Researching authoritarianism in the discipline of democracy

Ariel I. Ahram, J. Paul Goode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (SciVal)


Object. This article examines the ways social science research approaches the study of authoritarian regimes and identifies ways to engage with regimes that are both deliberately opaque and oppressive.
Method: The paper examines existing methodological prescriptions and practices as they pertain to the study of authoritarian regimes. These cover issues of data collection, research safety, subjective safety, and the positioning of knowledge about authoritarianism within the wider scope of social sciences.
Results: The paper identifies three distinct but interrelated challenges in the study of authoritarian regimes: 1) access and timing, 2) data validity and integrity, and 3) ethical issues.
Conclusion: Methods commonly deployed in the study of democratic and open regimes cannot be readily deployed to the study of authoritarian ones. Greater reflexivity is needed to understand the methodological challenges inherent to the study of authoritarianism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)834-849
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2016


  • Methodology
  • authoritarianism
  • Comparative politics
  • qualitative methods
  • fieldwork experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science


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