Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA): An Introduction (Online - 3 Day)

Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) provides a bridge between case-oriented and variable-oriented research methods. It is rapidly making inroads in the social sciences.

This master class is designed for participants who have experience in qualitative or quantitative research and who are interested in applying qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) in their current or future studies.


This course is being offered across 3 evenings 'live' online via Zoom.

See syllabus below for a detailed timetable.


The Course will run from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm on Australian Eastern Daylight Time (GMT +11)

(ie Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra daylight savings time)

Level 2 - runs over 3 days

Professor Jeroen van der Heijden – Jeroen van der Heijden is Professor of Public Governance and Chair in Regulatory Practice at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (School of Government). He also is an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University (School of Regulation and Global Governance). Jeroen works at the intersection of public governance and regulation, with a specific interest in regulatory stewardship and dynamic governance regimes. He has also specialised in different governance practices for low-carbon and resilient city development and transformation in the Global North and Global South.

Since 2007, he has been applying QCA in various research projects and publications. These include ‘Innovations in Urban Climate Governance: Voluntary Programs for Low Carbon Buildings and Cities’ with Cambridge University Press, 2017; this book builds on a QCA study of 35 voluntary programs in Australia, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore and the USA. More information on Jeroen’s work is available from www.jeroenvanderheijden.net.

Course dates: Monday 7 February 2022 - Wednesday 9 February 2022
Course status: Course completed (no new applicants)
Week 3
About this course: 

This is an introductory master class. In it, we will explore the epistemological foundations of QCA and question what the method can and cannot be used for. The master class will introduce participants in (i) the basics of QCA—set-theory and Boolean algebra; (ii) the various approaches to QCA—crisp set, multi value, and fuzzy set; (iii) current debates on QCA; and, (iv) the challenges you may encounter when developing a QCA. To get our heads around the logic of QCA, we will carry out a few QCA applications by hand.


By the end of the master class, you will be able to assess whether QCA is a meaningful approach for your current or future research projects. You will also be able to assess, to some extent, the quality of QCA applications by others. The master class is a mix of lectures and exercises—the emphasis is on lectures, however (it is an introduction to QCA, and for that we need to cover a lot of “theoretical” ground).


By the end of this master class you will not be able to carry out a full QCA application. Participants who wish to be able to do so are advised to (also) complete the master class Qualitative Comparative Analysis: An application in 10 steps.


The target audience for this master class are researchers, practitioners and academics who have conducted at least one qualitative study, and are familiar with the process and context of qualitative research.


Course syllabus: 

Day 1

  • 6:30-7:00, Introductory session:
    • Who is who? Why have you chosen this course? What do you expect to get out it?
    • What are we going to do over the next two days? What are we not going to do?
  • 7:00-8:00, Epistemological foundations of QCA:
    • What are the epistemological foundations of QCA?
    • Where is QCA positioned in relation to case-oriented and variable-oriented research?
  • 8:00-9:30, Exercise
    • The essence of QCA: logical minimization (and truth tables)
    • To get an understanding of the very basics of QCA, we will carry out a QCA analysis by hand.
    • Once we get the basics of QCA, we will explore data with an Excel add-in.


Day 2

  • 6:30-7:00, Conjunctural causation, equifinality, (data) asymmetry
    • What is conjunctural causation? What is equifinality? What is (data) asymmetry? Where do we see it in the world?
    • Whether/where do you expect conjunctural causation, equifinality, and/or (data) asymmetry in your field of research?
  • 7:00-8:00, What can QCA be used for?
    • Data analysis, literature reviews, theory building, case selection, robustness tests
  • 8:00-9:00, Further and future development of QCA as a method
    • Crisp set (cs) and fuzzy set (fs) QCA
    • Ongoing critique to QCA as a method
  • 9:00-9:30, Open discussion, recap of the basic terminology and concepts:
    • Condition, outcome, conjunctural causation, equifinality, asymmetry, necessary condition, sufficient condition, logical minimisation.


Day 3

  • 6:30-7:00, How “easy” is it to use QCA?
    • Jeroen’s experiences with using QCA in small and multi-year research projects
  • 7:00-8:30, The most common challenges when applying QCA (and how to deal with them)
    • Is the number of cases you have all that matters?
    • How many conditions can be included in the theoretical model?
    • What is limited diversity and what to do about it?
  • 8:30-9:30, Important research design choices
    • Open discussion: where, why, and how do you want use QCA in your (future) research?
    • What are your hopes and concerns in applying QCA?


Course format: 

This master class will take place online.


We will apply an MS Excel add-in during this master class.

Recommended Background: 

Participants will be expected to have experience with at least one qualitative research project or have undertaken an introductory level course in qualitative research methods.  While some discussion of the technical elements of methods is presented during master class, participants should have a basic familiarity with data collection methods such as interviews, observation, and document analysis.


Recommended Texts: 

The instructor's bound, book length course notes will serve as the course text.


  • Schneider, C. and C. Wagemann (2012). Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • van der Heijden, J. (2017). Innovations in Urban Climate Governance: Voluntary Programs for Low-Carbon Buildings and Cities. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.


Other readings:

  • Ragin, C. (2008). Redesigning Social Inquiry: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond. Chicago, Chicago University Press.
  • Rihoux, B. and C. Ragin (2009). Configurational Comparative Analysis. London, Sage.
Course fees
Non Member: 
Full time student Member: 

Q: Do I have to have had any qualitative research experience to do this course?
A: Yes, you will have been expected to have experience with at least one qualitative research project or have undertaken an introductory level course in qualitative research methods.


Q: Do I have to have had any experience with QCA to do this course?
A: No, but it is strongly recommended to familiarise yourself with the recommended texts before participating in this master class; particularly Schneider and Wagemann (2012).


Q: I already have some experience with QCA. Will I get anything out of this introductory course?
A: You absolutely will. Dr Jeroen van der Heijden has extensive experience in designing and carrying out QCA based research. He also has considerable experience in publishing research findings using this method. He can help you strengthening your current QCA study and advise you on how to present your work to an audience that is less familiar with QCA logic and tools.


Participant feedback: 

The course was excellent - well paced, targeted, relevant. The presenter was friendly, very knowledgeable and gave participants lots of opportunity to ask questions. (Online Summer 2021)


The instructor's bound, book length course notes will serve as the course text.