Critical Realism As A Meta-Framework For Understanding The Relationships Between Complexity And Qualitative Comparative Analysis

JCRMany methods are used in research on complexity. One of these is QCA. Although many authors allude to the relationships between complexity and QCA, these links are rarely made explicit. We propose that one way of doing so is by using critical realism as a meta-framework. This article discusses the viability of this approach by examining the extent to which QCA is a complexity-informed method. This question is answered in three steps. First, we discuss the nature of complexity and its epistemological implications. Second, we focus on Bhaskar’s perspective on critical realism and show how it can be used as a framework for understanding social complexity. Third, we examine the ontological and epistemological assumptions underlying QCA and synthesize these with our critical realist approach to complexity. We argue that complex reality is non-decomposable, contingent, non-compressible and time-asymmetric. We conclude that, although QCA is inevitably reductive (i.e. it compresses reality) and partial (i.e. it decomposes reality), its core premises are built upon the notions of contingency and time-asymmetry. Therefore, it is not only a powerful method for doing complexity-informed research, but is also a complexity-informed method by itself.

Publication | Gerrits, L.M. & Verweij, S. (2013). Critical realism as a meta-framework for understanding the relationships between complexity and qualitative comparative analysis. Journal of Critical Realism, 12 (2), 166-182.

Understanding And Researching Complexity With Qualitative Comparative Analysis: Evaluating Transportation Infrastructure Projects

EvaluationIn the article we propose a complexity-informed framework for evaluating transportation infrastructure projects. The article does this through four steps. First, the properties of infrastructure development projects are discussed. This leads to the conclusion that the specific locality or contextualization of a given project is important for explaining the outcome. Hence, there is a need for an ontology and epistemology that addresses the importance of this contextualization. The second step concerns the development of the prerequisites for a methodological framework that follows from this epistemology and ontology. The third step is the assessment of common infrastructure evaluation methods against these prerequisites. This leads to the conclusion that a comparative case-based approach is the most suitable way to study the relationship between context and outcomes in projects. A framework based on Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) is presented in the fourth step. The article concludes with a discussion of the further development of QCA.

Publication | Verweij, S. & Gerrits, L.M. (2013). Understanding and researching complexity with qualitative comparative analysis: Evaluating transportation infrastructure projects. Evaluation, 19 (1), 40-55.

Management As System Synchronization: The Case Of The Dutch A2 Passageway Maastricht Project

EmergenceIn order to deal with complexity, both in science and practice the importance of flexibility and adaptiveness in the design and management of human activity systems is stressed. However, existing frameworks of procedures, practices and rules often require strict planning, design and implementation. These requirements seem to be at loggerheads with one another. In this publication I take a complexity perspective to examine as to how flexibility and adaptiveness comply with these existing frameworks to arrive at effective and efficient project realization. A grounded analysis of the Dutch A2 Passageway Maastricht infrastructure project, instigated by the question how the influence of the management system on the provisional outcomes of the project can be explained, found that it involves system synchronization: combined system fragmentation and integration.

Publication | Verweij, S. (2012). Management as system synchronization: The case of the Dutch A2 Passageway Maastricht project. Emergence: Complexity & Organization14 (4), 17-37.

Systematische Kwalitatieve Vergelijkende Analyse

Systematische kwalitatieve vergelijkende analyse (SKVA) – of Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) in het Engels – is in 1987 door Charles C. Ragin geïntroduceerd met zijn boek The Comparative Method. Ragin beoogt met zijn werk een brug te slaan tussen kwalitatief casusonderzoek en kwantitatief variabelegeoriënteerd onderzoek, waarbij hij een synthese van beide onderzoekstypen voorstelt. SKVA staat een vergelijking van casussen voor, waarbij de gedetailleerde complexiteit van afzonderlijke casussen en de diversiteit van het desbetreffende verschijnsel grotendeels behouden blijven (Ragin, 1987). SKVA kan voor verscheidene doeleinden worden gebruikt, waaronder het systematisch samenvatten en ordenen van grote hoeveelheden kwalitatieve data, het ontdekken van patronen en verschillen tussen casussen en het ontwikkelen en articuleren van nieuwe theoretische stellingen (Rihoux & Ragin, 2009). Wij zien SKVA niet zomaar als een methode om kwalitatieve casussen te vergelijken, maar vooral ook als een methode om grounded theory te integreren met vergelijkende procedures. Door in de eerste fase theorie te ontwikkelen op basis van het casusmateriaal en de casus sen vervolgens met SKVA te vergelijken wordt de onderzoeker in staat gesteld om de iteratieve beweging tussen theorie, analyse en vergelijking te systematiseren en transparant te maken.

Publicatie | Verweij, S. & Gerrits, L.M. (2012). Systematische kwalitatieve vergelijkende analyse. Kwalon, 17 (3), 25-33.

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