Friday, 20 May 2016

Article - Enrique Mendizabal

Research Methods to study on Think Tanks

Enrique Mendizabal
Founder of On Think Tanks

Editor’s note: This article has been written by Marcos Gonzalez Hernando and Jordan Tchilingirian with contributions from Enrique Mendizabal and Andrea Ordoñez. It incorporates the views and suggestions of those present at a pre-launch of the First Online Conference on Research Methods to Study Think Tanks as well as online participants.

This article served as a discussion paper for a series of webinars on studying Think Tanks. It is structured in the same way as the pre-launch event and involves a few statements from the organisers and a compilation of the views of the participants. Richard Darlington, Rosie Clayton, Brendan Martin, and Alyaa Ebbiary joined us at the event and their views have been incorporated in the discussion.

The event addressed several pertinent questions and one of the key one was-What methods could be used to study them?

Different methods were explored to employ when studying think tanks. This is the focus of the series of webinars running through September and November. Different methods are useful for different situations and questions. The list is not exhaustive but we hope it will provide a useful source of ideas to Think Tank researchers:

  • By type of data
  • Qualitative: interviews, ethnography, document analysis (discourse analysis/grounded theory)
  • Quantitative: surveys, SNA, content analysis, bibliometrics analysis, social media and big data.
  • Mixed methods: including case studies and episode studies.
  • Temporal frame: Historical, Snapshot
  • Context: National, Multinational, Institutional, Network, Political-wing, Policy area
  • Unit of analysis: Institution, Researcher, Policy report, Policy Idea, Tweet, Media presence
  • Research Question: Impact, research capacity, networks, institutional structure and change

Interesting References
#TTmethods – Session 1: Case studies, qualitative methods and diachronic perspectives: This session explores an approach to study think-tanks that relies on an array of qualitative methods – including interviews, ethnography, document analysis – to understand these organisations from a closer perspective.
#TTmethods – Session 2: Researching think-tanks with social network analysis: This session will look at how social network analysis (SNA) can be applied to the political world and to public policy research.
#TTmethods – Session 3: Quantitative Survey Analysis: This session explores an approach to study think-tanks that relies on quantitative methods –namely survey analysis– to understand these organisations in a manner that may allow for generalisations.
For more resources and literature visit: On Think Tanks Methods for Researching Think Tanks

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