Anchored Calibration: From Qualitative Data to Fuzzy Sets

Nicolas Legewie

Abstract


Combining qualitative data and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) holds great analytic potential because it allows for detailed insights into social processes as well as systematic cross-case comparisons. But despite many applications, continuous methodological development, and some critique of measurement practices, a key procedure in using qualitative data for QCA has hardly been discussed: how to translate, or "calibrate," the information in qualitative data into formalized fuzzy sets? This calibration has crucial impact on QCA results. Hence, reliability of calibration is a decisive factor in a study's overall quality and credibility. I develop "anchored calibration" as an approach that addresses important gaps in prior approaches and helps enhancing calibration reliability. Anchored calibration involves three steps: conceptualizing conditions and outcome(s) in a systematic framework, anchoring this framework with empirical data pieces, and using the anchored framework to assign membership scores to cases. I present the tasks necessary to complete these three steps, drawing examples from an in-depth interview study on upward educational mobility.


Keywords


qualitative comparative analysis; QCA; qualitative research; calibration; qualitative data; fuzzy set methodology; best practice; multi-method research; anchored calibration

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.3.2790

Copyright (c) 2017 Nicolas Legewie

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