The term comparative method may have two meanings:
- as a general term, it may refer to the use of comparison in any form, as a heuristic tool in various scientific disciplines – especially social sciences (see comparative studies).
"Comparison is a fundamental tool of analysis. It sharpens our power of description, and plays a central role in concept-formation by bringing into focus suggestive similarities and contrasts among cases. Comparison is routinely used in testing hypotheses, and it can contribute to the inductive discovery of new hypotheses and to theory-building" (Collier 1993, p.105)
- the term usually refers, more specifically, to the Comparative method founded by the 19th-century Neo-Grammarians, and used in historical linguistics for the identification of genealogical relations between languages.
- Collier, David (1993). The Comparative Method. In Ada W. Finifter, ed. Political Sciences: The State of the Discipline II. Washington, DC: American Science Association. pp. 105-119.