Lobinger, Katharina, & Cornelia Brantner (2020, January). Picture-sorting techniques: Card sorting and Q-sort as alternative and complementary approaches in visual social research. In Luc Pauwels & Dawn Mannay (Eds.), The Sage handbook of visual research methods (2nd rev. and expanded ed., pp. 309-321, Chap 19). London: Sage.

Abstract: Picture-sorting is a valuable research technique for the analysis of how people evaluate and categorise pictures. In broader terms, it is a way of using visuals to study participants’ mental concepts. Overall, picture-sorting belongs to the family of card-sorting techniques, which are knowledge elicitation techniques that do not ask for verbal responses. Instead, various items, such as photographs or statements, are handed over to a participant, who will then sort them into groups, rank them in specific orders or identify relationships between them, depending on the sorting task. In this contribution, we describe card-sorting in general and elaborate on why this research technique is particularly suited for visual research. We then present various forms of picture-sorting techniques, illustrating the main differences between open and closed sorting, single and repeated and qualitative and quantitative techniques. Finally, we give a step-by-step description of how to perform a visual Q-methodology study, exemplifying the procedures with two case studies.

Katharina Lobinger <katharina.lobinger@usi.ch> is at the Institute of Digital Technologies for Communication (ITDxC) at Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland.

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