Q-methodology: an alternative approach to research in nurse education

Nurse Educ Today. 2008 Nov;28(8):917-25. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2008.05.010. Epub 2008 Jun 24.


An understanding of student experiences and perspectives are central to the delivery of quality nurse education programmes; implicit with this is a need to understand the attributes and characteristics of such individuals, their subjectivity. Traditional such inquiry has taken the form of questionnaires or interviews and focus groups. Q-methodology is offered as an alternative approach which provides insight into, and a method for studying, individual subjectivity through the use of factor analysis. Within Q-methodology, individuals are asked to rank-order (Q-sort) statements, which are then intercorrelated and subjected to factor analysis. In this way groups of individuals holding similar expressed subjectivities are identified. The factors are interpreted to provide an understanding of underlying subjectivities. This paper explores the theoretical underpinnings of Q-methodology and its application as a research method in the field of nurse education, providing a brief illustration of its use in mental health nurse education.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Nursing Education Research / methods*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Psychiatric Nursing / education
  • Psychiatric Nursing / organization & administration
  • Psychology, Educational
  • Q-Sort*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*