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Seminar: Introduction to Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)
Instructor: Dr. Eva Thomann, Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University
IT assistant: Stefan Wittwer, Center of Competence for Public Management, University of Bern
Venue: University of Bern
Registration: until 23.5.2016 via e-mail to instructor
Dates: 6.-10.6.2016, 10.15-17h
Course language: English
ECTS: to be announced
Course fee: None
Target audience: Doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and professors. Participants of the Public
Administration Doctoral Programme (Universities of Bern, Lausanne, Università della Svizzera italiana)
are given preference.
Course outline
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 nec-essary and sufficient conditions for an outcome (as opposed to correlations). Instead of assuming dis-crete effects of single variables, QCA foresees the causal role of a single condition unfolding in combina-tion 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 course is addressed to researchers who are interested in a methodological tool that enables them to deal with such complex causal patterns. The aim of the seminar is to enable the partici-pants 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, as well as issues surrounding and approaches to them. We will primarily discuss QCA as a case-oriented approach to small- and intermediate N comparisons. The intensive five-day course has a practical focus and combines theoretical blocks with hands-on exercises. We will use real-life data to replicate a pub-lished study, and discuss examples from the participants' own research projects in class. 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 tech-nical 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. We will introduce you to and work with R, a software that is based on programming language. Schedule
Day 1: Introduction to the basics 10.15-12h What is QCA (not)? Origins and dissemination of QCA Breadth vs. depth and the Comparative Method Causal complexity Variants and uses of QCA Notions of necessity and sufficiency, compared to correlation Getting the basics: Sets, set membership and calibration Basic set operations and structuring concepts QCA results and causal complexity Lab session 1 (90') Introduction to the software and sample data Day 2: Theory and exercises 10.15-12h Understanding the technique I: Rules for combining logical operators Calculating membership in sets Set relations with crisp and fuzzy sets Consistency and coverage measures and their calculation Lab session 2 (90') Calibration of sets Basic Boolean operations Constructing graphs Steps of a QCA analysis: Analysis of necessity Analysis of sufficiency Truth table analysis and logical minimization Exercise: crisp-set QCA Day 3: Let's do QCA 10.15-12h Lab session 3 (90') Simple analyses of necessity and sufficiency (fsQCA) After the analysis Presentation & interpretation of results Interpreting XY-plots Types of parameters of fit and how to choose appropriate thresh-olds Post-QCA case selection QCA compared to regression analysis Day 4: Limited diversity and other possible pitfalls 10.15-12h Limited diversity Limited diversity, logical remainders and counterfactual arguments Complex, intermediate and parsimonious solution Parsimony vs. tenability Lab session 4 (90') Standard analysis (SA) and Enhanced Standard Analysis (ESA) Model ambiguities Advanced issues Diagnostics: Complex Boolean calculations with TOSMANA Skewed data in QCA designs Limitations of QCA and robustness Day 5: Consolidation and application 10.15-12h Q & A, discussion of projects QCA with your own data / Replication of published QCA study (continuous lab session) Required preparation
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 course starts:
R (freely available at). RStudio (freely available at) Tosmana (manual & download fr ) The R software is the best, most powerful and flexible program available for QCA. We will provide an easy-going and beginner-friendly introduction to R. Getting started with R: Download R before downloading RStudio. Open R and simply copy-paste the following command into the console: install.packages(c("QCA", "SetMethods", "arm", "car", "gmodels", "Hmisc", "MASS", "memisc", "polycor", "psych", "reshape", "VIM", "lattice", "XML", "xtable", "foreign", "directlabels", "betareg", "plyr", "dplyr", "QCApro", "QCAGUI"), dependencies = TRUE) Within the console just hit Enter to execute the command. Probably a window will pop up, where you need to choose a server to download the packages. If R asks you to specify a CRAN mirror, just choose your country. This will load the QCA package and the SetMethods package required to perform QCA, as well as some additional auxiliary packages. If you have insurmountable difficulties in downloading the software and installing the packages, please contact. The latest information on QCA software, trainings, publications, events, and an exhaustive bibliography of recent QCA articles (methodological and applied) is always available at Literature and data
To benefit from the course in a meaningful way it is essential to read all the required texts in advance. All
readings and further course material including sample data will be made available to the registered par-
ticipants in advance in a dropbox folder.
Required readings (ordered with regard to content) 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, DOI: 10.1111/1475-
6765.12142. Sample study for course, read beforehand to be able to follow class.
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 Re-lated 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 Tech-niques. 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 Anal-ysis (QCA) and Fuzzy Sets", Comparative Sociology 9(3): 397-418. Thomann, E. and M. Maggetti (2015). Designing research with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA): Approaches, challenges, and tools. Paper presented at the 2015 QCA experts conference in Zurich, Swit-zerland, 2.-3. 12. 2015. How to obtain the ECTS
In order to obtain the ECTS, participants will have to perform three tasks: first, submit an example from their own research until 23.5.2016 (see below); second, active participation in and full attendance of the course; and third, a written report containing a full-fledged QCA analysis performed by the participant. More information about this latter task will be provided on the last day of the seminar. We will use examples from the participants' own research projects for the purpose of illustrating various aspects during classes. The respective information should be sent until 23.5.2016 to Eva Thomann. This information should entail, on no more than 1 page, the research question, the definition and measure-
ment of the concepts (variables), the definition and number of units of analysis, and the specific question
that should be addressed in class. This is a good opportunity to discuss and get feedback on an interest-
ing 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 Only requests not exceeding 1 page will be accepted. The instructor will get back to you if more infor-mation is needed. We will focus on those examples that are most illustrative for a maximal number of participants. If you do not have an own empirical research project but still need the xx ECTS, please con-tact Eva Thomann before the 23.5.2016. Optional 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. Empirical example studies (optional)
Bara, C. (2014). "Incentives and opportunities A complexity-oriented explanation of violent ethnic con-flict", 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 Poli-cy 22(3): 335-352. Ide, T. (2015). "Why do conflicts over scarce renewable resources turn violent? A qualitative comparative analysis", Global Environmental Change 33: 61-70. Maggetti, M. (2014). "Promoting Corporate Responsibility in Private Banking: Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Joining the Wolfsberg Initiative Against Money Laundering", Business & Society 53(6): 787-819. 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. 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 Man-agement 114: 102-115. 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. Further readings (optional)
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. Caren, N. and A. Panofsky (2005). "TQCA. A Technique for Adding Temporality to Qualitative Compara-tive 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 criti-cal review of a study of educational inequality", Sociological Research Online 16(3): 1-18. 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 re-search", Academy of Management Journal 54(2): 393-420. Gerrits, L. M., and S. Verweij (2013). "Critical Realism as a Meta-Framework for Understanding the Rela-tionships 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 the-oretic 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. Kvist, J. (2007). "Fuzzy set ideal type analysis." Journal of Business Research 60(5): 474-481. 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 re-search", Political Analysis 14(3): 227-249. 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", Politi-cal 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 Rela-tions 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 Stand-ards 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 Meth-ods for the Social Sciences. A Guide to Qualitative Comparative Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 42-56. 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 Meth-ods & 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 Misunder-standings between Configurational Comparativists and Regressional Analysts", Comparative Political Studies, Advance online publication, DOI: 10.1177/0010414014565892. Wagemann, C. and C. Q. Schneider (2015). "Transparency Standards in Qualitative Comparative Analy-sis." Qualitative and Multi-Method Research: Newsletter of the American Political Science Association's QMMR Section 13(1): 38-42.


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