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Leaving Theory Behind: Why Hypothesis Testing Has Become Bad for IR

  • Mearsheimer, John J.

    (University of Chicago)

  • Walt, Stephen M.

    (Harvard University)

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    Theory creating and hypothesis testing are both important elements of social science. Unfortunately, in recent years the balance between theory creation/refinement and the testing of empirical hypotheses has shifted sharply toward the latter. This trend is unfortunate, because insufficient attention to theory can lead to misspecified models and overreliance on misleading measures of key concepts. In addition, the poor quality of much of the data in IR makes it less likely that these efforts will produce useful cumulative knowledge. The shift away from theory and towards hypothesis testing is due mostly to the professionalization of academia, and this trend is likely to continue unless there is a collective decision to alter prevailing academic incentives.

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    Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp13-001.

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    Date of creation: Jan 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-001
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    1. Blattman, Christopher & Miguel, Edward, 2009. "Civil War," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt90n356hs, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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