Q Study

What is a Q study?

Q methodology was first devised by William Stephenson 75 years ago whose seminal work- The study of behaviour: Q technique and its methodology - was published in 1953. It has been applied in a range of research fields, notably psychology and political science and, more recently, in health.

Q methodology can be characterised by the data collection method, which involves the rank ordering of cards, printed with statements of opinion, onto a grid; and the analytic method which is an inverted form of factor analysis (by-person factor analysis).

Respondents are guided through a ranking procedure leading to the arrangement of all statements onto a sorting grid labelled “most agree” to “most disagree”. Since there are often as many as 50 statements in a Q set, the sorting process is guided by the researcher and conducted in stages, beginning by placing the cards into three piles, “agree”, ”disagree” and “neutral”.

Factor analysis is used to identify shared accounts (factors) based on similar patterns in respondents’ Q sorts. Each factor represents a different societal viewpoint and is interpreted based on a composite Q sort calculated for each factor and respondents; open ended comments. Click here for more information on Q Methodology.