by Kamya Yadav. Causal inference has become the dominant endeavor for many political scientists, often at the expense of good research questions and theory building. Returning to descriptive inference – the process of describing the world as it exists – can help formulate research questions worth asking and theory that is grounded in reality. Exploratory data analysis is one method of conducting descriptive inference. It can help social science researchers find empirical patterns and puzzles that motivate their research questions, test correlations between variables, and engage with the existing literature on a topic. In this blog post, I walk through results from exploratory data analysis I conducted for my dissertation project on political ambition of women.