2016 QMMR Section Awards


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Giovanni Sartori QMMR Book Award

This award recognizes the best book, published in the calendar prior to the year in which the award is presented, that makes an original contribution to qualitative or multi-method methodology per se, synthesizes or integrates methodological ideas in a way that is itself a methodological contribution, or provides an exemplary application of qualitative methods to a substantive issue. The selection committee consisted of Macartan Humphreys (Columbia), chair; Katerina Linos (Berkeley); and Craig Parsons (U. of Oregon).

Winner of the 2016 Award: Ronald R. Krebs, Narrative and the Making of US National Security. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Honorable Mention: Anna Grzymala-Busse, Nations under God: How Churches Use Moral Authority to Influence Policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

Prize citation: Ronald Krebs’ Narrative and the Making of US National Security takes on an important but very difficult question: What is the role of narrative in shaping decision making in international politics? His beautifully crafted book examines cases where leaders failed to seize opportunities to change dominant narratives as well as cases where they succeeded. Missed opportunities include FDR’s failure to counter anti- interventionist narratives before Pearl Harbor, or Reagan’s failure to win the public over to his position on the Sandinistas. Krebs suggests that FDR missed a chance to change the narrative while Reagan failed to marshal arguments in a context where the narrative frame was not in dispute. Seized opportunities include the “writing of the enemy” after Pearl Harbor as regimes rather than populations and the framing of the “war on terror” after 9/11. Causal inference is obviously difficult in all of these cases, but Krebs takes up the task in a remarkably comprehensive and careful way. He seeks evidence for mechanisms via text analysis, analyzes speeches and documents for evidence of rhetorical strategies, considers political context and conditions around this rhetoric, engages in explicit counterfactual analysis to identify historical clues for what might have happened had different choices been made, and directly confronts alternative explanations. This eclectic mix of methods supports a surprising and provocative argument that suggests that the space for altering narratives can be greatest in times of strength and not at moments of crisis.

In addition, the committee nominates Anna Grzymala-Busse’s Nations Under God for honorable mention. This magisterial book examines the role of churches in policy formation across three paired sets of cases, examining when and why they have influence. Combining archival research, formal theory, and statistical analysis, Grzymala-Busse argues that in those cases in which national and religious identities are most closely aligned, churches enjoy unusual moral authority. They can use this authority to gain effective policy influence while at the same time seeming to be detached from politics.

Alexander George Article/Chapter Award

This award recognizes the journal article or book chapter, published in the calendar prior to the year in which the award is presented, which—on its own—makes the greatest methodological contribution to qualitative research and/or provides the most exemplary application of qualitative research methods. The selection committee consisted of Carolyn Warner (Arizona State), chair; Sarah Parkinson (U. of Minnesota, now Johns Hopkins); and Jonathan Mercer (U. of Washington).

Winner of the 2015 Award: Thomas Rixen and Lora Anne Viola, “Putting Path Dependence in its Place: Toward a Taxonomy of Institutional Change.” Journal of Theoretical Politics vol.27 no.2 (April 2015): 301–323.

Prize citation: The articles nominated for the 2016 award covered a diverse set of substantive topics and represented various theoretical and methodological approaches. The impressive range and quality of these articles made it difficult to select only one. However, we ultimately agreed that Thomas Rixen and Lora Anne Viola’s “Putting Path Dependence in its Place” best exemplified the Alexander George Award’s ideals.

Rixen and Viola’s article makes a strong, broad contribution to methodological debate and provides a terrific example of empirical engagement. Their approach is grounded in and speaks to a long tradition of empirical work on institutional change. It sheds new light on concept stretching and concept proliferation, uses path dependence to illustrate those problems, and demonstrates how thinking clearly about path dependence advances empirical studies of institutional change. Rixen and Viola’s careful and systematic development of their argument makes this piece an important contribution to the literatures on qualitative methods, case studies, path dependence, and institutional change. Moreover, while it speaks to an empirical realm, it does not limit itself to or reproduce a specific intellectual silo; it is intellectually accessible and portable. It is a productive contribution in every sense of the word, and admirably carries on the intellectual ambitions of Alexander George.

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Sage Best Paper Award

This award recognizes the best paper on qualitative and multi-methods research presented at the previous year’s meeting of the American Political Science Association. The selection committee consisted of Rasmus Brun Pedersen (Aarhus University); Ramazan Kilinc (U. of Omaha); and Daniel Beland (U. of Saskatchewan).

Winner of the 2016 Award: Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith, “Comparison and Ethnography: What Each Can Learn from the Other.”

Prize citation: Ethnography and comparative research are typically perceived as incompatible forms of inquiry. Yet, in their innovative paper, Simmons and Smith suggest that comparative researchers can learn from ethnographers, and vice versa. More important, their paper outlines a comparative approach to ethnography that is both novel and compelling. This paper proposes a highly original combination of ethnography and comparative method that offers new and important insights. Their claim that at least a certain type of comparative thinking is compatible with ethnographic research is illustrated by concrete and relevant empirical examples. This is a paper that many scholars could learn from, within different sub-fields of political science and even beyond, as social scientists from other disciplines could find the comparative ethnography most relevant, as a methodological approach in qualitative analysis. The deals with crucial issues in a clear and innovative manner while potentially fostering inter-field and interdisciplinary dialogues.

David Collier Mid-Career Achievement Award

This award recognizes distinction in methodological publications, innovative application of qualitative and multi-method approaches to substantive research, and/or institutional contributions to this area of methodology. The selection committee consisted of Peter Hall (Harvard), chair; John Gerring (Boston University); James Mahoney (Northwestern); and Lisa Wedeen (Chicago).

Winner of the 2016 Award: Lauren Morris MacLean, Indiana University

Prize citation: Lauren M. MacLean of Indiana University is a worthy recipient of the David Collier Award for mid-career achievement. She has made excellent use of multiple methods in her own research, well-reflected in her book on Informal Institutions and Citizenship in Rural Africa and advanced our understanding of methods as co-author of an important text on Field Research in Political Science. Moreover, her contributions to teaching and learning methods, in many forums, have been outstanding. For four years, she was a co- instructor for the QMMR short course on ‘Designing and Conducting Field Research’ and she has made signal contributions to advancing the understanding of methods among African scholars, raising funds to bring African scholars to the IQMR workshops and running workshops on research issues in Africa. For her fine scholarship and dedication to advancing the methods of the discipline, the committee is pleased to make this award to Professor MacLean.

Note: Funding for the award for “best qualitative submission to the APSR,” given since 2012, expired with the 2015 award, and it was therefore no longer given in 2016.