Charles C. Ragin and Sarah Ilene Strand Using Qualitative Comparative Analysis to Study Causal Order: Comment on Caren and Panofsky (2005) Sociological Methods & Research 2008 36: 431-441.

Caren and Panofsky (2005) seek to advance qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) by demonstrating that it can be used to study causal conditions that occur in sequences and introduce a technique they call TQCA (temporal QCA). In their formulation, the causal conjuncture is a sequence of conditions or events. The authors applaud their effort and agree that it is important to address this aspect of causation. This comment clarifies and corrects aspects of their analysis and present methods for assessing temporality that are more amenable to truth table analysis and the use of existing software, fsQCA. The methods presented utilize codings that indicate event order in addition to codings that indicate whether specific events occurred. They also demonstrate how to use “don’t care” codings to bypass consideration of event sequences when they are not relevant (e.g., as when only a single event occurs).

Key Words: qualitative comparative analysis • temporal sequences • causal analysis • comparative method

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