Building Better Methods in Economic Geography I

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Qualitative Research Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Organizers: Pengfei Li, Harald Bathelt
Chairs: Harald Bathelt

Call for Submissions

We are looking for papers addressing the methodological challenges in economic geography, in at least four directions: developing new methods that bridge the qualitative/quantitative research gap; catching big data opportunity; improving rigor; clarifying causality. If you are interested in these topics, please feel free to contact to join us.


Economic geography is a field vibrant in developing new topics and ideas. The diversity of research approaches, however, brings about methodological challenges since the types of data and the ways of analyzing them vary considerably in different research practices. While it is important to choose appropriate methods to answer different research questions, methodological diversification also comes at a cost. For one, the field becomes more fragmented into camps that focus on different research approaches (Bathelt et al. 2017), although efforts to create common ground have been long been demanded (Overman 2004; Wrigley and Overman 2010). In our view, an important task is to narrow down methodical gaps to be able to communicate across different research streams. This does not mean prioritizing one methodological approach over another or simply emphasizing the limitations of individual approaches. It means asking for solid and rigorous methodology in general and engaging in discussions across different approaches. This session thus aims to contribute to building better methods that connect data with arguments in both qualitative case studies and quantitative data analyses so as to increase mutual respect and understanding across different approaches. Compared to other fields, it is surprising how little attention has been devoted to developing rigorous research methods in economic geography, albeit that this has repeatedly been raised (e.g. Schoenberger 1991; Clark 1998; Tickell et al. 2007; Glückler 2007; Tokatli 2015; Bathelt and Glückler 2018).

In addressing these methodological challenges, we believe it is important to move forward in at least four directions:

1.Developing new methods that bridge the qualitative/quantitative research gap. In particular, QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis) is a new method that goes beyond identifying the net effects of individual variables to look for configurations of conditions that explain an outcome. While increasingly applied on political science, management and organization studies, QCA has not yet penetrated economic geography. How can QCA be usefully applied in economic geography? How can QCA’s configurational approach help to build and empirically support better theories?

2.Catching big data opportunity. Technologies of collecting and analyzing big data are revolutionizing research practices in many fields. New and huge volumes of data on micro-actions of individuals and organizations provide tremendous opportunities to find more convincing evidence to existing theories and develop new ones. How can big data be applied in studying economic processes in spatial perspective in conceptually meaningful ways without giving up links to prior research practices?

3.Improving rigor. We believe there is also a need to update existing toolkits and increase rigor. For example, how can stronger linkages be developed between raw data and conceptual arguments in case study research? And how can detailed descriptions of qualitative data be further analyzed? Similarly, how can problems of measurement errors, endogeneity or ecological fallacy in quantitative analysis be better addressed as we often use data aggregated at industrial or regional levels to make inferences regarding the micro-level?

4.Clarifying causality. The different notions of causality underlying variable-based and case-based methods often lead to confusion, misunderstandings and even hostility between researchers in different traditions. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the different ontologies of causality? How can we make researchers appreciate the often juxtaposed implications for empirical research in both methods?


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Sally Weller*, Australia Catholic University, Collapsing the Qualitative-Quantitative Divide: New Approaches in Longitudinal Studies 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Roel Rutten*, Tilburg University, Openness Values and Regional Innovation: A Set-Analysis 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Johannes Glückler*, Heidelberg University, Robert Panitz, Heidelberg University, Structure and Meaning: Situational Organizational Network Analysis 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Shengjun Zhu*, , Good neighbors, bad neighbors: local knowledge spillovers, regional institutions and firm performance in China 20 9:00 AM
Presenter Shiri M Breznitz*, University of Toronto, Douglas S Noonan, Indiana University, Spikey or Flat? Crowdfunding and Regional Advantage 20 9:20 AM

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