Article

Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

Axel Marx

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online November 2016 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0188
Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

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  • Sociology
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Population and Demography
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility
  • Social Theory

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The social sciences use a wide range of research methods and techniques ranging from experiments to techniques which analyze observational data such as statistical techniques, qualitative text analytic techniques, ethnographies, and many others. In the 1980s a new technique emerged, named Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), which aimed to provide a formalized way to systematically compare a small number (5<N<75) of case studies. John Gerring in the 2001 version of his introduction to social sciences identified QCA as one of the only genuine methodological innovations of the last few decades. In recent years, QCA has also been applied to large-N studies (Glaesser 2015, cited under Applications of QCA; Ragin 2008, cited under The Essential Features of QCA) and the application of QCA to perform large-N analysis is in full development. This annotated bibliography aims to provide an overview of the main contributions of QCA as a research technique as well as an introduction to some specific issues as well as QCA applications. The contribution starts with sketching the emergence of QCA and situating the method in the debate between “qualitative” and “quantitative” methods. This contextualization is important to understand and appreciate that QCA in essence is a qualitative case-based research technique and not a quantitative variable-oriented technique. Next, the article discusses some key features of QCA and identifies some of the main books and handbooks on QCA as well as some of the criticism. In a third section, the overview focuses attention on the importance of cases and case selection in QCA. The fourth section introduces the way in which QCA builds explanatory models and presents the key contributions on the selection of explanatory factors, model specification, and testing. The fifth section canvasses the applications of QCA in the social sciences and identifies some interesting examples. Finally, since QCA is a formalized data-analytic technique based on algorithms, the overview ends with an overview of the main software package which can assist in the application of QCA.

Article.  9956 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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