How Much Does It Cost?: Optimization of Costs in Sequence Analysis of Social Science Data

Jacques-Antoine Gauthier, Eric D. Widmer, Philipp Bucher, and Cédric Notredame How Much Does It Cost?: Optimization of Costs in Sequence Analysis of Social Science Data Sociological Methods & Research 2009 38: 197-231.

One major methodological problem in analysis of sequence data is the determination of costs from which distances between sequences are derived. Although this problem is currently not optimally dealt with in the social sciences, it has some similarity with problems that have been solved in bioinformatics for three decades. In this article, the authors propose an optimization of substitutionand deletion/insertion costs based on computational methods. The authors provide an empirical way of determining costs for cases, frequent in the social sciences, in which theory does not clearly promote one cost scheme over another. Using three distinct data sets, the authors tested the distances and cluster solutions produced by the new cost scheme in comparison with solutions based on cost schemes associated with other research strategies. The proposed method performs well compared with other cost-setting strategies, while it alleviates the justification problem of cost schemes.

Key Words: sequence analysis • optimal matching • trajectories • empirical cost optimization

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