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Assessing the Quality of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA): Evaluation, Improvement, Application

  • Ministry for Science & Culture of Lower Saxony

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Starting from the observation that the number of empirical applications of the set theoretic social science method Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) founded by Charles C. Ragin in 1987 raised considerably over the last ten years, the cumulative dissertation asks: “What is the concept of quality of QCA and how is it implemented in QCA applications?” Based on a systematic conceptualization and operationalization of the “quality of QCA” the research question is answered in three steps. First, a thorough evaluation of the quality of QCA in empirical applications is conducted. It covers 139 articles published between 2006 and 2016 in peer reviewed journals from three scientific areas, namely sociology, political science, and business research. Second, with the aim to deliver an improvement of the quality of QCA the formulas for the calculation of consistency and coverage (Ragin 2006) are critically discussed and updated by the exclusion of cases that are irrelevant for the respective set relation. Finally, third, a best practice application of QCA is delivered that takes into account all criteria for a high quality QCA as conceptionalized in the beginning.
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This is the introductory chapter to the first volume on mixed methods research strategies that can be employed to investigate social networks. The introduction provides a brief overview of the objects, questions, and approaches of network research. It explains what the terms “quantitative,” “qualitative,” and “mixed methods” actually mean in the context of social networks. The chapter presents different ways of integrating qualitative and quantitative strategies (sequential exploratory design, sequential explanatory design, parallel design, fully integrated design, embedded design, conversion design), elaborating its benefits for the study of social networks. The application of such designs can improve the quality of data and enhance the explanatory power and generalizability of results. Moreover, with respect to social network research, mixed methods studies promise to provide empirically sound contributions to current issues, especially concerning the processes, dynamics and consequences of social networks. The introductory chapter also provides an overview of the contributions assembled in this volume. The chapters provide the reader with detailed accounts of the research designs and methods used in investigating social networks of various sorts. They discuss the strengths of the different mixed methods designs and the specific methods they employ for particular fields and considering the kinds of results they can be expected to achieve. The chapters address important questions and engage in cutting-edge debates in the different areas on which they focus, thus making a substantial contribution to the field of social networks. The contributions in the volume have been assembled to represent the most important types of mixed methods designs. Furthermore, they illustrate how new methodological approaches can be employed in mixed methods network studies (like network visualizations and simulations). Finally, they provide excellent illustrations of how a variety of research questions related to ego-centric and socio-centric networks are implemented in network research and the insights such research can be expected to yield in terms of network descriptions, network effects, and network dynamics.
Although not a unified theory, the concept of ‘roles’ is central in sociology. It aims to make sense of the uniformity and regularity of individual behavior that results from a position in society and/or from the incorporation of collective norms. Ann Weber (1995: 1134) defines a role as ‘a set of norms (obligations or expectations) attached to an individual’s social position, occupation, or relationship status’. The definition makes clear that role is a notion that links individuals to their social environment. Roles are played by individuals and can be understood as strategies (Turner 1992). Furthermore, they depend on social status and are identified by others. The notion has been used in different theoretical perspectives, following the initial, and to a certain extent contradictory, developments of the philosopher George H. Mead (1934) and the anthropologist Ralph Linton (1936) in the 1930s. The sociological theories that have used the concept of role are numerous: functionalist, symbolic interactionist, structuralist, organizational, and cognitive (Franks 2007). Yet, since roles may explain the persistence of the social order – and more importantly for us – of political institutions, it can be argued that the concept of roles has a strong functionalist dimension. However, the functionalist conception of roles appears to be outdated today, particularly regarding the role-taking process. Selecting a role is now seen as a less restrictive process: individuals negotiate role ‘prescriptions’ rather than passively internalizing obligations (Giddens 1979: 117). Consequently, roles may evolve over time. In political science, the field of legislative studies is probably where the concept of role has been most successful. ‘Parliamentary roles’, ‘legislatives roles’, and ‘representative roles’ are all expressions referring to roles played by Members of Parliament (MPs). Following Ann Weber’s definition, it can be said that legislative roles refer to the norms (obligations or expectations) attached to being an MP. Given the great heterogeneity of the theories using the concept, it is far from easy to give a more precise definition. By way of an attempt, however, we could say that legislative roles:1 are comprehensive patterns of attitudes and/or behavior shared by MPs, 2 enable MPs to be distinguished or identified as a group, and enable us to distinguish between them, and, 3 have to do with MPs’ own conception of their job overall, and their vision of their voters in particular.
Das Skript erläutert die Durchführung und Interpretation von Regressionsanalysen (nach der klassischen OLS-Methode) sowie die Überprüfung ihrer Anwendungsvoraussetzungen. Dabei wird auch auf typische Fehlschlüsse sowie häufig anzutreffende Fehlinterpretationen eingegangen (u.a. bei Determinationskoeffizient und standardisierten Regressionskoeffizienten). Über das bi- und multivariate Grundmodell der Regressionsanalyse hinaus werden erweiterte Verfahren wie z.B. Teststärkeanalyse, Regression mit Dummy-Variablen und mit Moderator-Variablen sowie sequenzielle Analysemethoden vorgestellt. Die Form der Darstellung ist praxisorientiert. Alle Verfahren werden an Beispielen erläutert (inkl. der dazu erforderlichen SPSS-Anweisungen).