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.

February 7, 2010

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


Neal Caren and Aaron Panofsky, TQCA: A Technique for Adding Temporality to Qualitative Comparative Analysis, Sociological Methods & Research 2005 34: 147-172.

February 7, 2010

As originally developed by Charles Ragin in The Comparative Method (1987), qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) has been used extensively by comparative and historical sociologistsas an effective tool for analyzing data sets of medium-N populations. Like many other methods, however, QCA is atemporal and obscures the sequential nature of paths of causation. QCA ignores the order of events by treating combinations of attributes as though they occur simultaneously rather than as unfolding over time. While preserving the essential strengths of QCA, the authorspresent a modification that is capable of capturing the temporal nature of causal interactions. This modification involves a hybrid of Boolean algebra and sequence analysis to create a parsimonious set of solutions. This technique is referred to as temporal qualitative comparative analysis, or TQCA.

Key Words: qualitative comparative analysis • comparative and historical methodology • time • temporality • sequence