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
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.