sciences have methodological problems more serious. We disagree on most points, and in most basic points, and we spend a lot more time to discussing these points than our cousins in the natural sciences. In effect, the methodology is central to the disciplines of the social sciences in a sense in which it is not to the natural

John Gerring [pp. 22-23]

This exceptional manual John Gerring offers in a single volume an introduction to the methodology of the social sciences that can be used to the disciplines of anthropology, economics, history, political science, psychology, and sociology. It will be useful for students, professionals, and methodologists, and much of the quantitative methods as qualitative, with special attention to essential elements such as conceptualization, measurement, causality and research design. It synthesizes the vast and diverse field of methodology in a clear, concise and comprehensive, and therefore presents the reader with an essential overview of the subject. The reflection on the methodology through this lens provides a new framework for understanding the world in the social sciences.

Singularities of this Second Edition

In this second edition John Gerring has made a profound review and expanded the book that was published a decade ago. The main argument remains the same. However, Gerring has reworded the subtitle and many arguments of the second order, has added a good amount of new material and has rewritten virtually all the paragraphs. For all these reasons surely is to be regarded as a new book.

Regard to the differences in this book compared to other manuals of methodology of the social sciences, John Gerring highlights five:

  1. To John Gerring’s social science is the point of departure and main unit of analysis. The social science is not simply a branch of the natural sciences or the humanities. Rather, it is a field of investigation badge that contains a series of rules and practices distinctive. So, rather than focus on a particular discipline, or in science in general, this book deals with all the fields whose primary focus is human action and social institutions. Among these fields are anthropology, archaeology, business, communications, demography, economics, education, environmental design, geography, law, political science, psychology, public administration, public health, public policy, social work, sociology and urban planning. In the opinion of Gerring, the methodological issues facing these fields are so similar that deserve a unified treatment. Gerring is proposed as a horizon that your manual will contribute to a sense of common purpose in these fields are often so distant.
  2. Among the divisions are methodological, epistemological and ontological current (interpreetativistas versus positivist versus realistic; cuantitativistas versus cualitativistas, etc), Gerring tries to be heard. Recognize the endurance of these divisions, but there is cosificarlas.
  3. This manual addresses the methodology of the social sciences, using the prose more than the numbers. Although it addresses both the qualitative research and quantitative data, the language of the book is largely qualitative. According to Gerring, the narrative approach has major advantages in the extent that one can treat a lot of material in a relatively concise and thorough. In fact, many methodological issues are not of nature, mathematics, rest on concepts, theories, research designs, and other issues whose best-joint is by means of natural language. However, Gerring uses statistical procedures when these are more appropriate to facilitate the transit between the world of numbers and the world of the prose.
  4. It deals with the study of the methodology of the social sciences in a way that is useful to those who practice it, that is, Gerring orients his book to the practice of social scientists, than to that of methodologists. The specialized terms are avoided to the extent possible, and includes a glossary very complete that is to put in order the lexicon.
  5. The book of Gerring frames the topic of the methodology of the social sciences in an intellectual context and historical general. Gerring remember that the majority of the issues that today are of interest for us are reiterations of methodological debates classics. Many are addressed already in 1843, when J. S. Mill published the first edition of his System of Logic. Some date back even to Aristotle. It could be said that the introduction of new methods has had relatively little impact on the basic logic of the analysis of the social science. This difficulties also arise in different circumstances. This can lead to discouragement or joy, in terms of our guidance. Gerring explains that this is another sign that there is something in the core of the social sciences that distinguishes our company from other. “In good measure, our dilemmas methodological define us”.
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About the author

Metodología de las ciencias sociales

John Gerring is professor of Political Science at the University of Boiston, where he teaches courses on methodology and comparative politics. He is the author of books such as: Party Ideologies in America, 1828-1996 (Cambridge University Press, 1998), Social Science Methodology: we posed Framework (Cambridge University Press, 2001), Case Study Research: Principles and Practices (Cambridge University Press, 2007), A Centripetal Theory of Democratic Governance (Cambridge University Press, 2008),Concepts and Method: Giovanni Sartori and His Legacy (Routledge, 2009),Social Science Methodology: A Unified Framework, 2d ed (Cambridge University Press, 2012), An Applied Guide to Social Science Methodology (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and numerous articles in magazines, scientific-social.

To know more about John Gerring see:


  1. Lave, Charles and James March 1975. An Introduction to Models in the Social Sciences. New York: Haper. [↩]

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