The extensional-intensional distinction

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The essential difference between qualitative and quantitative terms involves the use or nonuse of numerical descriptions and mathematical manipulations. It does not refer to any characteristic of the research questions that motivate method choices and generate the clusters of methods. A better categorization would rely on this motivation as the differentia to distinguish among the species of the genus, "method". The alternative, yet, related distinction between extensional and intensional methods are more useful. The distinction is drawn from the set-theoretic concept of sets' intentions. The extension of a set consists of the range of particulars over which it scopes while the intension of a set consists of the necessary and sufficient conditions which indicate whether a particular is a member of that set's extension. Those who test general propositions within a cultural setting can apply extensional methods and consequently immerse themselves in quantitative techniques while those whose questions transcend cultural bounds and/or whose questions pertain to specific historical events tend to gravitate to intensional methods and immerse themselves in qualitative methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)762-764
Number of pages3
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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