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Qualitative Comparative Analysis in Political Science: A Study of Media Effects on the Policy Agenda

By: Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Qualitative comparative analysis is a relatively new research method in political science and public administration to find patterns in qualitative data in a small to medium-sized set of cases. In my PhD research, I used this method to study under what conditions media coverage for policy issues is associated with changes on the policy agenda. My research focused on the policy agenda of immigration. This contribution outlines reasons to choose qualitative comparative analysis, different types of qualitative comparative analysis, the process of conducting qualitative comparative analysis and lessons learned on benefits and limitations of this method. Qualitative comparative analysis offers advantages when comparing a relatively large number of cases, when testing configurational hypotheses and when assuming a non-linear notion of causality. In my research, I applied the most basic type of crisp set qualitative comparative analysis. Multi-value and fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis allow for comparison of case characteristics in more detail. The process of conducting qualitative comparative analysis can be visualized as an hourglass process, starting and ending with the richness of qualitative case data with minimalization of the logical pattern in a comprehensive formula in between. The main benefit of qualitative comparative analysis is supporting the process of systematically comparing complex qualitative cases by keeping focus on the research puzzle at hand. Most important lesson is to not to get caught up in the qualitative comparative analysis technicalities. Qualitative comparative analysis is a means for interpretation of qualitative data and not a goal in itself.

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Qualitative comparative analysis

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