Some Needles from the Haystack – A Systematic Review of Empirical Applications of Representative Claim Analysis

Darius Ribbe, Greifswald University


The study of representative claims has been gaining ground in the field of political representation increasingly. According to Saward, the representative process of claim-making contains a claim-maker, who constructs a represented group through a subject standing for an object related to a referent, and an audience to which the claims are offered. Yet, the Representative Claims Analysis faces methodological challenges through, for example, the high context dependency of claim-making, non-verbal elements, or the rejection/acceptance of representative claims by the relevant constituency. An assessment of exemplary studies reveals varying strategies to overcome possible methodological pitfalls and differences in the definitions and theoretical foundations of the analysed representative claims. Even though the reference to the work of Saward is common, the analysis focusses on either the process of claim making, the justifications of claims, the rejection by constituencies and/or on selected examples. In this work, I give an overview of the methodological challenges faced and solutions found in the existing literature to make the differences visible, and compare their findings in the light of these different research frames. To compare those aspects, two independent researchers conduct a systematic review by following a research protocol on all eligible empirical studies in the JSTOR, ProQuest, and the Web of Science databases. The systematic search yielded 3,127 results of which 89 meet the broad selection criteria and 24 also the narrower criteria. Both researchers review these references in a two-step process by screening titles and abstracts for excluding false positives and finally including all relevant studies through full-text screening. Still, the research field is highly fragmented in terms of research clusters and shared authorships, yet very dense regarding a common literature base and cross-citations. Noteworthy is the analysis of representative claims as proxies to analyse for example politicisation or Europeanisation of discourses, whereby the authors connect the field of political representations to other issues. Based on the review of representative claims analyses referenced in the named databases, I present a methodological overview with quantitative focus.