Challenges of Comparatively Studying Groups: Frame Analysis, Paired Comparisons, and Terrorism Research


Designing a comparative study of groups, movements, and collectives presents significant challenges. Although some of these challenges are undoubtedly case-specific, this research methods case discusses three challenges which will appear, in one form or another, in most comparative projects: identifying measurement units, designing a comparative framework, and collecting and analyzing data. Each of these is discussed by drawing on an example from a study I conducted which compared the ideological rigidity and flexibility of secular and religious terror groups. Drawing on insights from sociology’s social movement theory, from terrorism research, and broadly from qualitative textual analyses, the case guides the reader toward thinking of creative ways to manage such challenges as they develop, based on the specific needs of the study she or he is conducting.

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