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Issues in Data Collection

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch and Kyle Clark Beardsley


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Comment on this article   Many of the central questions of interest to researchers and the general public about world politics are inherently descriptive. Some prominent examples include: Has there been a decline in conflict in the international system? Was the nineteenth century more peaceful than the twentieth century? How common are democratic institutions around the world, and how has the extent of democracy changed over time? Does there appear to be any relationship between such changes or “waves of democracy” and conflict in the international system? Descriptive questions like these should in principle be answerable from empirical data or information about the relevant features. The turn to greater use of scientific methods in the study of international relations, exemplified by the Scientific Study of International Processes section of the International Studies Association, is premised on how attention to the canons of scientific inquiry, systematic data collection, and empirical testing of propositions can help improve our understanding of world politics. Following the behavioral revolution in the social sciences in the 1960s, we have indeed seen the development of several databases that attempt to take stock of core features relevant to international relations such as conflict between states and democratic institutions. Given the development of such data sources, one ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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