Q Methodology is a research method used in psychology and in social sciences to study people’s “subjectivity”—that is, their viewpoint. The name “Q” comes from the form of factor analysis that is used to analyze the data. The data for Q factor analysis come from a series of “Q sorts” performed by one exploratory research methodology pdf more subjects.
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A Q sort is a ranking of variables—typically presented as statements printed on small cards—according to some “condition of instruction. The sample of statements for a Q sort is drawn from and claimed to be representative of a “concourse”—the sum of all things people say or think about the issue being investigated. Commonly Q methodologists use a structured sampling approach in order to try and represent the full breadth of the concourse. One salient difference between Q and other social science research methodologies, such as surveys, is that it typically uses many fewer subjects. This can be a strength, as Q is sometimes used with a single subject, and it makes research far less expensive. In such cases, a person will rank the same set of statements under different conditions of instruction. Alternatively, the unit of measurement of a person in this context is his factor loading for a Q-sort he or she performs.
Factors represent norms with respect to schemata. An alternative method that determines the similarity among subjects somewhat like Q methodology, as well as the cultural “truth” of the statements used in the test, is Cultural Consensus Theory. The “Q sort” data collection procedure is traditionally done using a paper template and the sample of statements or other stimuli printed on individual cards. However, there are also computer software applications for conducting online Q sorts.
One Q-sort should produce two sets of data. The first is the physical distribution of sorted objects. The second is either an ongoing ‘think-out-loud’ narrative or a discussion that immediately follows the sorting exercise. The purpose of these narratives were, in the first instance, to elicit discussion of the reasons for particular placements.
Some information on validation of the method is available. Assessment of preschool classroom practices: Application of Q-sort methodology”. Identification of stakeholder perspectives on future flood management in the Rhine basin using Q methodology”. Mobile phone user types by Q methodology: an exploratory research”. Van Exel NJA, G de Graaf. Development and Validation of a Q-Sort Procedure to Assess Temperament and Behavior in Preschool-Age Children”.