An introduction to the method of characteristics by M B. Abbott

By M B. Abbott

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The art of the detective and the social scientist, of course, is in the ability to identify important events and to explain the relationships between them. ' is the sign that an inquiry ± an investigation ± has started. A good detective and a good social scientist needs to know what, who, how and when to investigate. A good social scientist needs a research design. KNOWING WHAT TO RESEARCH Exploration, Description and Explanation In the murder mystery Cause of Death Dr Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner `detective', is called out to a strange drowning in a naval shipyard for decommissioned naval ships and submarines.

26 Al Bl S TA R T I N G T HE I NQ UI RY of `panels', thousands of households, that are monitored regularly by ratings agencies. RESEARCH DESIGN We now have a rough checklist of the key elements of a research design. Great ideas are important in social science research, just as they are in detective fiction, but good ideas must be backed up by good design. Good design assists not only the investigation but the administration of quantitative research. It is very easy to underestimate the practical, administrative, side of organizing, collecting and analysing evidence.

The governor of the province was the most plausible. 37 B A L N AV E S A N D C A P U T I The importance of the role of different styles of reasoning is often explicitly highlighted in detective fiction. K. Chesterton's The Blue Cross (1987) the great French police detective Valentin is trying to track down Flambeau, a brilliant crook who, disguised as a priest, is travelling with Father Brown and planning to steal a valuable cross from him. Valentin resorted to guessing ± abduction ± when traditional `logic' did not appear to be appropriate.

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