For Example: How to Use Examples in Political Science

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There is a large literature on the use of cases, hardly anything on examples. They are different: cases get analyzed, examples get deployed. Examples can perform clarifying, didactic, persuasive, universalizing, critical, and cogitative functions. These six functions all have their own logic, and a set of guidelines for how to perform each of them well is developed. However, compelling and persuasive examples can also mislead. Following Kahneman's distinction between system 1 (fast) and system 2 (slow) thinking, good examples both resonate in system 1 terms and invite system 2 scrutiny. The best examples are good in some aspect, flawed in interesting ways in others. A perfect example is a logical impossibility. The author's interest in convincing the reader and the discipline's interest in effective inquiry can diverge, a problem overcome if reason in inquiry is seen as essentially dialogical.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


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