Qualitative Comparative Analysis and Fuzzy Sets

Qualitative Comparative Analysis and Fuzzy Sets

The Cedars, University of Reading, UK

3 May 2018

Qualitative Comparative Analysis and Fuzzy Sets

A Seminar led by Dr Eva Thomann

Social scientists often face a trade-off between identifying regularities among cases and accounting for the complexity of social reality. Achieving more “breadth” often comes at the cost of the “depth” of analysis. Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) is a technique that combines elements of both. QCA enables a systematic, context-sensitive comparison of intermediate (ca. >10) up to large numbers of cases, which is enriched with in-depth case knowledge. As such it helps researchers to model several aspects of causal complexity, such as equifinality – meaning that many ways may lead to Rome – and the configurational nature of cases, for example intersectionality and contextually contingent patterns. Rather than focusing on isolated net effects, QCA if identifies necessary and sufficient conditions for an outcome. This makes it attractive for researchers interested in finding prerequisites for a given phenomenon, or the conditions under which outcomes (such as compliance, successful revolutions, democratic consolidation, etc.) come about.

 Topics covered in the seminar

  • Origins, dissemination, variants and uses of QCA; Causal complexity: equifinality, configurations, asymmetry; The notions of necessity and sufficiency, compared to correlation
  • Sets, calibration, and the structure of social science concepts; Set relations, their consistency and coverage
  • Truth table analysis and logical minimization; Limited empirical diversity and counterfactual arguments
  • Post-QCA case selection: identifying typical and deviant cases
  • Hands-on exercises and introduction to fs/QCA software
  • Replication of a published QCA study
  • Inputs from the participants’ own research projects

The seminar commences at 10.00 am and closes at 16.30

Eva Thomann is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Exeter. She specializes in policy implementation, Europeanization, and qualitative comparative techniques. She has published on “Designing research with QCA “ in Sociological Methods & Research, and her research using QCA and related techniques has appeared amongst others in the European Journal of Political Research, Governance, Public Administration, Policy Sciences, and the Journal of European Public Policy. Eva Thomann is an active teacher of set-theoretic techniques and a member of the steering committee of COMPASSS, a worldwide network of scholars who share an interest in a systematic comparative case approach to research. Eva Thomann studied political science at the University of Zurich and completed her PhD in Public Administration at the University of Bern in 2015. She has held visiting scholarships at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, Heidelberg University, and the European University Institute, Florence.


The attendance fee is £150 (£125+VAT @20%) or for students £120 (£100+VAT @20%) currently enrolled on a university course (student number may be needed). Fees include a handout and refreshments. For more details and to book onto the seminar please contact: Louise at