Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

Institution: see Organisers & Supporters

Programme of study: International Research Workshop

Lecturer: Jonas Buche (Leibniz Universität Hannover)

Date: Monday, 11/09/17 – Wednesday, 13/09/17 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 analyse 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 analysed; 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 with an overview of the basics of set theory and demarcates QCA as a case-oriented method 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.

Requirement of students: No prior knowledge is required. We will use the software fsQCA2.5 which can be downloaded at www.fsqca.com.

Recommended literature and pre-readings:

  • 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.
  • Buche, Antje, Jonas Buche, and Markus B. Siewert. “Fuzzy Logic or Fuzzy Application? A Response to Stockemer’s “Fuzzy Set or Fuzzy Logic?”” European Political Science 15(2): 359-378. (see also chapter 4 in Buche 2017).
  • Buche, Jonas. 2017. “Assessing the Quality of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) – Evaluation, Improvement, Application”. Hannover: Leibniz Universität.
  • Buche, Jonas. 2017b. “Europeanization of Legislative-executive Relations at the Micro Level – Under Which Conditions Do Swedish MPs Interact with Ministerial Officials?” COMPASSS Working Paper Series 2017-87 (see also chapter 6 in Buche 2017).
  • Buche, Jonas, and Markus B. Siewert. 2015. “Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) in der Soziologie – Perspektiven, Potentiale und Anwendungsbereiche.” Zeitschrift für Soziologie 44 (6):386-406 (see also chapter 2 in Buche 2017).

You have to register for the 11th International Research Workshop to participate in this course.