Stenner, Paul, & Rose Capdevila (2019). Q methodology. In Paul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph W. Sakshaug, & Richard A. Williams (Eds.), Sage Research Methods Foundations. 29 pp. (doi: 10.4135/9781526421036842863) (Link:

Abstract: Q methodology is an empirical approach designed as a means to study subjective aspects of social concerns and, often, to identify potential solutions. It has origins in psychology but has been applied widely in many disciplines, from geography to nursing, politics, and environmental studies, but has been especially popular in the health sciences. It is able to ascertain—in rich detail—the different perspectives that can be expressed about a particular topic. The subject matter can vary enormously, but in each case, the Q methodologist will be interested in capturing subjectivity; whatever the subject matter at issue, there will be different subjective perspectives on it. Participants are asked to sort items or statements about the issue under investigation into the shape of a quasi-normal grid, which then are factor-analysed by person to identify patterns across sorts. Although it utilises statistical pattern analysis (usually principal components analysis or centroid), it is often classified as a qualitative method. This entry uses a simplified study of values to provide an overview of Q methodology in terms of seven simple steps, from the formulation of an appropriate research question to the interpretation of the resulting understandings on the issue under investigation. These steps are then revisited to provide an overview of some of the key issues within the Q methodological literature.

Paul Stenner <> and Rose Capdevila <> are in the School of Psychology & Counseling, The Open University, UK.

Leave a Reply