Anchored Calibration: From Qualitative Data to Fuzzy Sets


  • Nicolas Legewie Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW Berlin)



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


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.


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Author Biography

Nicolas Legewie, Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW Berlin)

Nicolas LEGEWIE is a research associate at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin). His research interests include social inequality and mobility, education, migration, and labor market. His methodological interests include qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), visual data analysis (VDA), and qualitative research methodology. He is currently co-leading the research project "Mentoring of Refugees" (MORE), which examines the impact of a mentoring program on the integration of refugees in Germany through a randomized control trial. The study collects and analyzes survey and qualitative interview data.




How to Cite

Legewie, N. (2017). Anchored Calibration: From Qualitative Data to Fuzzy Sets. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(3).



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