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Arkistoitu opetussuunnitelma 2017–2019
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COSOPC3 Comparative Research in Social Policy 5 op
Organised by
MDP in Comparative Social Policy and Welfare
Person in charge
Corresponding course units in the curriculum
Yhteiskunta- ja kulttuuritieteiden yksikkö
Curricula 2015 – 2017

Learning outcomes

This class seeks to acquaint students with major concepts and approaches in comparative welfare state research. Students read some of the major programmatic and conceptual statements about the major research paradigms of comparative welfare state analysis. Then examples the most important empirical approaches in the field are examined, exploring the conceptual and methodological decisions that lie beneath these particular forms of producing knowledge about welfare state development.

In doing so, the class develops an understanding of the quality criteria applicable to theoretically-oriented empirical studies in the field of comparative welfare state research. It also explores the different components research output in the field (such as: the literature review, the theoretical argument and its justification, commentary on research design and methodology, presentation of the empirical material, and the conclusions). The goal is to strengthen students' ability to distinguish a persuasive theoretical argument from a weak one, strong empirical support from feeble descriptive illustration, and generalization with some claim to validity from random empirical observation.


The class focuses on the crucial interface between theory-building and concept formation on the one hand and (comparative) empirical inquiry on the other. It addresses the following questions: What is the rationale of theory building, concept-formation and empirical inquiry in different variants of comparative research? How do comparative welfare state researchers produce theoretical and empirical knowledge about the various welfare states? How do they arrive at generalization about welfare state development, and, how do they make the connection between theoretical arguments and empirical case studies?
Major topics:
1. Comparative analysis as a research program: Its role in the study of social policy
2. Typologies: Identifying "regimes", "varieties", and "patterns" as major approach to cross-sectional comparison
3. Comparative research design and in-depth inquiry of institutional and political dynamics in case study research
4. Inter-temporal analysis as challenge to the comparison? Major concepts in the study of institutional change in the welfare state
5. The Single Case Study and research below the nation state: Comparisons across policy fields, regions, or instances of major social reform
Class discussion and lectures during the Intensive Program at the beginning of the semester give an introduction to these themes; further readings and a set of smaller exercises during the semester offer more detailed insights and provide students with an opportunity to apply some of that conceptual knowledge in evaluating select examples of comparative social policy and trying to define and design their own projects.

Teaching language


Modes of study

Option 1
Available for:
  • Degree Programme Students
  • Other Students
  • Open University Students
  • Doctoral Students
  • Exchange Students
Participation in course work 
In English

There is an introductory classroom session during the Intensive Programme in Tampere, then independent study, using methods of distance learning. Students will read examples of the different kinds of comparative inquiry and interrogate the theory-empirics-interface in each of them.


Numeric 1-5.

Study materials

Examples of the different kinds of comparative inquiry will be drawn from the journal article literature. They will be provided on-line in Moodle.

Textbooks explaining the methodological and conceptual issues include the following

  • King, Gary, Robert O Keohane, and Sidney Verba (1994): Designing Social Inquiry. Scientific Inquiry in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • George, Alexander L., and Andrew Bennett (2004): Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press.
  • Ragin, Charles (1987): The Comparative Method. Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Berkeley, Ca: University of California Press.

A full reading list will be announced at the beginning of the course.

Belongs to following study modules

Yhteiskuntatieteiden tiedekunta
Yhteiskuntatieteiden tiedekunta
Yhteiskuntatieteiden tiedekunta
Archived Teaching Schedule. Please refer to current Teaching Shedule.
Yhteiskuntatieteiden tiedekunta