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Mixed methods research is becoming increasingly popular given the benefit of combining quantitative and qualitative data to explore phenomena.1 Q methodology combines qualitative and quantitative techniques to study subjectivity. Despite its recent popularity, Q methodology was originally developed in the 1930s by William Stephenson, a physicist and psychologist. Stephenson worked with psychologist and statistician Charles Spearman (of Spearman correlation coefficient and factor analysis fame); Stephenson saw the need to explore the subjective opinion, combining it with the rigour of statistical factor analysis, thus Q methodology was born. Q methodology is being increasingly used to explore views on a range of topics in healthcare from mental healthcare to dentistry.2 This paper sets out the key characteristics of Q methodology to help nurse researchers better understand the method and terminology, plus we provide practical advice about how to apply Q in nursing and health services research.
What is Q methodology?
Q methodology is used to study subjectivity, that is, to say subjective opinions, values or beliefs to answer questions about ‘what’ or ‘how’.3 4 Q methodology allows us to identify and describe the shared viewpoints that exist on a topic revealing areas of consensus and disagreement across these views. There are two key elements to any Q study. First, participants rank order a set of statements of opinion onto a grid. This is followed by a factor analysis to identify clusters of shared viewpoints that can then be interpreted.
Q set development
The starting point in a Q study is a set of statements that are usually written as expressions of opinions or beliefs on the topic. The statements can be generated through various sources …
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests LK is an associate editor for Evidence Based Nursing journal.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.