Theorising moderation in the configurational approach: A guide for identifying and interpreting moderating influences in QCA

Teng Ma, Yue Cheng, Zhengzhi Guan*, Boying Li, Fangfang Hou, Eric Tze Kuan Lim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Given the multifaceted nature of digital phenomena, theorising has shifted from the correlational view toward the configurational approach, which embraces equifinality and seeks to identify conjunctural causal conditions culminating in a given outcome. Despite growing scholarly interest in the configurational approach, little is known about how moderation functions in conjunctural causation. Although there is a growing urgency for elucidating the boundary conditions of conjunctural causation to bolster the precision of theoretical explanations, a systematic approach to theorising, identifying, and interpreting moderation in configurational theories is missing. To bridge this knowledge gap, we first establish the theoretical grounding for moderation in the configurational approach. We then articulate the theoretical mechanism underlying how the interdependence of causal factors in a causal recipe is altered by the presence of a moderator. We also offer guidance on how to validate and interpret moderation in the configurational approach based on Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). We conduct an illustrative study in the context of technostress to showcase the utility of our proposed guidelines and their value in aiding theory development. Our study hence contributes to extant literature by attesting to the significance of moderation in the configurational approach and offering recommendations for theorising such moderations. Insights from this study can be harnessed to guide future theory development by identifying and validating moderated configurational relationships, which in turn can further enhance our understanding of nuances in multifaceted digital phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)762-787
Number of pages26
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • configurational approach
  • conjunctural causation
  • moderation
  • Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)
  • subjective social support norm
  • technostress


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