Q Methodology For Biographic Data Measurement

Afza.Malik GDA

Q Methodology and Biographic Data

Q Methodology For Biographic Data Measurement    (Brown, 1996) Evaluation of Q Methodology Projective Techniques Verbal projective techniques Critics point

Q Methodology For Biographic Data Measurement    (Brown, 1996) Evaluation of Q Methodology Projective Techniques Verbal projective techniques Critics point 

    Q methodology (Stephenson, 1975) refers to a constellation of substantive, statistical, and psychometric concepts for research on individuals. Q methodology uses a Q-sort procedure, which involves sorting a deck of cards according to specified criteria. Q-Sort Procedures In a Q-sort study, participants are presented with a set of cards on which words, statements, or other messages are written. 

    Participants are asked to sort the cards along a particular dimension, such as approve/disapprove, most like me/least like me, or highest priority/lowest priority. The number of cards is typically between 60 and 100. Usually, cards are sorted into 9 or 11 piles, with researchers designating the number of cards to be placed in each pile. Subjects typically are asked to place fewer cards at either of the two extremes and more cards toward the middle. 

    Hypothetical distribution of 60 cards in 9 piles. Q sorts have many possible applications. Attitudes can be studied by asking people to sort statements on a agree/disagree continuum. 

    Researchers can study personality by describing personality characteristics on the cards (eg, friendly, aggressive); people can then be requested to sort the cards on a “very much like me” to “not at all like me” continuum. Self-concept can be explored by comparing responses to this “like me” dimension with people's responses elicited when the instructions are to sort cards according to what they consider ideal personality traits. 

    Q sorts can be used to study individuals in depth. For example, participants could be asked to sort traits as they apply to themselves in different roles, such as employee, parent, spouse, and friend. The technique can be used to gain information about how individuals see themselves, how they perceive others seeing them, how they believe others would like them to be, and so forth. 

    Other applications include asking patients to rate nursing behaviors on a continuum of most helpful to least helpful or asking cancer patients to rate aspects of their treatment on a most distressing to least distressing dimension. The number of cards in a Q sort varies, but it is best to use at least 50 because it is difficult to achieve stable and reliable results with a smaller number. On the other hand, the task is tedious and difficult with more than 100 cards. 

Q Method and Qualitative Research 

    Q sorts have sometimes been used by qualitative researchers (Brown, 1996), but more often are analyzed statistically. The statistical analysis of Q-sort data is a somewhat controversial matter. Options range from the most elementary, descriptive statistical procedures, such as rank ordering, averages, and percentages, to highly complex procedures, such as factor analysis. 

    Factor analysis, a procedure designed to reveal the underlying dimensions or common elements in a set of items.. Some researchers insist that factor analysis is essential in the analysis of Q-sort data. Specific computer software ( Q method ) has been designed for analyzing Q-sort data (Brown, 1996). Q sorts can be constructed by researchers and tailored to the needs of specific studies, but there are also existing Q sorts. 

    The advantages of using a previously developed Q sort are that it is time-saving, provides opportunities for comparisons with other studies, and usually includes established information about data quality. An example of a widely used Q sort is the Child-Rearing Practices Report (CRPR), a 91-item Q sort that provides information about parenting behavior.

Evaluation of Q Methodology 

    Evaluation of Q Methodology Q methodology can be a powerful tool but, like other data collection techniques, has drawbacks as well. On the plus side, Q sorts are versatile and can be applied to a wide variety of problems. Q sorts can be an objective and reliable procedure for the intensive study of an individual. They have been used effectively to study the progress of people during different phases of therapy, particularly psychotherapy. 

    The requirement that individuals place a predetermined number of cards in each pile virtually eliminates response-set biases. Furthermore, sorting cards may be a more agreeable task to some people than completing a paper-and-pencil instrument. On the other hand, it is difficult and time consuming to administer Q sorts to large samples. 

    The sampling problem is compounded by the fact that Q sorts cannot normally be administered through the mail, thereby making it difficult to obtain a geographically diverse sample. 

    Some critics argue that the forced procedure of distributing cards according to researchers' specifications is artificial and excludes information about how people would ordinarily distribute their opinions. Another criticism of Q-sort data relates to permissible statistical operations. Most statistical tests assume that item responses are independent of one another. In a Likert scale, for example, a person's response to one item does not restrict responses to other items. 

    Techniques of this type yield normative measures, with which individual scores can be compared with average group scores. Q sorts are a forced-choice procedure: A person's response to one item depends on, and is restricted by, responses to other items.A respondent who has placed two cards in category 1 (“approve of least”) is not free to place another card in this category. 

    Such an approach produces ipsative measures. With ipsative measures, a group average is an irrelevant point of comparison because the average is identical for everyone. With the nine-category Q sort, the average value of the sorted cards will always be five. (The average of a particular item can be meaningfully computed and compared among individuals or groups, however.) 

    Strictly speaking, ordinary statistical tests are inappropriate with nonindependent ipsative measures. In practice, many researchers feel that the violation of assumptions in applying standard statistical procedures to Q-sort data is not a serious transgression, particularly if the number of cards is large.

Projective Techniques

    Self-report methods normally depend on respondents' willingness to share personal information, but projective techniques obtain psychological data with a minimum of cooperation. Projective techniques present participants with a stimulus of low structure, permitting them to “read in” their own interpretations and in this way provide researchers with information about their way of thinking. 

    The rational underlying these techniques is that the manner in which people react to unstructured stimuli is a reflection of their needs, motives, values, or personality traits. Projective methods give free play to participants' imagination by providing them with tasks that permit an almost unlimited variety of responses responses that are typically in narrative form but that are sometimes quantified. 

    Types of Projective Techniques Projective techniques are flexible because virtually any unstructured stimuli can be used to induce projections. One class of projective methods uses pictorial materials. The Rorschach ink blot test is an example of a pictorial projective device. Another example is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The TAT materials consist of 20 cards that contain pictures. 

    People are asked to make up a story for each picture, inventing an explanation of what led up to the event shown, what is happening at the moment, what the characters are feeling and thinking, and what kind of outcome will result. Examples of variables that have been derived from TAT-type pictures include need for affiliation, parent-child relationships, creativity, attitude toward authority, and fear of success.

Verbal projective techniques

    Verbal projective techniques present participants with an ambiguous verbal stimulus. Verbal methods include association techniques and completion techniques. An example of an association technique is the word-association method, which presents participants with a series of words, to which they respond with the first thing that comes to mind. 

    The word list often combines both neutral and emotionally tinged words, which are included for the purpose of detecting impaired thought processes or internal conflicts. The word-association technique has also been used to study creativity, interests, and attitudes. The most common completion technique is sentence completion. 

    The person is given a set of incomplete sentences and asked to complete them in any desired manner. This approach is frequently used as a method of measuring attitudes or some aspect of personality. Some examples of incomplete sentences include the following: When I think of a nurse, I feel.

    The thing I most admire about nurses is A good nurse should always.The sentence stems are designed to elicit responses toward some attitudinal object or event in which the investigator is interested. Responses are typically categorized or rated according to a prespecified plan. 

    A third class of projective measures is known as expressive methods. These techniques encourage self-expression, in most cases, through the construction of some product out of raw materials. The major expressive methods are play techniques, drawing and painting, and role-playing. The assumption is that people express their needs, motives, and emotions by working with or manipulating materials.

    Evaluation of Projective Measures Projective measures are fairly controversial. Critics point out that it is difficult to evaluate information from projective techniques objectively. A high degree of inference is required in gleaning data from projective tests, and data quality depends heavily on researchers' sensitivity and interpretive skill. 

    Critics suggest that researchers' interpretations of responses are almost as projective as participants' reactions to original stimuli Another problem with projective techniques is that it is difficult to demonstrate that they are, in fact, measuring the variables they purport to measure. If a pictorial device is scored for aggressive expressions, can researchers be confident that individual differences in aggressive responses really reflect underlying differences in aggressiveness? 

    Projective techniques also have supporters. Advocates argue that the techniques probe the unconscious mind, encompass the whole personality, and provide data of a breadth and depth unattainable by more traditional methods. Projective instruments are less susceptible to faking than self-report measures. 

    Also, it is often easier to build rapport and gain people's trust with projective measures than with a questionnaire or scale. Finally, some projective techniques are particularly useful with special groups, especially children.

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