Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)

Methodology courses and philosophy of science

Course information

ECTS: 2.5 
Number of sessions: MOOC and 2 offline sessions
Hours per session: 4
Course fee:

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • €475,- for non-members
  • consult our enrolment policy for more information


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School).

Session 1
April 11 (Thursday) 2019
G building (directions), room G-32

Session 2
April 18 (Thursday) 2019
Mandeville building (directions), room T5-114


Need to analyse cause-effect relations across multiple cases and not sure how? Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) offers a systematic, transparent, and innovative solution. This method is relevant for both quantitatively and qualitatively oriented researchers.

QCA, introduced by Charles Ragin in the 1980s and developed further since, is gaining prominence in various social sciences, including political science, economics and business, management, pedagogical sciences, health sciences, sociology, and environmental sciences.

Aims and working method

This is an introductory course. It is designed for people who have no or limited experience with QCA. Participants will first have to follow (individually) our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The MOOC is mandatory and contains about 2 hours of videos that discuss the methodological foundations of QCA as well as how to conduct the method. After this, participants will meet offline to discuss questions and do exercises.

After completion of the course, participants will know how:

  • QCA has historically developed and in which academic context;
  • a QCA study can be designed and under which conditions;
  • to conduct a QCA study by hand and (more conveniently) with the use of software;
  • to interpret and report the results.


  • QCA is relevant for researchers who normally work with qualitative methods and are looking for a more systematic way of comparing and assessing cases
  • QCA is also useful for quantitative researchers who like to assess alternative (more complex) aspects of causation, such as how factors work together in producing an effect
  • QCA can be used for the analysis of cases on all levels: macro (e.g. countries), meso (e.g. organizations) and micro (e.g. individuals).
  • QCA is mostly used for research of small- and medium-sized samples and populations (10-100 cases), but it can also be used for larger groups. Ideally, the number of cases is at least 10. QCA cannot be used if you are doing an in-depth study of one case.

Session descriptions


  • Historical development and research field of QCA;
  • Set-theoretic perspective on causation in QCA;
  • The nature and structure of the QCA research process
  • Designing your research;
  • The different research phases in QCA;
  • Conducting QCA and the use of software;
  • Interpreting and reporting formal output.

Session 1

  • Discussion of questions following the MOOC
  • Exercises in doing QCA
  • Bring a laptop with you ( fully charged) , installed on it fsQCA 3.0 from   this page

Session 2

  • More exercises, with focus on own report
  • Reflection on the pros and cons of QCA
  • Bring a laptop with you ( fully charged ), installed on it fsQCA 3.0 from   this page

About the instructor

Dr. Fadi Hirzalla is the Graduate School senior lecturer and methodology consultant. He specialises in quantitative and qualitative methods and methodology, next to his substantive interests in citizenship and new media, with a particular focus on intercultural relations and young people. Prior to joining the Graduate School, he worked at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University.