Comparative-historical methodology

James Mahoney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The last decade featured the emergence of a significant and growing literature concerning comparative-historical methods. This literature offers methodological tools for causal and descriptive inference that go beyond the techniques currently available in mainstream statistical analysis. In terms of causal inference, new procedures exist for testing hypotheses about necessary and sufficient causes, and these procedures address the skepticism that mainstream methodologists may hold about necessary and sufficient causation. Likewise, new techniques are available for analyzing hypotheses that refer to complex temporal processes, including path-dependent sequences. In the area of descriptive inference, the comparative-historical literature offers important tools for concept analysis and for achieving measurement validity. Given these contributions, comparative-historical methods merit a central place within the general field of social science methodology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-101
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - Sep 9 2004


  • Concepts
  • Measurement
  • Necessary causes
  • Sufficient causes
  • Temporal processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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