Foundations of Qualitative Comparative Analysis

This course 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 is an introductory course, but participants are advised to make themselves familiar with the recommended literature before participating.

Level 2 - runs over 5 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

Course dates: Monday 18 January 2016 - Friday 22 January 2016
Course status: Course completed (no new applicants)
Week 1
About this course: 

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 Course 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) different software packages—fs/QCA and Tosmana;

(iv) current debates on and application of QCA; and,

(v) will challenge participants to develop their own QCA project.


The target audience for this course 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
Introductory session. Outline of the course and identification of participants’ research interests and expectations. Epistemological foundations of QCA; QCA in relation to case-oriented and variable-oriented research; an easy example of QCA application by hand; QCA terminology.


Day 2
Introduction to set-theory and Boolean algebra. Carrying out a QCA in ten steps.


Day 3
The differences between crisp set (csQCA), multi value (mvQCA), and fuzzy set (fzQCA) applications of QCA. When to use which application, and when not. Carrying out a QCA in ten steps (continued).


Day 4
Scrutinizing the literature on QCA: methodological advances and applications. We will particularly address the literature that contrasts QCA with related statistical methods (regression analysis and cluster analysis), and scrutinise some studies that have applied QCA—we are interested to understand what works and what does not in how QCA analysis is presented.


Day 5
Design, apply, and present your own QCA research. In this session participants will be challenged to present their QCA project, including their support for choosing QCA as the appropriate method for their study. The focus will be on presenting a QCA study to an audience that is less familiar with this method.

Course format: 

This course will take place in a classroom. Participants are advised to bring a laptop.

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 the course of the workshop, participants should have a basic familiarity with data collection methods such as interviews, observation, and document analysis.

Recommended Texts: 

Other readings:

  • Schneider, C. and C. Wagemann (2012). Set-Theoretic Methods for the Social Sciences. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • 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 course; 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.

Summer Program 2016

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