Between Large-N and Small-N Analyses

Historical Comparison of Thirty Insurgency Case Studies

Published In: Historical Methods, v. 46, no. 4, Oct.-Dec. 2013, p. 220-239

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2013

by Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke, Beth Grill, Terrance Dean Savitsky

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The authors study the 30 insurgencies occurring between 1978 and 2008 using four methods crossing the qualitative/quantitative divide. The four approaches are narrative, bivariate comparison, comparative qualitative analysis, and K-medoids clustering. The quantification of qualitative data allows the authors to compare more cases than they could "hold in their heads" under a traditional small-n qualitative approach, improving the quality of the overall narrative and helping to ensure that the quantitative analyses respected the nuance of the detailed case histories. Structured data-mining reduces the dimensionality of possible explanatory factors relative to the available observations to expose patterns in the data in ways more common in large-n studies. The four analytic approaches produced similar and mutually supporting findings, leading to robust conclusions.

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