QCA Training

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Workshop: Introduction to Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

Instructor: Dr. Eva Thomann, Department of Politics, University of Exeter

Dates: 2.-3.11.2017 10-17.30h

Venue: TBC (Penryn campus) Registration: Until 27.10.2017 to

Target audience: Staff and postgraduate students


Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) (Ragin 1987) is a configurational, set-theoretic method, suitable for the comparison of intermediate (N ≥ app. 10) to large numbers of cases. The method identifies necessary and sufficient conditions for an outcome (as opposed to correlations). Instead of assuming discrete effects of single variables, QCA foresees the causal role of a single condition unfolding in combination with other conditions (conjunctural causation); the occurrence of an outcome can have a different explanation than its non-occurrence (asymmetric causality); and QCA allows for different, mutually non-exclusive explanations of the same phenomenon (equifinality).

This introductory workshop is addressed to researchers who are interested in a methodological tool that enables them to deal with such complex empirical patterns. The aim of the workshop is to enable the participants to independently carry out a crisp set (dichotomous data) or fuzzy set (ordinal or continuous data) QCA and to understand the basic epistemological and analytical foundations of set-theoretic methods. We will primarily discuss QCA as a case-oriented approach to small- and intermediate N comparisons. The intensive two-day course has a practical focus and combines theoretical blocks with hands-on exercises. We will use real-life data to replicate a published study using the software fs/QCA 3.0.

Ragin, C.C. 1987. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.


No prior knowledge is required. Note however that the course is intensive and mainly focuses on technical aspects of QCA. It will be help the participants to bring along a basic understanding of case-oriented research approaches, of concept measurement, and of qualitative comparative research design.

Required readings

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.

Thomann, E. forthcoming. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). Draft chapter, to appear In: Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy: The Ground Floor of Government in Context. Edward Elgar, Public Policy Series (Editor Peter Hupe).

Thomann, E. 2015. Is output performance all about the resources? A fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis of street-level bureaucrats in Switzerland. Public Administration 93(1): 177-194.


Day 1: Getting the basics

10-13h What is QCA (not)? - Origins and dissemination of QCA - Causal complexity - Variants and uses of QCA - Notions of necessity and sufficiency, compared to correlation - Sets, set membership and calibration - Basic set operations and structuring concepts

13-14h LUNCH

14-16h Understanding the technique: - Rules for combining logical operators - Calculating membership in sets - Set relations with crisp and fuzzy sets - Consistency and coverage measures and their calculation

16-17.30h Lab session 1 (90’) - Introduction to software & sample data - Calibration of sets - Basic Boolean operations - Constructing graphs

Day 2: Let’s do QCA!

10-12h Steps of a QCA analysis: - Analyses of necessity - Sufficiency: truth table analysis and logical minimization - Exercise: crisp-set QCA

12-13h Lab session 2 (60’) - Simple analyses of necessity and sufficiency (fsQCA)

13-14h LUNCH

14-15h Some possible pitfalls and how to address them - Limited diversity, logical remainders and counterfactual arguments - Complex, intermediate and parsimonious solution - Parsimony vs. tenability

15-16h Lab session 3 (60’) - Standard analysis (SA) and Enhanced Standard Analysis (ESA) - Model ambiguities

16-17.30h After the analysis - Presentation & interpretation of results - Interpreting XY-plots - Types of parameters of fit and how to choose appropriate thresholds - Post-QCA case selection

Don’t worry, there will be coffee breaks.


Course software

Participants should bring along their own laptops. Sockets will be provided. We will use the following freeware, which the participants should download individually before the workshop starts:

fs/QCA 3.0: download from (available for Windows and MAC)

The latest information on QCA software, trainings, publications, events, and an exhaustive bibliography of recent QCA articles (methodological and applied) is always available at .

Discussing your own projects

We will use examples from the participants’ own research projects for the purpose of illustrating various aspects during the workshop. The respective information should be sent until 27.10.2017 to Eva Thomann ( This information should entail, on no more than 1 page, the research question, the definition and measurement of the concepts (“variables”), the definition and number of units of analysis, and the specific question that should be addressed in in the workshop. This is a good opportunity to discuss and get feedback on an interesting or puzzling methodological aspect of the participants’ own research, e.g.:

- You are dealing with very complex concepts with a lot of sub-dimensions or possible indicators

- You are analyzing a phenomenon of which only very few instances have occurred, while most of the cases in your sample are non-events of this phenomenon

- You need to study a lot of variables with not too many cases at hand

- You are not sure whether to perform a regression analysis or a QCA

- You would like to combine QCA with an in-depth analyses of certain cases (e.g. comparative process tracing) and don’t know which ones to pick or with which cases to compare them

We will focus on those examples that are most illustrative for a maximal number of participants.

Literature and data

To benefit from the course in a meaningful way it is essential to read all the required texts in advance. It will be assumed that you know Thomann (2105) which is the study that we replicate in class. All readings and further course material including sample data will be made available to the registered participants in advance in this dropbox folder. Please make sure that you download the folder “sample data” to a location on your laptop that’s easily available (e.g. the desktop) in the morning before the first lab session starts.

Supplementary readings

Textbook (optional, recommended)

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.

Introductory readings (optional, recommended)

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.

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. (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 (2010). “Standards of Good Practice in Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Fuzzy Sets”, Comparative Sociology 9(3): 397-418.

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

Empirical example studies (optional)

Bara, C. (2014). "Incentives and opportunities A complexity-oriented explanation of violent ethnic conflict", Journal of Peace Research 51(6): 696-710.

Basedau, M., and T. Richter (2014). "Why do some Oil Exporters Experience Civil War but others do not? Investigating the Conditional Effects of Oil", European Political Science Review 6 (4): 549-74.

Botta, M., and G. Schwellnus (2015). "Enforcing state aid rules in EU candidate countries: a qualitative comparative analysis of the direct and indirect effects of conditionality", Journal of European Public Policy 22(3): 335-352.

Hinterleitner, M., Sager, F. and 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.

Ide, T. (2015). "Why do conflicts over scarce renewable resources turn violent? A qualitative comparative analysis", Global Environmental Change 33: 61-70.

Misangyi, V.F., and A.G. Acharya (2014). "Substitutes or complements? A configurational examination of corporate governance mechanisms", Academy of Management Journal 57(6): 1681-1705.

Sager, F. and E. Thomann (2016). “Multiple streams in member state implementation: politics, problem construction and policy paths in Swiss asylum policy”, Journal of Public Policy, DOI:10.1017/S0143814X1600009X.

Sutton, A.M., and M.A. Rudd (2015). "The effect of leadership and other contextual conditions on the ecological and socio-economic success of small-scale fisheries in Southeast Asia", Ocean & Coastal Management 114: 102-115.

Further readings (optional)

Basurto, X. and J. Speer (2012). "Structuring the calibration of qualitative data as sets for qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)”, Field Methods 24(2): 155-174.

Baumgartner, M. (2015). "Parsimony and Causality", Quality & Quantity 49: 839-856.

Baumgartner, M. and A. Thiem (2015). „Model Ambiguities in Configurational Comparative Research”. Sociological Methods & Research, DOI: 10.1177/0049124115610351.

Braumoeller, B.F. (2015). "Guarding against false positives in Qualitative Comparative Analysis". Political Analysis 23(4): 471-487.

Caren, N. and A. Panofsky (2005). “TQCA. A Technique for Adding Temporality to Qualitative Comparative Analysis”, Sociological Methods & Research 34(2): 147-172.

Cooper, B. and J. Glaesser (2011). "Paradoxes and pitfalls in using fuzzy set QCA: Illustrations from a critical review of a study of educational inequality", Sociological Research Online 16(3): 1-18.

Cooper, B. and J. Glaesser (2015). “Analysing Necessity and Sufficiency with Qualitative Comparative Analysis: How do Results Vary as Case Weights Change?”, Quality & Quantity. DOI:10.1007/s11135-014-0151-3.

Cronqvist, L. and D. Berg-Schlosser (2009). “Multi-Value QCA (MVQCA)”. 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, chapter 4.

Emmenegger, P., D. Schraff and A. Walter (2014). "QCA, the Truth Table Analysis and Large-N Survey Data: The Benefits of Calibration and the Importance of Robustness Tests", COMPASSS Working Paper 2014-79.

Fiss, P. C. (2011). "Building better causal theories: A fuzzy set approach to typologies in organization research", Academy of Management Journal 54(2): 393-420.

Garcia-Castro, R. 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.

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. (2006). “Concept Intension and Extension”. Social Science Concepts. A User’s Guide. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 69-94.

Goertz, G. and J. Mahoney (2005). “Two-level Theories and Fuzzy-Set Analysis”. Sociological Methods & Research 33(4): 497-538.

Greckhamer, T., V. F. Misangyi, and P. C. Fiss (2013). "The two QCAs: From a small-N to a large-N set theoretic approach." Research in the Sociology of Organizations 38: 49-75.

Grofman, B., and C. Q. Schneider (2009). "An introduction to crisp set QCA, with a comparison to binary logistic regression", Political Research Quarterly 62(4): 662-672.

Haesebrouck, T. (2015). “Pitfalls in QCA’s Consistency Measure”, Journal of Comparative Politics 2:65-80.

Hino, A. (2009). “Time-Series QCA”, Sociological Theory and Methods 24 (2): 247-265.

Kvist, J. (2007). "Fuzzy set ideal type analysis." Journal of Business Research 60(5): 474-481.

Mackie, J.L. (1965). "Causes and Conditions." American Philosophical Quarterly 2 (4):245-64.

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

Mahoney, J., and G. Goertz (2006). "A tale of two cultures: Contrasting quantitative and qualitative research", Political Analysis 14(3): 227-249.

Mahoney, J. Kimball, E. and K.L. Koivu (2009). "The logic of historical explanation in the social sciences", Comparative Political Studies 42(1): 114-146.

Mahoney, J. and R. Sweet Vanderpoel (2015). "Set Diagrams and Qualitative Research", Comparative Political Studies 48(1): 65-100.

Marx, A. and A. Dusa (2011). "Crisp-Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (csQCA): Contradictions and consistency benchmarks for model specification", Methodological Innovations Online 6.2: 103-148.

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

Ragin, C. C. (2008a). „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.

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

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.

Rohlfing, I. and C.Q. Schneider (2014). „Clarifying Misunderstandings, Moving Forward: Towards Standards and Tools for Set-Theoretic Methods”, Qualitative & Multi-Method Research 12(2): 27-34.

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.

Schneider, C. Q., and C. Wagemann (2006). "Reducing complexity in Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA): Remote and proximate factors and the consolidation of democracy", European Journal of Political Research 45(5): 751-786.

Schneider, C. Q., and C. Wagemann (2012). „Notions and operations in set theory“. Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 42-56.

Schneider, C. Q. and C. Wagemann (2012). „The evaluation of theories in set-theoretic methods“. Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 295-304.

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.

Thiem, A., and Dusa, A. (2013). “QCA: A package for qualitative comparative analysis”, The R Journal 5(1): 1-11.

Thiem, A., Baumgartner, M. and D. Bol (2015). “Still Lost in Translation! A Correction of Three Misunderstandings between Configurational Comparativists and Regressional Analysts”, Comparative Political Studies, Advance online publication, DOI: 10.1177/0010414014565892.

Wagemann, C., Buche, J., and M.B. Siewert (2015). “QCA and Business Research: Work in Progress or a Consolidated Agenda?”, Journal of Business Research. DOI:10.1016/j.jbusres.2015.10.010.

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.

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