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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Cooper, B. & Glaesser, J. (2012). Qualitative Work and The Testing and Development of Theory: Lessons from a Study combining Cross-Case and Within-Case Analysis via Ragin's QCA. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 13(2): 4.

Author(s) from Durham


Charles RAGIN's work, especially his development of Qualitative Comparative Analysis
(QCA), offers social scientists a way of bringing together the strengths of the qualitative and
quantitative traditions. QCA takes a case-based rather than a variable-based analytic approach to
cross-case analysis. One problem that arises in attempting to use QCA to explore causation in
larger datasets, especially survey datasets, is that the detailed case knowledge available to those
working in the qualitative tradition is usually unavailable. In the same way therefore that it can be
difficult to establish causation from correlational analyses, the derivation of causal claims from QCA
analyses can also be problematic. We discuss these problems in detail and then argue that they
can be addressed by using QCA to identify particular types of cases for detailed within-case
analysis focusing on causal processes. More specifically, we show how such in-depth, within-case
analysis can identify factors that can be used to improve QCA models, including those used to
select these cases for analysis. We illustrate this particular mode of combining methods by drawing
on our work on educational transitions in Germany, drawing on both the German Socio-Economic
Panel (SOEP) dataset and 43 individual interviews with German 17-year olds.

School of Education