ECPR Winter School
University of Bamberg, Bamberg
22 February - 1 March 2019




WD103 - Introduction to Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

Instructor Details

Instructor Photo

Eva Thomann

Institution:
University of Exeter

Instructor Bio

Eva Thomann is a political scientist specialising in Public Policy and Public Administration. She is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter's Department of Politics. Previously, she has held research positions at the University of Bern, the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, the University of Heidelberg, and the European University Institute in Florence.

Eva is the first author of Designing Research with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). and the monograph Customized implementation of European Union food safety policy: United in diversity?. She has published numerous studies about policy implementation, Europeanisation, and qualitative comparative research methods in leading journals of the field, using state-of-the-art innovations such as Enhanced Standard Analysis, formal set-theoretic theory evaluation, systematic robustness tests, large-N QCA, congruence analysis, explanatory typologies, and Comparative Multilevel Analysis.

Eva has taught extensively on set-theoretic methods at invited workshops, doctoral schools, and at BA and MA level. She contributes to the development of pedagogical resources and other innovations in the use and teaching of QCA.

Eva Thomann @EvaThomann


Course Dates and Times

Monday 25 February – Friday 1 March, 09:00–12:30
15 hours over five days

Prerequisite Knowledge

Before signing up for this course, you must have taken my short course WA102 Foundations of set-theoretic and case-oriented thinking and methodology.

If you can provide evidence of equivalent prior training, you may be admitted to this course, under exceptional circumstances.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.

Short Outline

This course introduces you to crisp set and fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and its analysis in R using the interactive graphical interface of the package QCA. It will give you a basic understanding of the analytic underpinnings and steps of QCA, and enable you to independently perform a basic crisp or fuzzy set QCA (Standard Analysis).

We will look at the origins, analytic aims, and variants of QCA and deal in depth with techniques and practices of set calibration. The nuts and bolts the QCA technique, from parameters of fit to all steps of the analyses of necessity and sufficiency, are illustrated based on an empirical example study which we replicate in class. We will then cover the presentation and interpretation of QCA results, as well as ways to deal with limited diversity and other potential pitfalls. Hands-on exercises and daily lab sessions provide opportunities for practice and engagement.

Tasks for ECTS Credits

2 credits (pass/fail grade) Attend 90% of the course hours, participate fully in in-class activities, and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, class. Daily assignments will be either solutions to exercises provided after each lesson (to be submitted in Word format or equivalent), or solutions to R exercises (to be submitted as R script file).

4 credits As above, plus complete a take-home paper. The paper (2500–4000 words, excluding title page, references and appendices) will consist of one of the following:

  • a replication of a published QCA study (necessity and Standard Analysis)
  • a QCA (necessity and Standard Analysis) based on participants’ own data
  • (only after consulting with the instructor) a critical reflection of/epistemological engagement with methodological, QCA-related aspects of your own projects or a published study.

In case of the former two, you will need to submit the paper (in Word or equivalent) and the separate R script documenting your analysis. Submission deadline [tbc].

More information about assignments will be provided in class. You will be provided with a list of applied QCA studies from different disciplines for inspiration.

Long Course Outline

This course introduces you to crisp set and fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis and its analysis in R using the interactive graphical interface of the package QCA. It will give you a basic understanding of the analytic underpinnings and steps of QCA and enable you to independently perform a basic crisp or fuzzy set QCA (Standard Analysis). Hands-on exercises and daily lab sessions provide opportunities for practice and engagement.

Depending on how many ECTS points you want, you can engage in a blend of 'manual' exercises (e.g. calibrating sets, Boolean algebra, crisp-set QCA) and R assignments, for which solutions will either be provided or discussed in the next lab session. At the end of the course, you will:

  • Be able to correctly identify the suitable use, variant of, and approach to QCA for answering your research question
  • Be familiar with approaches to and issues of set calibration
  • Have a solid understanding of the logical and technical underpinnings of QCA
  • Be familiar with a selection of classic and recent key readings about QCA
  • Be able to independently carry out an analysis of necessity and sufficiency (Standard Analysis) with crisp and fuzzy sets, with the shiny GUI app of the R package QCA, visualise the results, and document your analysis
  • Be able to understand and interpret the results of a QCA, and assess the quality of a QCA study
  • Have a basic understanding of potential pitfalls when drawing inferences with QCA, and ways to address them.

The course presupposes the knowledge and skills taught in short course WA102, Foundations of set-theoretic and case-oriented thinking and methodology. It will not cover advanced analytic tools such as Enhanced Standard Analysis, theory evaluation, or set-theoretic multi-method analysis. To learn these more advanced features, we recommend you follow this course up with the second week of the Qualitative Comparative Analysis and Fuzzy Sets course at our 2019 Summer School in Budapest and the Advanced Topics in Set-Theoretic Methods and QCA course at our 2020 Winter Methods School in Bamberg.

While we will use the R packages QCA (and, where warranted, SetMethods), we will not be working primarily with command lines offering the most advanced functionality for QCA software. Instead we employ the user-friendly, interactive graphical interface (shiny GUI app), which offers more basic functionality. We will, however, document our work in R scripts and occasionally discuss how to interpret and work with R commands. As such, the course teaches an 'easy' way to perform QCA with R, with its own limitations. You will gain basic familiarity with R and be able to transparently document your analysis for replication. However, to gain full proficiency in R, you will need further training or self study.

Day one
We look at the origins, analytic aims, and variants of QCA, and deal in depth with techniques and practices of set calibration. We discuss the distinction between QCA as a technique and QCA as an approach, and what that implies for designing research and taking analytic decisions. The lab session serves two purposes: to get familiar and play around with the graphical interface of the shiny GUI app, and to briefly refresh, deepen and practice the contents on causal complexity, INUS causation, and Boolean algebra.

Day two
We introduce the technical underpinnings of QCA, and discuss how to calculate the membership of cases in sets and complex combinations of sets (such as truth table rows or solution terms). We look at the meaning and calculation of two main parameters of fit with QCA: consistency and coverage. By ways of XY plots, we will learn how to assess fuzzy set relations of necessity and sufficiency using these criteria. The lab session covers set calibration, combining sets, and producing nice graphs – XY plots and Venn diagrams – with R.

Day three
We do our own basic QCA, looking first at all steps of the analyses of necessity and sufficiency, explained with the example of an empirical study. We look briefly at the implications of skewed set membership for these analytic steps. In the lab session, you will do your own first crisp set QCA by hand. Using R, we will then analyse simple set relations, construct and inspect a truth table, and discuss how to identify appropriate raw consistency thresholds.

Day four
We begin with another lab session, rather than a lecture, in which we perform the full analyses of necessity and sufficiency (conservative solution). The rest of the day is dedicated to the presentation and interpretation of the results, feeding back into the notion of QCA as an approach. In the lecture, we will discuss the interpretation of parameters of fit and how to make sense of complex QCA results, using empirical, conceptual, and theoretical knowledge. We will look at different possibilities of presenting QCA results, corresponding good practices and transparency requirements.

Day five
Dedicated to potential pitfalls in QCA in the face of 'noisy' empirical data. Specifically, we will talk about limited diversity, its implications for making counterfactual arguments in comparative research, and possibilities for doing so in QCA when resorting to conservative, intermediate, and parsimonious solution types. We learn the distinction between 'easy' and 'difficult' counterfactuals and their implementation via the so-called 'Standard Analysis'. We touch briefly on the question of what it means for QCA results to be 'robust'. In the lab session, we implement Standard Analysis with R and very briefly look at the issue of model ambiguity. In the remaining time we will discuss some arguments surrounding the debate between QCA 'realists' and 'idealists'.

Day-to-Day Schedule

Day 
Topic 
Details 
Day 1QCA: underpinnings, variants, and approaches

Lecture (lecture room, 90’)

Origin, dissemination, uses and variants of QCA
Calibrating sets
QCA as an approach

Lab session (computer lab, 90’)

Introduction to R using the shiny GUI app Refresher: set relations, INUS and SUIN conditions, Boolean algebra

Daily assignment: exercises in Boolean algebra

Day 2Understanding the technique

Lecture (lecture room, 90’)

Calculating membership in sets
Parameters of fit
Analyzing XY plots

Lab session (computer lab, 90’)

Set calibration
Combining sets
Graphs (XY plots and Venn diagrams)

Daily assignment: set calibration

Day 3Let’s do QCA!

Lecture (lecture room, 90’)

Analyses of necessity and sufficiency explained: an example
A brief treatment of skewed data in QCA

Lab session (computer lab, 90’)

Manual exercises:
Crisp-set QCA
Attributing cases to truth table rows

With R:
Necessity and sufficiency of single conditions
Constructing and inspecting a truth table

Daily assignment: finding a raw consistency threshold

Day 4Making sense of QCA

Lab session (computer lab, 90’)

Fuzzy-set QCA of necessity and sufficiency (conservative solution)
Interpretation of results

Daily assignment: simple analysis of necessity and sufficiency with R

Lecture (lecture room, 90’)

Interpreting parameters of fit and QCA solutions
Causal complexity in QCA results
Post-QCA case selection
Presentation of results and standards of transparency

Day 5Limited empirical diversity and other potential pitfalls

Lecture (lecture room, 90’)

Limited diversity and counterfactual reasoning
Conservative, parsimonious and intermediate solution types
The Standard Analysis
The “problem” of robustness

Lab session (computer lab, 90’)

Standard Analysis
Model ambiguities
Discussion: QCA realists and idealists

Daily assignment: comparison and discussion of different QCA models

Day-to-Day Reading List

Day 
Readings 
Day 1

Key readings

Berg-Schlosser, D., De Meur, G., Rihoux, B. and C. C. Ragin (2009)
Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) as an Approach
In Rihoux, B. and C.C. Ragin. Configurational Comparative Methods. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Techniques. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore: Sage Publications, 1–18

Thomann, E.
Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) as a tool for street-level bureaucracy research
In: Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy: The Ground Floor of Government in Context. Edward Elgar, Public Policy Series (Editor Peter Hupe)

Ragin, C. C. (2008)
Measurement versus calibration: a set-theoretic approach
In Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., Brady, H.E. and D. Collier. The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology. Oxford Handbooks Online: 174–198

Further, optional readings

Berg-Schlosser, D. and G. De Meur (2009)
Comparative research design: case and variable selection
In B. Rihoux and C.C. Ragin (Eds). Configurational Comparative Methods. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Techniques (pp. 19–32). Thousand Oaks and London

Haesebrouck, T. (2015)
The added value of multi-value Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research 17(1)

Rihoux, B., Alamos, P., Bol, D., Marx, A. and I. Rezsohazy (2013)
From niche to mainstream method? A comprehensive mapping of QCA applications in journal articles from 1984 to 2011
Political Research Quarterly 66(1): 175–184.

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2012)
Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences: A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis
New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 23–41 (calibration), 253–274 (variants of QCA)

Thiem, A. (2014)
Unifying configurational comparative methods: Generalized-set qualitative comparative analysis
Sociological Methods & Research 43(2): 313–337.

Thomann, E. Oana, E. and S. Wittwer (2018)
Performing fuzzy- and crisp set QCA with R: A user-oriented beginner’s guide
Chapters 1–3

Day 2

Key readings

Rihoux, B. and G. De Meur (2009)
Crisp-Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (csQCA)
In Rihoux, B. and C.C. Ragin. Configurational Comparative Methods. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Techniques. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore: Sage Publications, 33–68

Ragin, C.C. (2009)
Qualitative Comparative Analysis Using Fuzzy Sets (fsQCA)
In Rihoux, B. and C.C. Ragin. Configurational Comparative Methods. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Techniques. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore: Sage Publications, 87–121

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2012)
Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis
New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 117–150 (parameters of fit)

Further, optional readings

De Block, D. and B. Vis (2018)
Addressing the Challenges Related to Transforming Qualitative Into Quantitative Data in Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Journal of Mixed Methods Research, doi:1558689818770061

Ragin, C.C. (2006)
Set Relations in Social Research: Evaluating Their Consistency and Coverage
Political Analysis 14(3): 291–310

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2012)
Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis
New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 42–90 (Boolean logic and set relations)

Thomann, E. Oana, E. and S. Wittwer (2018)
Performing fuzzy- and crisp set QCA with R: A user-oriented beginner’s guide
Chapters 4–5

Toth, Z., Henneberg, S.C. and P. Naude (2017)
Addressing the ‘Qualitative’in fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis: the generic membership evaluation template
Industrial Marketing Management 63: 192
204

Day 3

Key readings

Hinterleitner, M., Sager, F. und E. Thomann (2016)
The Politics of External Approval: Explaining the IMF’s Evaluation of Austerity Programs
European Journal of Political Research 55(3): 549–567

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2012)
Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis
New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 69–76, 221–232 (necessity), 91–116 (truth tables), 178–194 (truth table algorithm)

Further, optional readings

Gerrits, L. M. and S. Verweij (2013)
Critical Realism as a Meta-Framework for Understanding the Relationships between Complexity and Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Journal of Critical Realism 12(2): 166–82

Goertz, G., & Mahoney, J. (2005)
Two-level theories and fuzzy-set analysis
Sociological Methods & Research33(4), 497–538

Goertz, G., & Starr, H. (Eds.). (2002)
Necessary conditions: Theory, methodology, and applications
Rowman & Littlefield, pp.1–24, 47–94.

Oana, I.-E. and C.Q. Schneider. 2018
SetMethods: An Add-on R Package for Advanced QCA
The R Journal: 1–27

Ragin, C.C. (1987/2014)
The comparative method: Moving beyond qualitative and quantitative strategies
University of California Press, pp.85
124

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2012)
Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis
New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 232–250 (skewed data).

Thomann, E. Oana, E. and S. Wittwer (2018)
Performing fuzzy- and crisp set QCA with R: A user-oriented beginner’s guide
Chapters 6–7.2.

Day 4

Key readings

Rihoux, B. and B. Lobe (2009)
The case for qualitative comparative analysis (QCA): Adding leverage for thick cross-case comparison
The Sage Handbook of Case-Based Methods, pp. 222–242

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2010)
Standards of Good Practice in Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Fuzzy Sets
Comparative Sociology 9(3): 397–418

Wagemann, C. and C.Q. Schneider (2015)
Transparency Standards in Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Qualitative and Multi-Method Research: Newsletter of the American Political Science Association’s QMMR Section 13(1): 38–42

Further, optional readings

Castro, R. G. and M.A. Ariño (2016)
A general approach to panel data set-theoretic research
Journal of Advances in Management Sciences & Information Systems 2: 63–76

Fischer, M., & Maggetti, M. (2017)
Qualitative comparative analysis and the study of policy processes
Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice19(4), 345–361

Thiem, A., Baumgartner, M. and D. Bol (2016)
Still Lost in Translation! A Correction of Three Misunderstandings between Configurational Comparativists and Regressional Analysts
Comparative Political Studies, 49(6) 742–774

Thomann, E. Oana, E. and S. Wittwer (2018)
Performing fuzzy- and crisp set QCA with R: A user-oriented beginner’s guide
Chapter 8

Ragin, C.C. (1987/2014)
The comparative method: Moving beyond qualitative and quantitative strategies
University of California Press, pp. 164–172

Schneider, C. Q, and I. Rohlfing (2013)
Combining QCA and process tracing in set-theoretic multi-method research
Sociological Methods & Research 42(4): 559–597

Williams, T. and S.M. Gemperle (2017)
Sequence will tell! Integrating temporality into set-theoretic multi-method research combining comparative process tracing and qualitative comparative analysis
International Journal of Social Research Methodology 20(2): 121–135

Day 5

Key readings

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2012)
Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences: A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis
New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 15–177 (limited diversity and Standard Analysis), 284–294 (robustness)

Thomann, E. and M. Maggetti (2017)
Designing Research with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA): Approaches, Challenges, and Tools
Sociological Methods & Research, DOI: 10.1177/0049124117729700.

Further, optional readings

Baumgartner, M. (2015)
Parsimony and Causality
Quality & Quantity 49: 83–856

Baumgartner, M. and A. Thiem (2017)
Model ambiguities in configurational comparative research
Sociological Methods & Research 46(4): 954–987

Emmenegger, P. (2011)
How good are your counterfactuals? Assessing quantitative macro-comparative welfare state research with qualitative criteria
Journal of European Social Policy 21(4): 365–380

Maggetti, M. and D. Levi-Faur (2013)
Dealing with Errors in QCA
Political Research Quarterly 66(1): 198–204

Radaelli, C.M. and C. Wagemann (2018)
What did I leave out? Omitted variables in regression and qualitative comparative analysis
European Political Science, DOI: 10.1057/s41304-017-0142-7

Ragin, C.C. (2008)
Easy Versus Difficult Counterfactuals
Redesigning Social Inquiry: Set Relations in Social Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, chapter 9

Rohlfing, I. (2018)
Power and False Negatives in Qualitative Comparative Analysis: Foundations, Simulation and Estimation for Empirical Studies
Political Analysis 26(1): 72–89

Schneider, C.Q. (2018)
Realists and Idealists in QCA
Political Analysis, DOI: 10.1017/pan.2017. 45

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2013)
Doing Justice to Logical Remainders in QCA: Moving Beyond the Standard Analysis
Political Research Quarterly 66(1): 211–220

Skaaning, S. (2011)
Assessing the robustness of crisp-set and fuzzy-set QCA results
Sociological Methods & Research 40(2): 391–408

Thomann, E. Oana, E. and S. Wittwer (2018)
Performing fuzzy- and crisp set QCA with R: A user-oriented beginner’s guide
Chapters 7.3–7.5

Software Requirements

R and Rstudio (freeware; latest versions)
Web browser: Google chrome as standard browser

Hardware Requirements

You can bring your own laptop – Mac and PC are ok. Please instal Google Chrome as your standard web browser before the first session.

Computers will be provided for the lab sessions.

Literature

Duşa, A. (2018)
QCA with R: A Comprehensive Resource
New York: Springer International Publishing

Ragin, C. C. (2000)
Fuzzy-set social science
Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press

Ragin, C. C. (2009)
Redesigning social inquiry: Fuzzy sets and beyond
Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Rihoux, B. and C.C. Ragin
Configurational Comparative Methods. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Related Techniques
Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore: Sage Publications

Schneider, C.Q. and C. Wagemann (2012)
Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis
New York: Cambridge University Press

Thomann, E. (2018)
Customized implementation of European Union food safety policy: United in diversity?
Palgrave Macmillan, International Series on Public Policy

Thomann, E. Oana, E. and S. Wittwer (2018)
Performing fuzzy- and crisp set QCA with R: A user-oriented beginner’s guide

The following other ECPR Methods School courses could be useful in combination with this one in a ‘training track .
Recommended Courses Before

Summer School

R Basics
Multi-Method Research: Techniques and Applications
Case Study Research: Method and Practice
Qualitative Data Analysis: Concepts and Approaches
Knowing and the Known: The Philosophy and Methodology of the Social Sciences
Seasoned Scholars Workshop: Multi-Method Designs, Case-Oriented and Comparative Methods

Winter School

Foundations of Set-Theoretic and Case-Oriented Thinking and Methodology (required)
Introduction to R (entry level)
Working with Concepts in the Social Sciences
Comparative Research Design

Recommended Courses After

Summer School

Process Tracing Methodology I and II
Qualitative Comparative Analysis and Fuzzy Sets (week 2)
Intermediate R: Capacities for Analysis and Visualisation

Winter School

Process Tracing Methpds
Advanced Topics in Set-Theoretic Methods and QCA
Analyzing Political and Social Sequences

Additional Information

Disclaimer

This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed in due time.

Note from the Academic Convenors

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, contact the instructor before registering.


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