The keynote speaker will be Professor Rachel Baker

Q and other methods – from small ‘p’ to big ‘N’

In his book, The Study of Behaviour, William Stephenson wrote that complex facts can be discovered through studying subjectivity in a small number of cases – based on a small ‘p set’, to use Q methodology terms.  He adds that, ‘these can thereupon be counted, if need be’.  and devotes a chapter of the book to ‘The Prior Analysis of Questionnaires’ in which he argues that prior study using Q might enhance large scale surveys. 

Q methodologists are concerned with interpretation and rich descriptions of shared subjectivities.  We study qualitative questions about the nature of subjective views, uncovering structures in our data that reveal the similarities in the ways that people see the world.  Social surveys, in contrast, are usually concerned with counting people, their experiences or characteristics, their agreement or support of different policies or societal conditions. So where might these two worlds collide?  And is the collision desirable or fruitful?

In this presentation I describe, and discuss the and merits of, Q-based survey design illustrating with some examples of studies that have developed and tested these methods.  I raise some of the challenges and potential critiques of Q based surveys and reflect on why it interests me, as a Q researcher, to explore Q and other methods. 

This presentation is based on collaborative research, over several years and multiple projects, and benefits in particular from work with Job van Exel, Helen Mason and Neil McHugh.

Professor Baker is a Professor of Health Economics and Director of the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University. Q methodology has been a key part of her research which focuses on the use of mixed methods to: i) elicit societal values with respect to resource allocation for health and ii) study the benefits arising from policies, programmes or interventions, especially complex social programmes or organisations that impact on health and wellbeing.

Professor Baker is a past president of the International Society for the Scientific Study of Subjectivity and was the conference chair for the 2017 conference hosted in Glasgow.