Anecdote, fiction and statistics: the three poles of empirical methodology

Michael John Wood

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This article clarifies the role and value of three types of evidence used in empirical research – anecdotes derived from case studies or small samples of data, fictions (including both thought experiments and works of art such as novels and plays) and statistics. The conclusion is that all three have an important part to play. Many conventional stereotypes are deeply unhelpful: contrary to the usual assumptions, science is often dependent on anecdote and fiction for exploring possibilities, qualitative research is often statistical in spirit, and social science is more likely to lead to useful conclusions about future possibilities if it draws on anecdotes and fictions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalPossibility Studies & Society
Early online date10 Jan 2024
Publication statusEarly online - 10 Jan 2024


  • Case studies
  • fiction
  • possibilities
  • qualitative research
  • quantitative research
  • research philosophy
  • statistics
  • thought experiments

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