A pragmatic guide to qualitative historical analysis in the study of international relations

Cameron G. Thies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Researchers using qualitative methods, including case studies and comparative case studies, are becoming more self-conscious in enhancing the rigor of their research designs so as to maximize their explanatory leverage with a small number of cases. One aspect of qualitative research that has not received as much attention is the use of primary and secondary source material as data or evidence. This essay explores the potential problems encountered by political scientists as they conduct archival research or rely on secondary source material produced by historians. The essay also suggests guidelines for researchers to minimize the main problems associated with qualitative historical research, namely, investigator bias and unwarranted selectivity in the use of historical source materials. These guidelines should enable advanced undergraduates and graduate students to enhance the quality of their historically minded political science scholarship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-372
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Studies Perspectives
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Bias
  • Historiography
  • Qualitative research
  • Selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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