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The quality of logical inference_ Abduction in comparative ...

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The quality of logical inference: Abduction in comparative country case study research
RanaJawadSocial and Policy Sciences, University of [email protected] Research Symposium26 January, 2015
Some Key Principles
Social phenomena cannot be separated from their social environment (Pawson and Tilly, 1997)Empirical research: all knowledge is uncertain, method is most importantScientificInference: descriptive-causal (scientific rules)The researcher as the research instrument - character, disposition, research position, reflexivity, transparencyReasoning and types of knowledge = basis of logicof socialenquiry
Research Background
Social policy and welfare systems in the MENA regionInstitutional frameworksCauses and effectsMENA region: weak or no social policies, lack of political legitimacy and state capacity
Abductiveapproach as defined byBlaikie(2000:114) made up of two stages (that follow Charles Sanders Peirce’s original formulation of findings and explanation):Describing social activities and meanings; andderivingcategories and concepts that can formthebasis ofanunderstanding or anexplanation (not prediction)
A different kind of Theoretical Knowledge
“accounts or re-descriptions in social scientific language of social actors’ everyday accounts”(Blaikie, 2000: 116)Re-descriptionsusedto develop descriptive models or ideal typesthat aimto transcend everyday knowledge and include conditions which the social actors involved in the research were unawareofExperientialknowledge – personal experience and character of the observer are important
These new understandings provided a basis fornaturalistic generalisationsfounded upon the criteria of (1)“retaining the integrity of the phenomena";(2) contextualising analysis via"thick description"(Stake, 1998; 2000)Generalisation about experience, what happens – not about theoretical relationships
Application to Research
Keymoments from the empirical research to show how theabductiveapproach supported the development of descriptive causal narratives of social welfare systems in the countries studied, but that this remained a contextually-contingent exercise.
Abduction and Theory
Abductioncan support theory building based on generalisation and notuniversalisationPhilosophicalprinciple ofPhronesiswhich emphasises the fact that the social researcher will have to resort to some form of personal consideration or judgement or choice during the analysis process in order to decide what the most plausible hypothesis or explanatory frameworkisExperiential knowledge – personal experience and character of the observer are important
Phronesis: A different kind of knowledge
Nicomachean ethics(Aristotle): 3 classes of intellectual virtueEpisteme(generalised scientific knowledge, ethics, rules)Techne(craft knowledge; knowledge that meets designated ends)Phronesis(ethical judgement, prudence, practical wisdom): context-based situated actionOverlaps between them, especiallytechneandphronesis
Techne: Knowing how to make somethingPhronesis: Judgement, understanding the implications and making the right choices (rational, normative, situational)“What should I do in this situation?”Guiding action – not simply making true or false statements(Spicker, 2011)
Phronesisand In-depth Case Studies
Generalised observations of experienceRmphasisescase knowledgeAttentivenessand flexibility of the researcher’s decision-making processesReadiness to refine judgement and see a situation in a new way
Choice And Logic of Inference
The inevitable application of choice emphasises the use of logic of inference and it is the quality of that choice thatmattersWithincase study methodology, theabductiveapproach needs to remain historically rooted so as to retain its explanatorypower
Holistic Narrative
Generalisations about processes in their social contextsAholistic narrative approach supports the triangulation of research findings and the researcher’s ability to gain deep understanding of the research context, and therefore enhance the quality of the logical inferences made during the research process.
Some Concluding Ideas
Phronesisneeds to be combined with episteme andtechne– as a counterbalance – we already use it?Acknowledging that policy-based research is ambiguous - voice, testimony and experiential knowledge also matterQuality in qualitative research is about the attentiveness, flexibility and reflexivity of the researcher
Some Concluding Ideas
Qualitativeresearch as “a knack” – apre-dispositionQualitative research as a form of “craftsman/woman-ship” – character of researcher and not just research methods…mindfulness, attentiveness, open mindednessSocial policy in the MENA region: ability to see new forms of civic action, political legitimacy and state capacity





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