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Thickening Thin Concepts and Theories: Combining Large N and Small in Comparative Politics

Michael Coppedge
Comparative Politics
Vol. 31, No. 4 (Jul., 1999), pp. 465-476
DOI: 10.2307/422240
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/422240
Page Count: 12
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Thickening Thin Concepts and Theories: Combining Large N and Small in Comparative Politics
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Abstract

Small-N comparison and quantitative large-N analyses need each other. Small-N analysis needs to generalize and test its "thick" complex theories; quantitative studies need to be based on richer concepts and a greater variety of explanatory factors. They have the potential to be quite complementary. In principle, thick concepts can be translated into the thin format of quantitative data, and the nuanced, conditional, complex, and contextualized hypotheses of small-N analysis can be translated into quantitative models. However, in order to make these approaches complementary in practice, different data would need to be collected, and data would need to be collected more systematically and rigorously.

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