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Call for papers: Causation, Correctness, and Solution Types in Configurational Comparative Methods

posted Feb 9, 2020, 3:14 AM by Eva Thomann
Tim Haesebrouck and I seek paper proposals for a special issue in Quality & Quantity :


Causation, Correctness, and Solution Types in Configurational Comparative Methods

Comparative Configurational Methods (CCMs), such as Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) (Ragin 1987/2014) or Coincidence Analysis (CNA) (Baumgartner 2015), have developed into widely-used methods in the social sciences. At the same time, the assumptions and theory of causation underlying CCMs continue to be a matter of debate. There is an ongoing controversy on the correctness of QCA’s different solution types (conservative, (enhanced) intermediate and (enhanced) parsimonious) and on which of these solutions should be at the basis of substantive interpretation. Publications on the issue generally argue in favor of one solution. Schneider and Wagemann (2012, 279), for example, state that “usually, the enhanced intermediate solution should be at the center of substantive discussion”. Baumgartner (2015), in turn, argues that only the parsimonious solution identifies causally relevant conditions—accordingly, CNA only produces parsimonious solutions. In contrast, Dușa (2019, 24) concludes that the intermediate solution is positioned closest to the true, underlying causal model. Recently, Thomann and Maggetti (2017) and Schneider (2018) have mapped the existence of different approaches with different analytic goals and understandings of what is a “good” explanation in CCMs. Yet in applied QCA, a variety of solution types are often used inconsistently with these understandings (Thomann and Ege 2020). Given this lack of clarity, the explanatory use of CCMs arguably still rests on shaky foundation.

The proposed special issue seeks to advance these discussions through a structured, respectful, clarifying discussion focused on the following, or similar, substantive questions:

1.    What are the analytic goals of applying CCMs?
2.    What theory or theories and definitions of causation underlie QCA in its explanatory uses?
3.    What is the purpose and usefulness of logical minimization, depending on QCA’s analytic goals?
4.    How can we think of and evaluate the correctness of CCM results?
5.    Which solution types are best suited (or not suited) for different purposes?
6.    What are the background assumptions that must be made for different CCM solution types/ analytic purposes?
7.    How generalizable are the conclusions that can be drawn from different solution types?

By treating these questions, the special issue has two overarching goals. First of all, it aims to map the different views on the solution types, the different ways in which these are interpreted and the required background assumptions for drawing conclusions from the different solution types. Second, and more generally, it aims to result in a better understanding of the different purposes for which CCMs can be used and which solution types fits best with what purpose. Hereby, it aims to result in a set of guidelines on which solution type CCM applicants can use for the purpose of their research. 

We invite contributions from a diversity of scholarship, perspectives, and disciplinary or epistemological approaches that move forward the state of the art in a constructive manner. 

Submission guidelines
Deadline for sending abstracts to guest editors via e-mail: March 1, 2020
Closing date (submission of full papers via editorial manager): July 30, 2020

Abstracts should specify, in no more than 250 words:
-    Research question and relevance motivating the paper
-    Data/methods used
-    Main argument/ findings and implications in light of the special issue topic


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