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About the Field

What is Comparative-Historical Social Science?

Comparative-historical social science (CHSS) adopts a distinctive set of methodological and theoretical tools for studying the political and social world. These include the following:
  1. Temporally oriented analysis in which researchers study historical sequences and examine the unfolding of processes over time. The “historical” component of CHSS is not defined by the study of past events; rather, it refers to the use of historical approaches to time and sequence to interpret and explain events in the world.
  2. Theoretically grounded analysis in which researchers formulate and assess concepts, hypotheses, and interpretations in light of fine-grained evidence from cases. In CHSS, theory development is typically carried out in close relation to particular empirical problems.
  3. Comparative analysis in which researchers systematically juxtapose multiple features of cases to identify the key similarities and differences relevant to their research goals. Close comparison is essential to many of the specific methods of descriptive and causal analysis pursued in the field.
  4. Case-oriented analysis in which researchers develop expertise in one or more countries, areas, or regions in order to solve particular theoretical or empirical problems. Such expertise may be achieved through archival research, in-depth historical reading, and/or field and ethnographic research.

The Departments of Political Science and Sociology feature an internationally renowned group of faculty who work in this field. These faculty offer a large range of classes that provide students with expertise across each of these types of analysis.