How to Do Comparative Analysis in Research ( Examples )

Comparative analysis is a method that is widely used in social science. It is a method of comparing two or more items with an idea of uncovering and discovering new ideas about them. It often compares and contrasts social structures and processes around the world to grasp general patterns. Comparative analysis tries to understand the study and explain every element of data that comparing. 

Comparative Analysis in Social SCIENCE RESEARCH

We often compare and contrast in our daily life. So it is usual to compare and contrast the culture and human society. We often heard that ‘our culture is quite good than theirs’ or ‘their lifestyle is better than us’. In social science, the social scientist compares primitive, barbarian, civilized, and modern societies. They use this to understand and discover the evolutionary changes that happen to society and its people.  It is not only used to understand the evolutionary processes but also to identify the differences, changes, and connections between societies.

Most social scientists are involved in comparative analysis. Macfarlane has thought that “On account of history, the examinations are typically on schedule, in that of other sociologies, transcendently in space. The historian always takes their society and compares it with the past society, and analyzes how far they differ from each other.

The comparative method of social research is a product of 19th-century sociology and social anthropology. Sociologists like Emile Durkheim, Herbert Spencer Max Weber used comparative analysis in their works. For example, Max Weber compares the protestant of Europe with Catholics and also compared it with other religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism.

To do a systematic comparison we need to follow different elements of the method.

1. Methods of comparison The comparison method

In social science, we can do comparisons in different ways. It is merely different based on the topic, the field of study. Like Emile Durkheim compare societies as organic solidarity and mechanical solidarity. The famous sociologist Emile Durkheim provides us with three different approaches to the comparative method. Which are;

  • The first approach is to identify and select one particular society in a fixed period. And by doing that, we can identify and determine the relationship, connections and differences exist in that particular society alone. We can find their religious practices, traditions, law, norms etc.
  •  The second approach is to consider and draw various societies which have common or similar characteristics that may vary in some ways. It may be we can select societies at a specific period, or we can select societies in the different periods which have common characteristics but vary in some ways. For example, we can take European and American societies (which are universally similar characteristics) in the 20th century. And we can compare and contrast their society in terms of law, custom, tradition, etc. 
  • The third approach he envisaged is to take different societies of different times that may share some similar characteristics or maybe show revolutionary changes. For example, we can compare modern and primitive societies which show us revolutionary social changes.

2. The unit of comparison

We cannot compare every aspect of society. As we know there are so many things that we cannot compare. The very success of the compare method is the unit or the element that we select to compare. We are only able to compare things that have some attributes in common. For example, we can compare the existing family system in America with the existing family system in Europe. But we are not able to compare the food habits in china with the divorce rate in America. It is not possible. So, the next thing you to remember is to consider the unit of comparison. You have to select it with utmost care.

3. The motive of comparison

As another method of study, a comparative analysis is one among them for the social scientist. The researcher or the person who does the comparative method must know for what grounds they taking the comparative method. They have to consider the strength, limitations, weaknesses, etc. He must have to know how to do the analysis.

Steps of the comparative method

1. Setting up of a unit of comparison

As mentioned earlier, the first step is to consider and determine the unit of comparison for your study. You must consider all the dimensions of your unit. This is where you put the two things you need to compare and to properly analyze and compare it. It is not an easy step, we have to systematically and scientifically do this with proper methods and techniques. You have to build your objectives, variables and make some assumptions or ask yourself about what you need to study or make a hypothesis for your analysis.

The best casings of reference are built from explicit sources instead of your musings or perceptions. To do that you can select some attributes in the society like marriage, law, customs, norms, etc. by doing this you can easily compare and contrast the two societies that you selected for your study. You can set some questions like, is the marriage practices of Catholics are different from Protestants? Did men and women get an equal voice in their mate choice? You can set as many questions that you wanted. Because that will explore the truth about that particular topic. A comparative analysis must have these attributes to study. A social scientist who wishes to compare must develop those research questions that pop up in your mind. A study without those is not going to be a fruitful one.

2. Grounds of comparison

The grounds of comparison should be understandable for the reader. You must acknowledge why you selected these units for your comparison. For example, it is quite natural that a person who asks why you choose this what about another one? What is the reason behind choosing this particular society? If a social scientist chooses primitive Asian society and primitive Australian society for comparison, he must acknowledge the grounds of comparison to the readers. The comparison of your work must be self-explanatory without any complications.

If you choose two particular societies for your comparative analysis you must convey to the reader what are you intended to choose this and the reason for choosing that society in your analysis.

3. Report or thesis

The main element of the comparative analysis is the thesis or the report. The report is the most important one that it must contain all your frame of reference. It must include all your research questions, objectives of your topic, the characteristics of your two units of comparison, variables in your study, and last but not least the finding and conclusion must be written down. The findings must be self-explanatory because the reader must understand to what extent did they connect and what are their differences. For example, in Emile Durkheim’s Theory of Division of Labour, he classified organic solidarity and Mechanical solidarity. In which he means primitive society as Mechanical solidarity and modern society as Organic Solidarity. Like that you have to mention what are your findings in the thesis.

4. Relationship and linking one to another

Your paper must link each point in the argument. Without that the reader does not understand the logical and rational advance in your analysis. In a comparative analysis, you need to compare the ‘x’ and ‘y’ in your paper. (x and y mean the two-unit or things in your comparison). To do that you can use likewise, similarly, on the contrary, etc. For example, if we do a comparison between primitive society and modern society we can say that; ‘in the primitive society the division of labour is based on gender and age on the contrary (or the other hand), in modern society, the division of labour is based on skill and knowledge of a person.

Demerits of comparison

Comparative analysis is not always successful. It has some limitations. The broad utilization of comparative analysis can undoubtedly cause the feeling that this technique is a solidly settled, smooth, and unproblematic method of investigation, which because of its undeniable intelligent status can produce dependable information once some specialized preconditions are met acceptably.

Perhaps the most fundamental issue here respects the independence of the unit picked for comparison. As different types of substances are gotten to be analyzed, there is frequently a fundamental and implicit supposition about their independence and a quiet propensity to disregard the mutual influences and common impacts among the units.

One more basic issue with broad ramifications concerns the decision of the units being analyzed. The primary concern is that a long way from being a guiltless as well as basic assignment, the decision of comparison units is a basic and precarious issue. The issue with this sort of comparison is that in such investigations the depictions of the cases picked for examination with the principle one will in general turn out to be unreasonably streamlined, shallow, and stylised with contorted contentions and ends as entailment.

However, a comparative analysis is as yet a strategy with exceptional benefits, essentially due to its capacity to cause us to perceive the restriction of our psyche and check against the weaknesses and hurtful results of localism and provincialism. We may anyway have something to gain from history specialists’ faltering in utilizing comparison and from their regard for the uniqueness of settings and accounts of people groups. All of the above, by doing the comparison we discover the truths the underlying and undiscovered connection, differences that exist in society.

Also Read: How to write a Sociology Analysis? Explained with Examples

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