Fuzzy set analysis

Wendy Olsen, CCSR.

Fuzzy sets are used in both qualitative and quantitative research and the talk below aims to clarify how you might use fuzzy set analysis in qualitative research.

First I give examples of fuzzy sets from empirical research. I summarise some special maths associated with using fuzzy sets. The empirical examples are in education, child protection, and other social science areas.

Secondly the talk offers three arguments in favour of Small- and Medium-N fuzzy set analysis. The use of set-memberships is ideal where you have a whole or part of a population, but not a random sample, or where you want to allow Expert Inputs or Stakeholder Analysis. Fuzzy set analysis can be very creative and lead to original research on social change.

The final part of the talk shows how set membership analysis can help to explore the relations among some binary variables (e.g. yes/no), fuzzy sets, and other data in a table. Here the talk draws your attention away from concepts of 'measurement error', which are usual in factor analysis, and more toward 'gaining information from set relations'. I show how X-Y diagrams for Small-N are helpful in discerning what X configurations are necessary for a Y outcome, which are sufficient, and which are both.

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