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date: 06 May 2021

Q Methodology in Public Administration: State of the Artlocked

  • José NederhandJosé NederhandDepartment of Public Administration and Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  •  and Astrid MolenveldAstrid MolenveldDepartment of Public Administration and Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Summary

Q methodology is an approach well suited to identifying and comparing patterns of similarity and differences in people’s viewpoints. The method systematically maps perceptions—including which elements of the perceptions are shared or unique. Q methodology originated in psychology, but it has been widely applied in multiple disciplines. The approach has also increasingly gained ground in public administration, in which studying perceptions, attitudes, and related biases is of key importance. William Stephenson, one of the founders of the method, developed Q methodology in order to be able to study persons as a complex whole, instead of just their characteristics, which is common among statistical methods.

Unraveling the multiplicity of debates and perceptions is very useful for informing and evaluating the practice of public administration researchers and practitioners. By providing systematic insight into clusters of perceptions surrounding a specific topic, Q methodology allows researchers to develop new concepts and to advance the (existing) literature. For practitioners, the method is particularly suited for describing societal and political debates and practices, for designing governance and policy interventions, and for evaluating the implementation of policy programs.

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