Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2012

Finding the Cases that Fit: Methodological Challenges in Peace Research

Claudia Simons, Franzisca Zanker

March 2012

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Subnational comparative research has received increasing attention as a method that is academically rigorous and offers inā€depth knowledge about specific cases. However, the practical difficulties surrounding the selection of cases to be researched and compared are seldom discussed in a meaningful way in academic circles. Even though a research design may itself be very elaborate, we need significant information on the cases before we can actually decide on useful comparisons. Based on our experiences in studying how power-sharing peace agreements affect the local level and why conflict dynamics often continue, we consider the following basic question: How do we actually know that a specific case suits a particular research design? The challenges we experienced in our research were twofold: first, how to conceptualize peace and identify indicators to measure the level of peacefulness; and second, how to obtain comprehensive and reliable disaggregated data on these indicators. By detailing our own experiences we hope to encourage a more open approach to the discussion of methodological challenges.