“Research Cycles,” in The Production of Knowledge: Enhancing Progress in Social Science, Strategies for Social Inquiry

Author(s): Evan Lieberman 

Status/Format: Published

Date: 2020

Publication Type: Book Chapter

Publisher: Cambridge University Press.

Page Numbers: 42 - 70

Editor(s): Colin Elman, John Gerring, James Mahoney


Research in the natural sciences follows a cycle from exploratory research with tentative findings (descriptive and correlational work) to more definitive causal claims. This chapter argues that the social sciences (particularly political science) would benefit from a wider application of this research cycle model. Creating space in top journals for tentative (novel) conclusions instead of precise estimation of causal effects could lead to greater causal explanations in the long term. This division of labor within the research cycle would require changing evaluations of a work’s contribution to research based on its location within the cycle. Causal explanations are still the goal of research in this model, but are facilitated by an openness to preliminary and tentative findings.