Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

Institution: see Organisers & Supporters

Programme of study: International Research Workshop

Lecturer: Jonas Buche (Goethe-University Frankfurt)

Date: Monday, 26/09/16 – Wednesday, 28/09/16 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 set relations 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 offers a comprehensive introduction to QCA and is both conceptually and technically oriented. It starts off from an overview of the basics of set theory and demarcates QCA as a case oriented methods from both the quantitative and the interpretive-qualitative research paradigm. 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. At the third day, the software tool fsQCA will be introduced and applied to published studies.

No prior knowledge is required. We will use the software fsQCA2.5 which can be downloaded at www.fsqca.com. Please note that the software does only operate on Apple Products with parallels!


  • Cebotari, Victor, and Maarten P. Vink (2013). “A Configurational Analysis of Ethnic Protest in Europe.” In International Journal of Comparative Sociology, Vol. 54(4), 298-324.
  • Emmenegger, Patrick. (2011). “Job Security Regulations in Western Democracies. A Fuzzy Set Analysis.” In European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 50(3), 336-64.
  • Freitag, Markus, and Raphaela Schlicht (2009). “Educational Federalism in Germany. Foundations of Social Inequality in Education.” In Governance, Vol. 22(1), 47-72.


  • Schneider, Carsten Q./Wagemann, Claudius, 2012. Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ragin, Charles C., 2008. Redesigning Social Inquiry. Fuzzy Sets and Beyond. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Goertz, Gary/Mahoney, James, 2012. A Tale of Two Cultures: Quantitative and Qualitative Research in the Social Sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

You have to register for the 10th International Research Workshop to participate in this course.