Explanatory typologies in qualitative studies of international politics

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231 Scopus citations


Explanatory typologies are powerful tools in the qualitative study of international politics. They are likely to be most valuable when scholars systematically apply shared techniques. This article provides an account of analytic steps used in working with typologies, and an accessible vocabulary to describe them. These analytic steps are illustrated with concrete examples drawn from prominent versions of offensive structural, defensive structural, and neoclassical realism. Five forms of cell compression - rescaling and indexing, as well as logical, empirical, and pragmatic compression - are considered, along with the drawbacks associated with each. The expansion of a partial typology and the rediscovery of deleted cells are also discussed. Finally, the article considers the potential drawbacks of a typological approach, and argues that scholars must be mindful of the risks of reification and of relabeling anomalies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-326
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


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