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Qualitative Comparative Analysis: How To Start?

What Is Qualitative Comparative Analysis?

qualitative comparative analysisQualitative comparative analysis (QCA) as well as qualitative analysis for social scientists or qualitative analysis in healthcare, is an analytical approach to analyzing complex social phenomenon. It is based on the binary logic of Boolean algebra and set theory and attempts to maximize the number of comparisons that can be made in cases under study. Analysis of qualitative research data and quantitative data are both possible with QCA making it somewhat of a hybrid. QCA can be especially useful in research designs that consist of small to intermediate number of cases. QCA is also a research approach through its data collection methods, model specification, case selection and because of its re-conceptualization of conditions. In order to start the research successfully first you need to learn the differences between qualitative and quantitative data analysis.

Types of Uses for Qualitative Comparative Analysis

There are several ways that QCA techniques can be used effectively by researchers. These include the following:

  • Summarize data – This is straight forward use that will make data more compact. This is done by creating a table that shows how some cases cluster together, making it easier for researchers to see similarities between cases that might appear very different. This makes QCA a good tool for exploring data.
  • Check the coherence of data – Contradictions are seen in the truth tables QC uses and are easy to detect. Contradictions are cases that are identical in casual conditions but have different outcomes. Correcting contradictions helps to create a more coherent body of evidence.
  • Test hypotheses or existing theories – QCA can be used to either corroborate or falsify a hypotheses or theory by defining a series of conditions that should yield a particular outcome. Because it allows testing that is both systematic and empirical, QCA is a good tool for this type of use.
  • Quick test of conjectures – Researchers can quickly test any conjectures they come up with, without having to test a whole theory. This allows them to quickly verify whether or not their conjecture is accurate.

Conducting Qualitative Comparative Analysis

Performing a qualitative comparative analysis is a process that will consist of 10 steps. Those are:

  1. Refine the QCA evaluation question
  2. Select the case, unit of analysis and outcomes to be studied.
  3. Select conditions
  4. Collect and compile data into a “raw data” table
  5. Calibrate the raw data
  6. Construct a truth table
  7. Resolve contradictions. Some of the ways to resolve contradictions are to add a condition to the model, remove or replace a condition, or change an output variable.
  8. Summarize findings using statements and/or diagrams
  9. Assess the strength of findings
  10. Interpret findings

QCA is said to have five basic aims which are:

  1. Data representation in the form of a truth table
  2. A check of consistency of the data
  3. A test of existing hypotheses or theories
  4. A quick overview of the basic assumptions of the analysis
  5. The development of a casual hypotheses on the basis of observable patterns in the data

It is recommended that qualitative comparative analysis should not be used as the only data analysis technique in a research project. It is best used in conjunction with other data analysis techniques. The American Statistical Association http://www.amstat.org/ is a good place to begin if further information is desired.

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