Conceptual Tools and Analytical Strategies for Contemporary Studies


David Dolowitz (University of Liverpool)

Osmany Porto de Oliveira (Unifesp)


Over the past twenty years, scholars from across the globe have been studying the diffusion of everything from complete political systems to the use of ideas found elsewhere to inspire local action.  In this activity, a range of interesting case studies, comparisons, conceptual and empirical developments have occurred.  However, despite this blossoming interest in the diffusion of innovations, there has been a general lack of the methodological debate and development. Rather most studies have relied on qualitative interviews, observations, and document analysis.

As a transnational phenomenon, research methods need to be operated not only within the boundaries of a single political system (or level) but also across territorial boundaries. Second, methodological advancement will also involve finding techniques to understand and trace the activities of the individual, institutional and ideational agency. Third, methods must also be developed that can link the above with the actual spaces where transfers occur. In this sense, multi-sited fieldwork, as well as following diffusion objects and the observation of spaces of agent interactions are scenarios, which require specific research strategies.

This call for papers aims to address questions of methodology. Proposals should address at least one of the following questions:

  • Which methodological strategies can be used to overcome the “territorial trap” and gather transnational data for policy transfers?
    • Network theory
    • Discourse analysis
    • Macro-level theoretical analysis
  • What methodological techniques could help overcome the black box of the movement and adaptation of ideas once foreign information enters a policymaking situation?
    • Ethnography
    • Participant Observation
    • Embedded Researchers
  • What techniques and issues are involved in examining how transfer re-enters the policymaking process once it reaches ground-level implementing agents?
    • Methods of implementation
    • Actor analysis
  • Which tools can be used in order to access and assess field research?
  • Which tools can be used to best understand the iterative processes that occur across time as something transfers?
  • Can policy transfer be used as an object to innovate public policy research methods?
  • What methods can best capture resistance techniques and outcomes to the transfer process?
  • How can we use methodology to engage in international collaborative research?

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