Case-oriented and set-theoretic methods

posted Apr 19, 2015, 8:55 AM by Eva Thomann   [ updated Jul 27, 2018, 3:01 AM ]

Empirical research methods should help us answer substantial research questions.
Both in my research and teaching, I am particularly interested in how empirical research can be designed using the appropriate, latest state-of-the-art tools to establish valid inference. My own research often focuses on empirical situations that are characterized by small or intermediate numbers of cases, complex causal patterns and context-specific explanations. Recent years have witnessed exciting innovations in qualitative comparative research methodology to systematically tackle such patterns. For instance,
congruence analysis integrates theoretical expectations and reduces confirmation bias in qualitative case studies. Multi-levelled contextual effects can be integrated in qualitative small-N comparisons. I am also interested in the potential of combining explanatory typologies with probability tests.
Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) offers an advanced and systematized way to analyzing necessary and sufficient conditions, which is currently in rapid development. I seek to integrate the most recent improvements of QCA. For instance, I combine QCA with in-depth within- case analyses, based on formalized case selection procedures. I use formal theory evaluation to evaluate set-theoretic hypotheses. QCA can also be employed to depict typological patterns. Due to its case-sensitiveness, it should be combined with systematic robustness Tests, especially when being used to evaluate theories on large samples.

Related publications

Thomann, E. and M. Maggetti. 2017. Designing Research with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA): Approaches, Challenges, and Tools. Sociological Methods & Research, DOI: 10.1177/0049124117729700.

Thomann, E. Oana, E. and S. Wittwer. 2018. Performing fuzzy- and crisp set QCA with R: A user-oriented beginner’s guide. URL:

Thomann, E. van Engen, N. and L. Tummers. 2018. The necessity of discretion: a behavioral evaluation of bottom-up implementation theory.  Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, DOI: 10.1093/jopart/muy024  

Thomann, E., Hupe, P. and F. Sager. 2017. Serving Many Masters: Public Accountability in Private Policy Implementation. Governance, DOI: 10.1111/gove.12297

Thomann, E. and A. Manatschal (2016). Identifying context and cause in small-N settings: A Comparative Multilevel Analysis. Policy Sciences 49(3): 335-348.

Sager, F. and E. Thomann (2016). Multiple streams in member state implementation: politics, problem construction and policy paths in Swiss asylum policy. Journal of Public Policy, DOI:10.1017/S0143814X1600009X.

Hinterleitner, M., Sager, F. and E. Thomann (2016). The Politics of External Approval: Explaining the IMF’s Evaluation of Austerity Programs. European Journal of Political Research 55(3): 549–567.

Sager, F., Thomann, E., Zollinger, C. and C. Mavrot (2014). Confronting theories of European integration: A comparative congruence analysis of veterinary drugs regulations in five countries. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 16(5):457-474.