Finding the Cases that Fit: Methodological Challenges in Peace Research
Subnational comparative research has received increasing attention as a method that is academically rigorous and offers in ]depth knowledge about specific cases. However, the practical difficulties surrounding the selection of cases to be researched and compared are seldom discussed in a meaningful way in academic circles. Even though a research design may itself be very elaborate, we need significant information on the cases before we can actually decide on useful comparisons. Based on our experiences in studying how powersharing peace agreements affect the local level and why conflict dynamics often continue, we consider the following basic question: How do we actually know that a specific case suits a particular research design? The challenges we experienced in our research were twofold: first, how to conceptualize peace and identify indicators to measure the level of peacefulness; and second, how to obtain comprehensive and reliable disaggregated data on these indicators. By detailing our own experiences we hope to encourage a more open approach to the discussion of methodological challenges.
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