Qualitative Comparative Methods

Research Methods Courses

Instructor: Dirk Berg-Schlosser

Course Description

QCA is a well-recognized “configurational” procedure that is based on set theory and Boolean algebra (Ragin 1987; Rihoux/Ragin 2009). It is particularly suitable for the systematic comparison of a small and medium number of cases where statistical methods based on large numbers and often random sampling as in survey research are not applicable. It allows to identify different configurations and patterns of conditions (comparable to independent variables) for the respective outcome (the dependent variable). In this way, forms of “conjunctural causation” or “equifinality” can be established in contrast to just average correlations or regressions across all cases. It has become widely applied in political science, sociology, economics, business administration and similar fields.  

This course provides a short introduction to the main variants of this method: crisp-set QCA, multi-value QCA, and fuzzy-set QCA. As a basic software (TOSMANA, version, available at: https://www.tosmana.net/) will be used. TOSMANA is a Windows-based software and the most user-friendly with easy access. Mac users need a converter like https://www.parallels.com/; this can be downloaded for a free test period of 14 days.

Powerpoint slides will be made available to all registered participants before the course. 

Reading List:

  • Berg-Schlosser, D.; G. De Meur; B. Rihoux and Ch. Ragin (2009), "Qualitative Comparative Analysis as an Approach", in: Rihoux, Benoit and Charles C. Ragin (eds.), Configurational Comparative Methods, Los Angeles: SAGE, pp. 1 – 18.  
  • Ragin, Ch. (2009), “Qualitative Comparative Analysis Using Fuzzy Sets (fsQCA)”, in: Rihoux/Ragin, op. cit., pp. 87 – 121. 
  • A brief introduction to set theory is Goertz, G. and J. Mahoney (2012), “Mathematical Prelude: A Selective Introduction to Logic and Set Theory for Social Scientists” in: Goertz, Gary and James Mahoney, A Tale of Two Cultures – Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences, Princeton: Princeton UP, pp. 16 – 38.  

The readings should be done before the course ! In this way an inter-active form of teaching will be possible, given the limited amount of time. 

A comprehensive introduction to comparative methods and research designs by Dirk Berg-Schlosser is available as an IPSA MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) at: https://www.ipsa.org/resources/ipsamooc. Current information about QCA-related events and publications can be found at the COMPASSS website: http://compasss.org/ 

In Person