BPS Symposium on Q Methodology

The current issue of The Psychologist, a publication of the British Psychological Society, summarizes the papers presented at a BPS symposium on mixed methods, one of which was on Q methodology. The full text follows: Mixed feelings about mixed methods, The Psychologist, 2008 (June), 21(6), 481. The rise of mixed-methods research-usually taken to mean the combining of qualitative and quantitative methodologies-has delighted Professor Alan Bryman, a sociologist at the University of Leicester who has been writing on the subject for more than 20 years. Indeed, Bryman’s review of papers published across five subject areas between 1994 and 2003, revealed a burgeoning enterprise: 232 mixed-methods studies, with three times as many published in 2003 relative to 1994. And yet Bryman is concerned. The literature review, together with interviews Bryman conducted with researchers, shows that the majority of mixed-methods papers fail to integrate their qualitative and quantitative approaches. Bryman also fears that mixed methods are being seen mistakenly as a cynical fast-track to funding. ‘We need a greater emphasis on the writing of mixed methods,’ Bryman concluded, ‘not just the doing.’ He added that there was a need to reflect on exemplary mixed-methods papers, such as the 2004 study by University of East Anglia researchers into the UK foot and mouth crisis (tinyurl.com/2oeoyu). ‘They did a terrific job of bringing their research findings together,’ he said. Earlier, Professor Paul Flowers of Glasgow Caledonian University showed how qualitative research can be used to enhance its quantitative cousin. His own qualitative research looking at safe-sex practices among gay men uncovered tales of self-sacrifice and love, which were a far cry from the dry theories of quantitative psychology, such as the theory of planned behaviour. In this way, qualitative research can highlight the episodic, developmental factors that longitudinal quantitative research has so far neglected. The immediate, emotional nature of qualitative research also gives a voice to research participants – a pertinent issue given contemporary policy moves toward giving greater recognition to the views of service users. James Good at Durham University and Professor Steven Brown at Kent State University gave a guided tour of perhaps the ultimate mixed method-Q-methodology-which is still relatively unknown in the U.K. Developed by William Stephenson in the early part of the 20th century, Q-methodology involves applying quantitative methods to the study of people’s subjective opinions. Participants are asked to arrange the views of others on a given topic, according to how closely they agree with them. Patterns of agreement across multiple participants can then be factor analysed, thus revealing key areas of disagreement or overlap in opinion. By looking for correlations between participants, based on their views, the technique represents an inverse of the more typical use of factor analysis, which is to seek correlations not between participants, but between variables across a sample of participants. The Q-method can help untangle the knots of real-world disagreement. Brown gave the example of a study that looked at views on large carnivore conservation held by park rangers and environmentalists-rival groups who had actually faced each other in court (tinyurl.com/5545ve). The Q-method identified the key areas of dispute between the groups but also highlighted areas of common ground, helping pave the way towards reconciliation. The PowerPoint presentation by Good and Brown was “On the Qualitative/Quantitative Binary: A View from Q-Methodology,” which was part of the Symposium on Mixed Methods Research at the annual meeting of the British Psychological Society, April 3, in Dublin.

Al Talbott and Q Methodology honored in Brazil

Wednesday night, June 25, the rector and academic council of the Federal University of Piaui in Teresina, Brazil, conferred the Honris Causa degree on Al Talbott before a standing-room-only audience of professors and students from across the campus. Because Talbott was unable to attend due to doctor’s orders, Mike Stricklin accepted the degree on his behalf. Rob Logan represented Talbott’s doctoral students, many of whom have used Q in their theses. The ceremony opened a three-day conference dedicated to Q Methodology and to Al Talbott’s academic contributions. More than 150 professors and students are registered.

“What is Q Methodology, What Does It Seek to Accomplish?” Michael Stricklin, Departamento de Comunicacao Social, UFPI, Teresina, PI

“Contributions of Prof. Albert Talbott to Education” H. Will Norton Jr., dean, College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Nebraska

“Aplicacoes da Metodologia Q na area de Linguistica Aplicada e Ensino/Aprendizagem de linguas” Maria Carmen Khnychala Cunha, Departamento de Linguistica Aplicada, UFU, Uberlandia, MG

“What lies beneath: casting stakeholders’ perceptions in rural development projects evaluation through Q methodology” Virginia Gravina, Senior Statistician, FAGRO, Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay

“The Brazilian National Hymn and the Star-Spangled Banner: A Q-Study of Student Attitudes in Two Countries” Gustavo Fortes Said, Departamento de Comunicacao Social, UFPI, Teresina, PI, and L.W. Woods Stricklin, Adjunct ESOL Instructor Portland Community College, Portland, Oregon

“Contributions of Q-Methodology to Educating Children” Diane Montgomery, Educational Psychology, Oklahoma State University”, Stillwater, OK

“Student Learning Styles: A Q study based on the Oxford Learning Style Evaluation” Linda Gentry El-Dash, Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem, UNICAMP, Campinas, SP

“Reconsidering Play Theory” Robert A. Logan, Director of Communications, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD

Q Workshop at Kent State

On May 19 – 23, 2008 Steven Brown conducted an intersession workshop on Q-Methodology at Kent State University, through the College of Continuing Studies and under the auspices of the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services. A diverse group of 17 persons, comprised of graduate students and faculty, attended the workshop, including five from Norway, two from the United Kingdom, and ten from Kent State. Please click here to download the report and pictures from the workshop.

2008 Q Workshop at Kent State University

Seventeen doctoral and master’s students as well as faculty from various countries attended this past week’s Q methodology workshop at Kent State University. A brief story about the workshop is on the website of Kent State’s College and Graduate School of Education, Health, and Human Services (click on http://www.ehhs.kent.edu/ and then on “Summer Course Highlight”). In addition to Kent State students and faculty, participants included scholars from Norway and the United Kingdom. One of the British participants was actually an Iranian studying in the UK, and Kent State students included those from Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovia, making this the most diverse workshop of the past decade.

Q in the UK and Ireland

Q-users in the UK and Ireland have established an informal network. The members (currently about 25 of us) range from experienced users to people who are new to Q. The group provides a way of getting together and talking Q in a supportive environment. Our meetings involve a pleasant blend of tea, Q and cakes. We had our first seminar (TQ1) on 3 December (hosted by John Bradley at Nottinghamshire County Council, Mansfield) and our second meeting (TQ2) on 1 February (hosted by Jean McCloud at Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham). br /> The seminars involve people presenting work in progress which is then discussed by the group, and also open sessions in which people can talk about whatever Q issues interest them. For example, TQ2 included a presentation by Suzanne Charles, a PhD student at the University of Wolverhampton, of her ongoing Q methodological study entitled “Changing Lives?: disabled students in higher education”, which led to interesting discussion about designing Q-samples. Later on, in an open session, Joy Coogan of the University of East London demonstrated how to deal with bi-polar factors using PQMethod.
We have a Google group set up to facilitate our networking and there has been talk on it recently of getting together for another seminar (TQ3). If you are interested in joining our group or attending TQ3 then please get in touch.

Tim Deignan

West Yorkshire


Q Workshop in Thailand

A training workshop on Q methodology was held March 10-12 in the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, and was attended by more than 30 Thai participants (plus 2 from Australia) with specializations primarily in public health, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and agriculture, most of them involved in programs related to avian influenza (AI). Other represented specializations were in management, communication, economics, and sociology. Organized by Suttini Wattanakul, Lecturer in the Sirindhorn Public Health College (under the Ministry of Public Health), Ubonratchathani, the workshop was sponsored by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada and organized by Sirindhorn Public Health College and the University of Ubonratchathani. The workshop was underwritten by a grant from IDRC to the Asian Partnership on Avian Influenza Research in five Asian countries (Cambodia, China, Indonesia,Thailand, and Vietnam). The workshop director was Steven Brown.

The workshop involved lectures and an exercise using a Q sample focused on AI. The resulting Q sorts produced three factors, two of which were bipolar. FACTOR A placed emphasis on vaccine development (There is an immediate need to promote international research programs to develop new and better diagnostics and vaccines for AI control and Countries should be encouraged to license and use only high-quality AI vaccines that meet good manufacturing and quality control criteria), increased compensation for farmers as an inducement to early reporting (Governments should increase the amount of compensation for poultry farmers to encourage them to report and cull sick birds), and expressed concern about the evolution of a virus that would pose a threat to humans (Recent AI epidemics have created significant human health issues, including the risk of generating a new pandemic virus for humans via the avian-human link). FACTOR B emphasized the shoring up of certain institutions (For compartmentalization to be effective, it requires the country to have a robust and credible veterinary service, as well as a strong collaboration between the private and public sectors) due to weaknesses in others (Bird flu has been able to spread partly due to ignorance among the millions of farmers in poor nations), and also the proactive protection of vulnerable groups (The pre-vaccinating of high-risk groups could almost immediately be implemented and spread out over months and even years so that production capacity would be less a constraint in pandemic preparedness). The other end of the factor (FACTOR B-NEGATIVE) was critical of some harsh policies of the past (e.g., Stamping out policies have led to very high costs and economic losses for the affected nations, stakeholders, and, ultimately, consumers) and favored the development of incentive systems (There is need for an incentive mechanism for industry to substantially invest upfront in the research and development of various pandemic flu vaccines knowing that these products may eventually not be used or acquired) and directed attention to migratory rather than domesticated birds (Migratory waterfowl have been implicated in the transmission of the H5N1 strain from Asia to Europe, but little is known as to the species that are capable of this transmission and their ability to remain infected and infective through time). As with the previous factor, FACTOR C was also interested in distinguishing domestic vs. migratory birds (Free-flying birds and birds in captivity in zoological and wildlife exhibits should be viewed as separate compartments from agricultural systems) and was more cautious about the implementation of vaccination programs due to the economic impact on various segments of the population (Before implementing a vaccination strategy, an overall cost-benefit analysis should be performed, taking into account the implications on trade, the impact of movement restrictions, and biosecurity measures to be enforced in the vaccination area? and ?The financial losses due to AI epidemics have been huge for the commercial and public sectors, especially once the AI viruses were introduced in areas with high bird densities?). Finally, the other pole of this factor (FACTOR C-NEGATIVE), which was defined by only one participant, seemed to be more apprehensive, giving urgent emphasis to the following: Given today’s frequent international travel and cross-border flow of goods, once a pandemic strain does emerge, it will be impossible to prevent it from spreading globally, Because of human health implications, control plans must aim at the elimination of AI infection, based on any strategy that is chosen,Recent AI epidemics have created significant human health issues, including the risk of generating a new pandemic virus for humans via the avian-human link,and There is an immediate need to promote international research programs to develop new and better diagnostics and vaccines for AI control.

The Q-methodological application on the final day of the workshop took participants through a decision-making exercise focused on recommendations that might be made to the Thai government about how it could address the problems associated with AI. The Q sample was generated by participants through a nominal group and idea-writing exercise and the resulting Q sorts produced a three-factor solution, one of them being bipolar. One of the factors was dominated by medical participants (including a veterinarian) who emphasized a program of public information rather than government action (e.g., passing laws or establishing an AI agency). The bipolar factor emphasized local vs. national/international action, the one pole recommending an education program at the primary school level and the other pole recommending that the Thai government contribute to the development of standards for an international AI policy. The final factor emphasized comprehensive state action: Implement law or regulation about AI,Improve control of animal movement over borders, and Create a master plan.

The workshop participants, who appeared genuinely interested in Q methodology, asked several questions and many were eager to receive additional information in the way of articles and chapters. The availability of scholarly literature plus the experience of participating in two real-time studies will hopefully enable participants to begin utilizing the methodology in their own settings and on problems of their own choosing.

Q Seminar in Teresina, Brazil

The seminar honoring Al Talbott has been set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 26, 27 & 28. While not the Brazilian debut for Q, it will be an ideal opportunity to display Q methodology.

Prof. Gustavo Said, organizer for the seminar, wishes to invite papers addressing

* Talbott’s contributions to Q-Methodology as researcher and mentor,
* papers on topics related to Q-Methodology,
* reports of Q-studies.

Please send an abstract (150 words) by Friday, March 14 to either gsaid@uol.com or mstrick44@yahoo.com. Accepted papers will be announced before Monday, March 31. Presenters will be expected to attend the seminar in Teresina.


Here are a few more details.

* Power Point presentations are encouraged and will be translated into Portuguese for simultaneous display.
* Participants are invited to participate in an introductory course on Q for Brazilian doctoral students and faculty, which will be offered in tandem with the Talbott Seminar; the course is sponsored by the Brazilian Universidade do Vale dos Sinos (UNISINOS) and the Federal University of Piaui (UFPI).
* Publication of the proceedings of the Talbott Seminar in the form of a book is being arranged with the support of UNISINOS, UFPI, and CNPQ, the Brazilian National Council of Technological and Scientific Development.
* Individualized packages for international travelers will be offered by Embarque Turismo, where Chere Stricklin is a director of international study.
* To reduce costs for travelers, hotel accommodations and most meals will be subsidized.
* Additional travel information will be provided to those sending abstracts.