Identifying Basic Terms and Tools of political analysis
Over the years, some terms and tools have become basic and indispensable in political Analysis. is because they are handy or useful and have attained or acquired some measure of specificity in usage. In discussing relevant terms and tools, attempts are made to explain and state their meaning and highlight their utility in political analysis and the broader political science.
A select range of seven basic and useful terms of political analysis are discussed below. The terms are as follows:
- Political phenomenon
- Political concept
- Hypothesis and
Read also: Examples of Political phenomenon
A number of some useful tools of political analysis have also been identified. The identified tools are eight in all, and will be discussed under the following headings, viz:
- Content analysis
- Case analysis
- Survey technique
- Documentary instrument
- Statistical tool
Some Basic Terms of political analysis
Four set of basic terms in political analysis are will be highlighted here. They are facts, data, value, and reasoning. In the main, while fact is seen as blocks of knowledge, data is conceived as definable information. On the other hand, value and reasoning are viewed respectively as things considered important by an individual or group and as coherent organization of thought.
Facts as blocks of knowledge
In everyday usage, the word ‘fact’ refers to a particular situation that exists or a thing that is known to be true, accurate or provable. It is also associated with detailed or extra information as opposed to that which is invented or imagined. Fact comes from factum and facere (Latin), meaning ‘do’, ‘act’, ‘deed’, or anything that is done or that has happened.
In this sense, it means something that is actually in existence. In the words of Imosili (1996), it refers to “observations or realities which can be empirically proven to exist”.
In the terminology of political analysis, facts refers to the building blocks of knowledge. in this case, it is possible to think of two types of facts, namely; Logical Facts and Empirical Facts
- Logical Facts: As the name suggests, logical fact are established largely by sound Logical reasoning. This involves the use of logical statements to show or establish that something has taken place. A typing example is that the World Trade Centre, America’s tallest building was bombed on September 11, 2000. Other examples of logical facts are that until 1991, Lagos was Nigeria’s Federal Capital; and the facts that most people who are corrupt also take bribe.
- Empirical facts: On the other hand, empirical facts, are established through experimentation or experience. In other words, empirical facts are products of observation and empirical verification. Their accuracies are established by acceptable process of verification to ascertain or confirm their veracity. Thus, empirical facts rely on the observable, that is, what can or has been proved using various means of gathering and assessing information. The fact that there are more Nigerians than foreigners in a class of second year students can be observed and ascertained by identifying each group, counting them and comparing. Some can said of gender composition. Similarly in order to establish that they are many police checkpoints between Enugu and Onitsha (a distance of 106 kilometres), for instance, one can travel from Enugu to Onitsha so as to physically count the number of police checkpoints on that road. In the same way, the votes cast in an election can also be ascertained by counting in order to establish the fact that one candidate or the order is more popular. In the light of the foregoing, it is necessary to point out that facts are important building blocks for political analysis. This is because political analysis is based largely on facts – Logical and Empirical. It is therefore, important that a political analyst must be sure of the facts he or she deploys in his or her analysis. For facts to serve their purpose, however, they must be systemized, organised or ordered. This takes us to the meaning and use of data.
Read also: Understanding Political inquiry and Research
Data as definable information #political analysis
As pointed out earlier, facts must be systematized and ordered, if they are to serve their purpose. To achieve their purpose, Facts must attain the status of data. In other words, data is simply systematized, organized or ordered facts. The word ‘data’ is a derivative of datum, meaning a fact that is known or conceded from which inference is drawn. In everyday use, data refers to information, facts or more precisely, information in a form that can be stored or used.
The usefulness of the term data lies on the fact that it is largely relied upon in analysis and in the quest to test hypothesis. It is important to point out straight away, that data could be quantitative or Qualitative information. It is quantitative when we say for instance that Nigeria has a population of 150million or that the total amount an individual can contribute for the purpose of supporting the election of the President in Nigeria is #20 million, while the ceiling for supporting the election of the Governor and Senate is #15 million and #10 million respectively.
On the other hand, it is a Qualitative data, if one states that Nigeria is a populous country or that the amount of money which an individual can contribute to the election of the President of Nigeria is very high or low. As can be observed, Qualitative statements often contains value judgement or preferences. In the two examples above, though the Qualitative statements did not tell us the exact population of Nigeria or how much an individual can contribute in the election of the President, it inform us that the population is large and that the ceiling of possible contribution is high or low. Thus, unlike Okeke (2001), who saw data as only quantitative, it is important to underline the fact that data is both qualitative and quantitative.