Qualitative Methods Summer Training

Comparative Case Study Design

3-7 June 2019

Designing Research with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)

10-14 June 2019

Upgrade your qualitative method skills

We offer two tailored 5-day (1 week) qualitative methods modules on one of the UK’s most scenic university campuses, close to the lovely beaches of Cornwall. The modules have a practical, handson focus on the possibilities and pitfalls of applying a range of comparative qualitative and case study techniques in different research settings. Each module has up to 25 participants and consists of a 3 hour seminar in the morning and a 1 hour lab session in the afternoon each day. You can sign up for one or both modules.

The modules are open to postgraduate research students, PhD students, postdocs, academics, and research-oriented practitioners who engage in social research, across the UK and internationally. Upon completion of a written assignment, each module is credited with an equivalent of 7.5 ECTS points. You can also attend the modules without getting credits if you wish to.

If you have any questions, please contact us at penryn-methods@exeter.ac.uk 


3-7 June 2019

What? This module provides you with the skills needed to design your qualitative case study research. It covers concept formation, casing and case selection, logics and strategies of comparison, accounting for context and time, data collection strategies, and both conceptual and research-practical issues such as limited diversity, Galton’s problem, conceptual stretching, and thinking about scope conditions. In the lab sessions, we will work extensively with you on your own research projects.

  • The logic and goals of qualitative comparative case study research
  • Defining, structuring and measuring social science concepts and typologies
  • Casing: what is a case? What is context?
  • Case selection and scope conditions
  • Logics and techniques of comparison across time and space


The course targets MRes and PhD students, researchers and research-oriented practitioners from the United Kingdom and abroad, in the social sciences and beyond. You should have basic knowledge of empirical social research (e.g. what is a case and what is a variable). Those who bring along a specific empirical project will benefit most, but this is not required.

Module aims

At the end of the week, you will:

  • Be able to find the suitable comparative case study research design to answer your research question
  • Know common techniques of structuring and defining concepts, defining and selecting cases, thinking about time and context in comparative case study research, and analysing and comparing cases depending on the inferential goal, and be able to apply them in your own research
  • Be aware of potential pitfalls of comparative case study research, such as limited empirical diversity and conceptual stretching, and ways of addressing them
  • Be familiar with some seminal texts about comparative case study research, covering both classics and recent innovations


To get the most out of the course, you should reserve about 2 hours per afternoon for directed reading and other small daily assignments which are not graded. In order to obtain credits (15 credits/ 7.5 ECTS), you will need to complete a written research design of 4000 words, to be submitted by 12 July 2019. Full instructions will be given in the module handbook nearer the time.

Please see the detailed module description for more information.

POCM102 module description and indicative reading list


10-14 June 2019


This module introduces you to the nuts and bolts of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), an innovative set-theoretic technique that allows for comparisons of small, intermediate or large numbers of cases in order to identify necessary and / or sufficient conditions for an outcome. It is an attractive method for scholars who seek to model causally complex patterns and integrate in-depth case knowledge at all stages of the analysis. We will introduce you to performing QCA with the freely available R software using the user-friendly RStudio environment.

  • QCA: Origin, variants, uses and approaches
  • Set theory and causal complexity
  • Defining, structuring, measuring and calibrating concepts as sets
  • Analyses of necessity and sufficiency · Truth tables, limited diversity and counterfactual reasoning ·
  • Conservative, intermediate and parsimonious solution types
  • Set-theoretic multi-method research 
  • Potential pitfalls (skewed data, model ambiguities, robustness, etc.)


The course targets MRes and PhD students, researchers and research-oriented practitioners from the United Kingdom and abroad, in the social sciences and beyond. You should have basic knowledge of comparative empirical research. No prior knowledge of statistical software is required, although it might be an advantage.

Module aims

At the end of the week, you will:

  • Be able to design your research using Qualitative Comparative Analysis
  • Understand the logic and technical underpinnings of Qualitative Comparative Analysis
  • Be able to independently perform a crisp-set or fuzzy-setQualitative Comparative Analysis using the R software environment
  • Be aware of potential pitfalls of Qualitative Comparative Analysis, and ways of addressing them
  • Be familiar with some seminal texts about Qualitative Comparative Analysis, covering both classics and recent innovations.


To get the most out of the course, you should reserve about 2 hours per afternoon for directed reading and other small daily assignments which are not graded. In order to obtain credits (15 credits/ 7.5 ECTS), you’ll need to complete an applied QCA analysis of 4000 words, to be submitted by 12 July 2019. Full instructions will be given in the module handbook nearer the time. Please see the detailed module description for more information.

POCM101 module description and indicative reading list

Personal website: www.evathomann.com

Twitter: @evathomann 
E-Mail: e.thomann@exeter.ac.uk

Dr. Eva Thomann is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Exeter who specialises in public policy, public administration, and case-oriented and set-theoretic methodology. Previously she has lectured or held scholarships at the universities of Bern and Heidelberg, the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, and the European University Institute in Florence. She is the first author of Designing Research with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and the monograph Customized implementation of European Union food safety policy: United in diversity?. Eva has taught extensively on set-theoretic methods at invited workshops, doctoral schools, and at BA and MA level. She is a member of the steering committee of the COMPArative Methods for Systematic cross-caSe analysis (COMPASSS) network and and an instructor in caseoriented and set-theoretic methods at the ECPR winter school in methods and techniques. She contributes to the development of pedagogical resources and other innovations in the use and teaching of QCA.

All participants are required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £50 to register for a module. Only participants who have paid the full course fee will be admitted to the modules. Different fees apply for external participants from the UK (residence in UK or enrolled in/employed by a UK university) and for international participants, see Table 1. Please ensure you choose the right fee for your participant profile.

The modules are free for participants from the University of Exeter, who will be put on a waiting list with places allocated on a first come first served basis once the number of available places has been confirmed. UoE participants can also apply for limited reimbursement of expenses for travel and accommodation upon provision of receipts, via the UoE’s expenses system.

Table 1: Course fees and deadlines (per module)

Category Sign up deposit
Early bird course fee
Paid until 15 March 2019 
Regular course fee
Paid after 15 March 2019 
A) UoE PGR students, postdocs, academic staff SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY Waiting lists are operated; Attendance cannot be confirmed before 15 March 2019 £50  Free Reimbursement of expenses for travel, accommodation and deposit upon receipts (up to £350 per module)  Free Reimbursement of expenses for travel and accommodation upon receipts (up to £300 per module)
B) External participants from within the UK  Included in course fee £300 (£250 plus £50 nonrefundable sign-up deposit)  £350 (£300 plus £50 nonrefundable sign-up desposit)
C) International particpants from outside the UK Included in course fee  £550 (£500 plus £50 nonrefundable sign-up desposit)  £600 (£550 plus £50 nonrefundable sign-up desposit) 


Full course fees must be paid by 15 March 2019 to receive the early bird rate. If you intend to apply for both modules, please sign up for them separately.

Please note that the sign-up deposit is non-refundable unless you have not been granted a place on one of the modules by the organisers. Cancellations will be refunded up to 8 May 2019, after which no refund will be eligible. To cancel a registration, registrants must send a written request by midnight on 8 May 2019 to penryn-methods@exeter.ac.uk

Local organiser

Website: https://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/politics/staff/saunders/
E-Mail: c.saunders@exeter.ac.uk

Professor Clare Saunders is Chair in Environmental Politics in the Environment and Sustainability Institute and Department of Politics at the Penryn Campus of the University of Exeter. She is currently the Director of Doctoral Studies for Politics Penryn, and has a long-standing interest in improving the quality and quantity of research methods training for students at all levels. She has written for the teaching section of the journal Politics (with Matthew Ryan, Emily Rainsford and Emma Thompson) on the value of research methods teaching being delivered by experts in the field. Never a methodological puritan, Clare uses multiple research methodologies to investigate political participation – ranging from multi-level modelling to ethnography. She is author of around 30 articles and 20 book chapters in political science and sociology journals. Her most recent (forthcoming) book entitled When Citizens Talk Politics (edited with Bert Klandermans) analyses focus group data in cross-national comparative perspective.

The University of Exeter campuses in southwest England combine teaching excellence with high levels of student satisfaction and world class research. We are a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities and are globally recognized as one of the top universities in terms of both quality of teaching and impact of research. The University of Exeter is ranked 12th in the latest Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and is amongst the top 150 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. We also hold a Gold rating in the first Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and 98% of our research was rated as of “international quality” in REF2014.

The Penryn Campus offers the very latest academic research facilities set in 100 acres of countryside, close to the vibrant coastal town of Falmouth in Cornwall. The environment and sustainability underpin much of the ethos of the Penryn Campus. Our recent development, the £5.5 million Science and Engineering Research Support Facility (SERSF), builds upon the £30 million Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI), and puts the University and Cornwall at the forefront of research into solutions to global problems of environmental change.

Thanks to its scenic beaches and coves, and dramatic clifftop views, Cornwall is one of Britain’s favourite holiday destinations. The county also has a rich history of artistic and scientific innovation, making it a fascinating and stimulating place to attend university. Although most students find that there is plenty to do right on their doorsteps, some head further afield to see what else Cornwall has to offer—including fantastic surfing on the north coast, art galleries in St. Ives, the beautiful gardens at the Eden Project, and the breathtaking views on The Lizard and Bodmin Moor. All of these and other destinations are easily explored by bus, train, car, and bicycle, or even, via the Coastal Path, on foot.

Discover more at: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/thesouthwest/cornwall/

Directions to Penryn Campus

By car: The Penryn Campus is approximately two hours’ drive from Exeter. From the north, take the A30 west from Exeter until you reach the A39 signposted Truro. Drive through Truro, following the signs A39 to Falmouth. Follow the A39 towards Falmouth until you come to the Treliever roundabout, where you will see signs to the Penryn Campus.

Satellite navigation: Use postcode TR10 9FE. Please be aware that this is a relatively new postcode and may not be recognised by your sat nav system if it is not up-to-date. Like many university campuses, the Penryn Campus has limited car parking. As such, potential car park users are encouraged to use alternative, sustainable transport. You can find out more about travel, transport and parking on campus and around the Falmouth and Penryn areas on the Falmouth Exeter Plus website. The campus operates an Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system in which you pay as you leave.

By rail: The Penryn Campus is approximately two and a half hours by train from Exeter. The campus is in Penryn, which has its own station. There is a frequent direct service to Truro from London, the Midlands and North and other major British cities. At Truro, change to the branch line service to Falmouth and leave the train at Penryn. The station is approximately a 15 minute walk from the campus. For timetabling, visit the National Rail Enquiries website or phone: 08457 48 49 50.

There is no taxi rank at Penryn station. Taxis should be booked by prior arrangement, phone: 01326 373007. Alternatively, the U1 bus service from Truro Bus Station drops you direct to the campus. For timetabling visit the Traveline SouthWest website.

By coach: National Express coaches stop in Penryn. For timetables visit the National Express website or for passenger information phone: +44 (0) 08717 818181. The local U1 bus service from Truro Bus Station drops you direct to the campus. For bus services within the southwest, visit the Traveline SouthWest website. There is also a Megabus stop in Falmouth, and the bus goes via the Penryn Campus. Please take a look at locations that travel to Falmouth on their website.

By plane: The closest airport to the campus is Newquay. Flybe operates direct flights from London Gatwick with a flight time of approximately 70 minutes, as well as from Glasgow and Manchester; connecting flights are available to other destinations.

Car hire and taxi services are also available at Newquay Airport. For public transport connections visit the Traveline website. NB: Newquay Airport is approximately 40 km from Penryn. If you’re using public transport you'll need to take a bus from the airport to Newquay, and then another bus to Penryn (typical total journey time one and a half to two hours). The campus is roughly three quarters of an hour to an hour's drive by car from Newquay.

Visitors with disabilities/special requirements

If you require assistance with your visit to the Penryn Campus, please contact us at: penryn-methods@exeter.ac.uk.

Blue badge holders can park on campus in designated areas.

Please refer to the Penryn Campus Map.


It is the individual responsibility of the participants to find accommodation, and we are unable to assist in that process. (Please note there is no university accommodation available at this time). We strongly recommend you book accommodation as early as possible.

10 There are a number of very good hotels and B&Bs in the Falmouth and Penryn area. You can find information about local accommodation at VisitCornwall and places to eat at VisitFalmouth.

Short-stay self-catering places in Penryn can also be found on Airbnb.

In order to enable participants to liaise and exchange information e.g. for finding shared accommodation or for planning trips in the area, we have created closed Facebook groups for each module.

Just click on the link below; we will admit you to the group only if you are a confirmed course participant.

For any further information please contact: penryn-methods@exeter.ac.uk