chapter  12
The use of Q sort methodology in research with teenagers
ByLarry Owens
Pages 18

Brown and Good (2010) defined Q methodology as ‘a combination of conceptual framework, techniques of data collection, and method of analysis that collectively provides the basis for the scientific study of subjectivity’ (p. 1149). It involves the collection of data in the form of Q sorts, and the inter-correlation and factor analysis of those sorts. The aim of this research methodology is to reveal and understand the key viewpoints on a particular topic that exist among a group of participants (Watts & Stenner, 2012). Q methodology has been used successfully in a wide range of research disciplines including psychology, education, nursing, health sciences, political science, sociology, environmental science and philosophy. Paradoxically, although it was developed within behaviourism, it has been used by postmodernists, social constructionists, feminists, discourse and narrative analysts, cognitive scientists, psychoanalysts, geographers, as well as both quantitative and qualitative researchers (Brown, 2004). Like any research paradigm, Q methodology has its critics (e.g., Kampen & Tamás, 2014) but these criticisms have generally been rebutted (e.g., Brown, Danielson, & van Exel, 2015). This chapter contains the following sections: the origins of Q methodology, theoretical foundations, how to conduct a Q study, Q methodology research with children and teenagers, advantages and limitations of Q methodology, and the author’s own Q studies on popularity among teenage girls.