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Quantifying the Qualitative

Quantifying the Qualitative
Information Theory for Comparative Case Analysis

January 2016 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Quantifying the Qualitative presents a systematic approach to comparative case analysis based on insights from information theory. This new method, which requires minimal quantitative skills, helps students, policymakers, professionals, and scholars learn more from comparative cases. The approach avoids the limitations of traditional statistics in the small-n context and allows analysts to systematically assess and compare the impact of a set of factors on case outcomes with easy-to-use analytics. Rigorous tools reduce bias, improve the knowledge gained from case studies, and provide straightforward metrics for effectively communicating results to a range of readers and leaders.

CHAPTER 1: Enhancing Small-n Analysis: Information Theory and the Method of Structured-Focused Comparison
Why Quantify the Qualitative? Enhancing Qualitative Analysis With Information Theory

Who Needs to Quantify the Qualitative?

Information and Action Under Uncertainty

Origins and Motivations

From Cryptography and Communication to Comparative Case Studies

Making Qualitative Analysis of Information Systematic: The Method of Structured-Focused Comparison

Information Theory and Metrics for Qualitative Learning

A Roadmap for Quantifying the Qualitative


CHAPTER 2: The Information Revolution
Information Theory for the Information Age

What’s Under the Hood: A Primer A Primer on Logarithms and Probability for Small-n Analysis

Information Uncertainty Measures

Fundamental Contributions of Information Theory

The Growing Use of Information Metrics

A Note for Practitioners: From Analytics to Action


CHAPTER 3: Case Selection
Research Design and Information Theory

Case Selection Strategies and Challenges

Coding Cases

Case Selection and the Advantages of Information Theoretic Analysis


CHAPTER 4: The Information Method—If You Can Count, You Can Do It
Quantify: Setting up a Truth Table for Comparative Case Analysis

Count: Calculating the Probabilities

Compute: Computing the Uncertainty Measures

Compare: Understanding the Outcomes


CHAPTER 5: Information Metrics at Work—Three Examples
Example 1—Ecology: Information Analysis for Tropical Forest Loss

Example 2—Education: Accounting for Teaching Quality

Example 3— Medicine: Effective Nursing Care


CHAPTER 6: Sensitivity Analysis—Entropy, Inference, and Error
Confidence Intervals and the Information Metric

Analytic Leverage for a Study of Environmental Incentives

The Information Metric and the Problem of Inference

Sensitivity Analysis

Dropped-Case Analysis

Outcome Coding Sensitivity


CHAPTER 7: The QCA Connection
Understanding Qualitative Case Analysis (QCA)

QCA and Causal Complexity

Where QCA and Information Metrics Differ

Examples of Enhancing QCA with Information Metrics


Selected Introductory QCA Resources

QCA Software and Web Resources

CHAPTER 8: Conclusion
Information, Research, and the Digital Era

Reducing Uncertainty and Improving Judgment: Using Information Analysis in the Real World

The Limits and Further Possibilities for Information Analysis



APPENDIX A: Using Excel for Information Metrics
Step One: Enter Data

Step Two: Probability Calculations

Step Three: Entropy and Mutual Information Metrics

APPENDIX B: Using R for Information Metrics
Example 1: Deriving Information Metrics from Conditional Probabilities

Example 2: Deriving Information Metrics with the abcd Method



Companion Site

Visit for FREE Tools and Additional Resources!

[Quantifying the Qualitative] gives students the tools they need to enhance systematic case-study analysis.”

Laura Roselle
Elon University and Duke University

“[This text] is a new and fresh approach to learning how to analyze case studies from a qualitative research paradigm that faculty can use and students can wrap their heads around.”

Shon D. Smith
University of Florida

“[This book] just oozes with policy recommendations and future research...a huge contribution.”

Mark Meo
University of Oklahoma

“[This text introduces] more contemporary tools to address questions that are important to the world now.”

Juanita A. Johnson
Union Institute & University
Key features


  • Wide interdisciplinary applicability with step-by-step examples drawn from a number of sciences and professional fields, including defense, medicine, education, and ecology, demonstrate the powerful application of information metrics to comparative case studies.
  • Presentation of techniques that can be used broadly allows readers to apply what they learn in settings including business, finance, health care, environmental policy, security, and other settings where consequential decisions are made under conditions of uncertainty and complexity.
  • Clear and accessible prose illustrated by concrete and carefully explained examples makes the methods easy to understand and immediately applicable.
  • A concise review of the exciting intellectual foundations of information theory motivates student interest by linking research with critical real-world problems, from World War II cryptography to Cold War nuclear deterrence to solving modern cyber-security and strategic challenges.
  • Appendices available both in the book and online provide a walkthrough of Excel or Google sheets for automating simple calculations, along with sample Excel sheets (Appendix A) and an implementation of the methods in the open source language, R (Appendix B).

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 6

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