Qualitative Comparative Analysis – A Rigorous Qualitative Method for Assessing Impact

A Coffey How-To note, June 2015, by Carrie Baptist and Barbara Befani. Available as pdf


  • QCA is a case based method which allows evaluators to identify different combinations of factors that are critical to a given outcome, in a given context. This allows for a more nuanced understanding of how different combinations of  factors can lead to success, and the influence context can have on success.
  • QCA allows evaluators to test theories of change and answer the question ‘what works best, why and under what circumstances’ in a way that emerges directly from the empirical analysis, that can be replicated by other  researchers, and is generalizable to other contexts.
  • While it isn’t appropriate for use in all circumstances and has limitations, QCA also has certain unique strengths – including qualitatively assessing impact and identifying multiple pathways to achieving change which make it a valuable addition to the evaluation toolkit.

Rick Davies comment: The availability of this sort of explanatory and introductory note is very timely, given the increased use of QCA for evaluation purposes. My only quibble with this how-to note is that the heart of the QCA process seems to have been left undescribed (see step 10, page 6), like the proverbial  black box. For those looking for a more detailed exposition, keep an eye out for the extensive guide now being prepared by Barbara Befani, with support from the Expert Group for Aid Studies in Sweden (More details here). There is also an introductory posting on QCA on the Better Evaluation website

See also: This new listing of use of QCA for evaluation purposes http://www.compasss.org/bibliography/evalua.htm

One thought on “Qualitative Comparative Analysis – A Rigorous Qualitative Method for Assessing Impact”

  1. Gentlemen,

    In addition to the ways in which context contributes to meaning (pragmatics) it seems applicable a qualitative view of asset availability (mapped to the business/institutional services they support)as a pre-condition to adequate impact analysis.

    Regarding information technology assets, there are tools which can provide monitoring and impact analysis of asset availability failures.

    Any interest in this regard?
    Let’s talk.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: