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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMI)

Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA)

Date: 1st October 2018
Time: 9am-5pm
Instructor: Wendy Olsen
Level: Intermediate
Fee: £195 (£140 for those from educational, government and charitable institutions). 

CMI offers up to five subsidised places at a reduced rate of £60 per course day to research staff and students within Humanities at The University of Manchester. These places are awarded in order of application. 

Humanities PGR students at The University of Manchester can apply for a methods@manchester bursary to help cover their costs. All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis and applicants will be required to provide a supporting statement from their supervisor.

Please contact Joshua Edgar (email: for a Bursary application form for any general course enquires please contact

Please note: this is not guaranteed and is considered on a case by case basis. Please contact us for more information.


Qualitative Comparative Analysis is a systematic method of studying data on multiple comparable cases from about N=8 through to large datasets of N=10,000 etc. The QCA methods firstly involve casing, i.e. delineating cases; secondly organising a systematic data matrix (we will show these in NVIVO and in Excel); thirdly examining sets of cases known as configurations; fourth interpreting these in terms of ‘necessary cause’ and ‘sufficient cause’ of each major outcome of interest.  We demonstrate the fsQCA software for QCA. A fuzzy set is a record of the membership score of a case in a characteristic or set.  A crisp set is a membership value of 0 (not in the set) or 1 (fully in the set), and thus is a simplified measure compared with a fuzzy set. Fuzzy sets or crisp sets, and combinations can be used in QCA.  All the permutations of the causal factors, known as X variates, are considered one by one.  We test whether X is necessary, or sufficient, or both, for an outcome Y.  We then augment the standard measures of ‘consistency’.  We show that one can generate both within-group and sample-wide consistency levels for testing sufficient cause.

This one-day training course will attract those doing case-study research, those doing comparative research, and those who want to extend their skills in fuzzy set analysis from beginner to intermediate levels. It will suit qualitative as well as quantitative and mixed-methods researchers; all are welcome.


  • Learn to compare nested cases or isolated but comparable cases such as countries.
  • Learn to measure fuzzy and crisp sets.
  • Learn to test a pair of X and Y variates for X being sufficient or necessary for Y.
  • Learn some basics of Boolean algebra (not, or, and, intersection, and superset).
  • Examine how measures can indicate whether a pattern of data appears to be consistent with sufficient causality.
  • Examine and run the fsQCA software (freeware available from
  • Consider matters of sampling and population-wide descriptive statistics for the data, and whether to statistically test fsQCA results.


  1. As an intermediate course, it presumes that you have either of the following backgrounds – either some use of statistical regression; or some experience with verbatim transcripts or document analysis as forms of qualitative analysis of detailed data.
  2. To ensure all participants reach an intermediate level, about 2-3 hours should be spent on the preliminary readings, and one hour looking at examples on this website: (Bibliography section). Notice that the latter does include many data sets.

Recommended reading 

  • Marx, A. and G. van Hootegem (2007). "Comparative configurational case analysis of ergonomic injuries." Journal of Business Research 60(5): 522-530.
  • Kent, R. (2005) ‘Cases as configurations: using combinatorial and fuzzy logic to analyze marketing data’, International Journal of Market Research, 4, 2, pp. 205-228
  • Olsen, W.K. (2012) Data Collection:  Key Trends and Methods in Social Research, London:  Sage, the sections on case-study research.
  • Olsen, W.K. (2009), Non-Nested and Nested Cases in a Socio-Economic Village Study, chapter in D. Byrne and C. Ragin, eds. (2009), Handbook of Case-Centred Research Methods, London:  Sage.
  • Ragin, C. (2008). Redesigning social inquiry: Set relations in social research. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Snow, D. and D. Cress (2000). "The Outcome of Homeless Mobilization: the Influence of Organization, Disruption, Political Mediation, and Framing." American Journal of Sociology 105(4): 1063-1104.

About the instructor

Wendy Olsen works as Professor of Socio-Economics and head of the Department of Social Statistics. This department is part of Social Sciences. She worked till 2014 both for the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) and in Social Statistics (half each). She has also taught sociology, development economics, and research methodology. She teaches statistics and PhD research methodology as well as computerised qualitative data analysis, the comparative method, the case-study method, and topics in political economy (e.g. child labour in India). She has release from some of her teaching duties due to research projects. She is fostering the use of mixed-methods research among statistical and other researchers. She has work experience in the community as a school governor, Salford Women’s Centre management committee member, and treasurer or auditor of other bodies.