Research Portfolio Post #9

My faculty mentor, Dr. Banks, and I met for our last meeting of the semester on Monday, December 3rd at 3:30pm. We were able to go over the main features of each of my research design sketches and talk through which methodology would be the best for me to pursue as I continue on to SISU-306.

I already knew going into the meeting that my large-n design was the one that I definitely did not want to pursue. Although I found enough cases to constitute a large-n project for the research design, I ultimately felt as though my broadened scope drew my cases away from the puzzle I am actually interested in investigating. I went into my meeting with Dr. Banks looking for guidance on choosing my small-n or interpretivist research design to move forward with.

Before diving into the course material of SISU-206, I had become interested in my puzzle through a neo-positivist case study lens. I was fascinated by torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and wanted to better understand why similar practices at each prison evolved in such different ways. However, I was not entirely confident in the variables I chose for my small-n design. As I got into my interpretivist design, I started to become interested in the significance of the official discourse on each case.

With these considerations in mind, I asked Dr. Banks for advice on how to reconcile my interest in discourse analysis with my interest in keeping a neo-positivist methodology. Dr. Banks brought to my attention the fact that studying discourse is not strictly an interpretivist tactic and that I could remain in my preferred small-n case study world. I can hypothesize discourse as a variable correlated with my predicted outcome. Dr. Banks warned, however, that unless I make discourse the dependent variable, I need to be open to accepting that discourse may not, in fact, play a meaningful role in my puzzle. In order to help me understand this use of discourse in neo-positivist work better, Dr. Banks sent me two articles that take a similar approach. In the first, Carpenter explores how gendered discourse shaped practices pertaining to international involvement of civilians in war zones.¹ In the other article, Goddard examines how rhetorical tendencies of European powers surrounding Prussian wars influenced vulnerable populations.² As I look forward to next semester’s research course I will look closely at these articles to model my own research after, assuming I find enough of an empirical correlation to apply this structure to.

¹R. Charli Carpenter, “Women and Children First: Gender, Norms, and Humanitarian Evacuation in the Balkans 1991-95,” International Organization 57, no. 4 (2003): 661-694.
²Stacie Goddard, “When Right Makes Might: How Prussia Overturned the European Balance of Power,” International Security 33, no. 3 (2008).

One thought on “Research Portfolio Post #9

  1. Naila Nicole Ricarte says:

    Hannah, sounds like you have a good handle on the question you are trying to answer in your research project. If I may make a suggestion, because you said you did not feel confident in the variables you chose for your small-N design sketch, maybe you can look back on the insights you found enlightening within the official discourse explored in your interpretivist design sketch. Perhaps through this, you can explore new variables that are more pertinent to your research question. How do you think official discourse surrounding each of your cases will play a role in your Neo-positivist research moving forward?

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