An Introduction to Applied Data Analysis with Qualitative Comparative Analysis


  • Nicolas Legewie Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW Berlin)



methodology, theory development, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), comparative analysis, applied data analysis


The key to using an analytic method is to understand its underlying logic and figure out how to incorporate it into the research process. In the case of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), so far these issues have been addressed only partly. While general introductions and user's guides for QCA software packages are available, prospective users find little guidance as to how the method works in applied data analysis. How can QCA be used to produce comprehensive, ingenious explanations of social phenomena?

In this article, I provide such a hands-on introduction to QCA. In the first two parts, I offer a concise overview of 1. the method's main principles and advantages as well as 2. its vital concepts. In the subsequent part, I offer suggestions for 3. how to employ QCA's analytic tools in the research process and how to interpret their output. Lastly, I show 4. how QCA results can inform the data analysis. As the main contribution, I provide a template for how to reassess cases, causal recipes, and single conditions based on QCA results in order to produce better explanations of what is happening in the data. With these contributions, the article helps prospective QCA users to utilize the full potential the method offers for social science research.



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Author Biography

Nicolas Legewie, Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW Berlin)

Nicolas LEGEWIE is a doctoral student at the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humboldt-University of Berlin. He is writing his dissertation on educational upward mobility among students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. His research interests include social inequality, education, immigration, social networks, as well as research methodology.




How to Cite

Legewie, N. (2013). An Introduction to Applied Data Analysis with Qualitative Comparative Analysis. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(3).



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