Q Methodology – A Systematic Approach for Interpretive Research Design

MA Social Research module 

Module Outline

This module provides research students with a comprehensive introduction to Q methodology.  Q methodology is a set of research design principles and techniques that allows for a systematic and scientific understanding of subjectivity.  The methodology was originally developed by William Stephenson in the 1950s and used for identifying market segments in advertising and communications.  For social science, Q methodology offers a means of systematically identifying the range of distinctive subjective standpoints in a given context.  Being systematic and interpretive is Q methodology is well suited to postgraduate research either as a standalone research design or offering an injection of systematicity to interview based research or an interpretive supplement to aid survey instrument design.  In what is an interactive and hands-on workshop, participants will develop an understanding of the basic principles of Q research design and process from identifying the volume of debate, developing statements, administering a Q sort, conducting and interpreting results using dedicated software.  By the end of the workshop, participants will posses the ability to design, administer and interpret a Q methodology research project.

Leaning Outcomes

  • Understand principles of Q metholology;
  • Understand the principles of question sampling in Q survey instrument design;
  • Knowledge of participant selection and understanding of the relative opportunities and limitations of administering Q sorts in collective, individual or online settings;
  • Knowledge and experience of how to input and manage data and run factor analysis using dedicated Q method software packages;
  • Knowledge and experience of  interpreting factors and integrating quantitative and qualitatative data

Course Assessment

A single 2500 word research report which presents the findings from the in-class research exercise undertaken during the workshop. The in-class research exercise employs Q methodology to systematically map the subjectivity surrounding a current national or local public policy issue.