Bridging the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide in Comparative Communication Research: Heading towards Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

International Communication Association Post-conference

22 June 2013
London - Hilton Metropole, London (ICA conference hotel)

Submission deadline: 11 January 2013

Convenors: Thomas Hanitzsch, U of Munich; James Stanyer, Loughborough U; Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt, Hebrew U, Jerusalem

Comparative analysis in communication and media studies is assuming ever growing importance. However, it tends to be dominated by quantitative approaches which explore issues of causation through correlational techniques. While these methods have been useful, there are limitations to their application, such as their limited suitability for small- and medium-N studies with low levels of variance. The widespread alternative, especially for qualitative researchers, has been a primarily descriptive case study approach.

There are alternatives to these approaches that could advance comparative research in com-munication and media studies. One such approach is Charles Ragin’s Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), as well as its more recent extension Fuzzy-set QCA. QCA is a set-theoretic approach to examining causation to provide a systematic account of the way causal conditions work together to produce an outcome across cases. Ragin argues that his technique can be applied to small, medium and large-N studies and that it has advantages over both large-N correlational comparative research and small-N description. QCA can provide a simple and illuminating analysis of causal configurations, while bridging between the logics of case-oriented and variable-oriented approaches to comparative research.

A handful of scholars in media and communication studies have started using QCA, but there is wider interest that has not been catered for. The aim of the one-day ICA post-conference is fourfold:

  • First, to provide a hands-on introduction to QCA that acts as an impetus for research-ers to use the method more widely in their own work.
  • Second, to showcase applications of QCA for communication and media studies, demonstrating its ability to bridge often gridlocked epistemological and methodological divides in comparative communication research.
  • Third, to specifically discuss practical issues such as calibration – a critical step in QCA during which qualitative evidence is “translated” into numeric values – and identify possible solutions.
  • Fourth, to consider the broader question of systematically integrating quantitative and qualitative approaches in comparative communication research and to set a methodo-logical agenda.
  • The ICA post-conference is sponsored by three ICA divisions: Journalism, Political Commu-nication, and Global Communication and Social Change. The workshop will be an ideal opportunity for interested colleagues in the field to engage with this method, getting to grips with its language and procedures, as well as for those more acquainted with the method to present empirical applications. The workshop will bring together experts and users of the method with those who are interested in utilizing such an approach in their own work. There will be talks by those who already use QCA in their own research as well as some of the lead-ing practitioners of the method. The invited keynote speakers are Prof. Benoît Rihoux from Université Catholique de Louvain, and Prof. Carsten Schneider from Central European University, Budapest.


    This post-conference calls for contributions from those engaged in comparative research, existing users of QCA, and those who are interested in utilizing such a method in their own work. While the focus is on QCA, we are also looking for submissions that consider the broader theme of integrating quantitative and qualitative approaches in comparative commu-nication research.

    Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent to James Stanyer ( no later than 11 January 2013. Authors will be informed regarding acceptance/rejection of their papers by 15 February 2013.

    For informal queries please contact any of the following: Thomas Hanitzsch (; James Stanyer (; Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt (