Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Fuzzy Sets

Institution: see Organisers & Acknowledgements

Programme of study: International Research Workshop

Lecturer: Jonas Buche, (Goethe-University Frankfurt)

Date: Monday, 29/09/14 – Wednesday, 01/10/14 from 14.30-18.00 h

Max. number of participants: 20

Credit Points: 5 CP for participating in the whole IRWS

Language of instruction: English


Since the publication of the seminal work “The Comparative Method” by Charles Ragin in 1987, set-theoretic methods and especially Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) have become a common research strategy in the social sciences. Set-theoretic methods analyze cases with regard to the identification of sufficient and necessary conditions and assume causal relationships to be equifinal, conjunctural and asymmetric. Not least since so-called fuzzy sets have been introduced to the method, there has been a rising interest in QCA as a welcome alternative to both small-n case studies and large-n statistical analyses. In short, QCA is recommended if ‘if…then’ hypotheses are analyzed; if the goal is to derive sufficient and necessary conditions; if a comparison is planned; and if there is a mid-sized number of cases (between 10 and 60+).

The course starts off from an introduction into the basics of QCA (sets, set memberships, set operations). Through the notion of necessary and sufficient conditions and of truth tables, the single elements are built into the Truth Table Algorithm. However, this algorithm is not free of problems. Therefore, some pitfalls and strategies how to overcome them are presented.

  1. The course is both conceptually and technically oriented. No prior knowledge is required.
  2. We will use the software fsQCA2.5 which can be downloaded at www.fsqca.com. Please note that the software does not operate on Apple Products!

Recommended literature and pre-readings:

  • Schneider, Carsten Q. and Claudius Wagemann (2012), Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ragin, Charles C. (2008). Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Freitag, Markus, and Raphaela Schlicht. 2009. “Educational Federalism in Germany: Foundations of Social Inequality in Education.” Governance 22 (1): 47-72.
  • Emmenegger, Patrick. 2011. “Job Security Regulations in Western Democracies: A Fuzzy Set Analysis.” European Journal of Political Research 50 (3): 336-64.

You have to register for the 8th International Research Workshop to participate in this course.