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A Tale of Two CulturesQualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences$
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Gary Goertz and James Mahoney

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149707

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149707.001.0001

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(p.64) Chapter 5 Asymmetry
A Tale of Two Cultures

Gary Goertz

James Mahoney

Princeton University Press

This chapter shows that the quantitative and qualitative cultures differ on the issue of symmetry. Whereas quantitative research tends to analyze relationships that are symmetric, qualitative research focuses on relationships that have asymmetric qualities. Causal models and explanations can be asymmetric in a variety of ways. This chapter deals mainly (though not exclusively) on the so-called “static causal asymmetry,” in which the explanation of occurrence is not the mirror image of that of nonoccurrence. After comparing symmetric and asymmetric models, the chapter looks at examples of asymmetric explanations using set-theoretic causal models. It highlights the difficulty of translating the fundamental symmetry of standard statistical models into the basic asymmetry of set-theoretic models, as well as the difficulty of capturing the asymmetry of set-theoretic models with the standard symmetric tools of statistics.

Keywords:   symmetry, quantitative research, qualitative research, causal models, static causal asymmetry, occurrence, nonoccurrence, set-theoretic causal model, statistical model, statistics

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