Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

Great course and passionate lecturer! I especially like how Professor Berg-Schlosser combined discussions of QCA theory, applications, and substantive issues. — participant from South Korea

This course provides an overview of research designs and methods for systematic comparative analysis when confronted with a small number of highly complex cases, such as political and legal systems, social movements, or corporations. You will be introduced to new methodological procedures and learn how to use software to reduce this complexity and to arrive at configurational solutions based on set theory and Boolean algebra. Real-life applications are used throughout the course. Participants are encouraged to bring their own data.

This course is equally suitable for participants with and without a background in quantitative research methods, statistics, or mathematics. However, participants should have some prior training in basic qualitative research methods.


Dates

This course was offered in 2013, 2014, and 2015.


Instructor

Dirk Berg-Schlosser (picture), Philipps University of Marburg


Detailed Description

David Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern empirical social science, once stated that the comparative method is the only one that suits the social sciences. The French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, however, had already reminded us that "comparaison n'est pas raison," i.e., comparison is not reason or theory by itself. This course provides an introduction and overview of of the leading methods for systematic comparative analysis in the social sciences and shows how to employ these methods for constructive explanation and theory-building.

The course begins with a short discussion of traditional methods of comparison of very few cases and the development of 'most similar' and 'most different' research designs for comparative analysis. The major part of the course is devoted to new analytical methods for the study of small numbers of highly complex cases, such as Asian societies, political systems, or various distinct policy areas. These approaches and methods are able to reduce complexity and to arrive at 'configurational' solutions based on set theory and Boolean algebra, which are more meaningful in this context than the usual broad-based statistical methods. The final section of the course compares QCA, multi value-QCA, and fuzzy set-QCA techniques to the more common methods for macro-level analysis (i.e., analysis at the level of states or societies) and discusses their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Real-life, published applications are used throughout the course, and practice datasets are analyzed using the latest version of the popular TOSMANA software. Participants are strongly encouraged to bring their own data.


Prerequisites

This course does not require prior methodological training and is equally suitable for participants with and without a background in statistics or mathematics. Familiarity with some qualitative concepts and tools would be beneficial.


Requirements

Participants are expected to bring a WiFi-enabled laptop computer. Access to data, temporary licenses for the course software, and installation support will be provided by the Methods School.


Core Readings

Berg-Schlosser, Dirk. 2012. Mixed Methods in Comparative Politics. Principles and Applications. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.


Suggested Readings

Rihoux, Benoit, and Charles Ragin, eds. 2009. Configurational Comparative Methods. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Techniques. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Ragin, Charles. 2008. Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Brady, Henry E., and David Collier, eds. 2010. Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Goertz, Gary, and James Mahoney. 2012. A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Moses, Jonathon W., and Torbjørn L. Knutsen. 2012. Ways of Knowing: Competing Methodologies in Social and Political Research. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.