Thursday, 17 October 2013

Why qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)?

To generate realistic, practice-oriented findings and recommendations, the Review needs to differentiate between a wide range of evaluation approaches, methods and contexts. The number of existing evaluations in the field of VAWG is too small for statistical analysis to yield accurate conclusions. Yet, it would not do justice to the variety of evaluation settings if we selected only few evaluations for detailed analysis, as a conventional comparative case study would do. Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) enables us to make full use of evidence from a wide spectrum of evaluations - without jeopardizing the applicability and generalisability of our findings. QCA has been designed for “medium-N” situations, i.e. situations where there are more than a handful of cases, but too few for meaningful statistical analysis.

QCA rests on the assumption that several cause-to-effect chains coexist. It matches sets of characteristics (in our case, the characteristics of evaluations) with specific outcomes (for instance, improved results of advocacy efforts). This method helps reveal which interactions between different kinds of methodology, resources and other conditions are necessary to achieve high quality evaluations under specific sets of circumstantial factors. 

QCA is transparent and replicable: It makes it possible and necessary to explain the iterative process of categorizing and coding evaluation reports that will be included in the analysis. We will go back and forth between conceptual work (categorisations of evaluation practice) and the evidence (evaluation reports and users’ narratives on evaluation processes and outcomes). We will thereby refine the definitions of dimensions of evaluation practice, and indicators that can be used to categorise evaluations. New factors will be taken into account when they prove necessary; old differentiations between evaluation settings will be given up if they prove superfluous.

Statistical methods or “conventional” comparative case studies may include similarly iterative processes, but their movement between theoretical levels and the evidence tends to be unsystematic and implicit. This “black box” situation may lead to the omission of important explanatory factors, and makes it difficult to replicate the findings.

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