Statistical methodology: VII. Q-methodology, a structural analytic approach to medical subjectivity

Acad Emerg Med. 1998 Oct;5(10):1032-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1998.tb02786.x.


Q-methodology is a relatively unknown tool to medical researchers, that uses a mixed quantitative/qualitative statistical technique known as by-person factor analysis to study subjectivity. Q-methodology allows the grouping of individuals according to their subjective feelings about a topic, without requiring preconceived ideas regarding the structure of those subjective feelings. Q-methodology is demonstrated using a study in which attitudes of emergency medicine residents toward computer education are explored systematically and classified in terms of statistically distinct factor viewpoints. In this example, Q-methodology identifies 4 attitude groups, as related to computers and computer education: 1) interested, eager to learn; 2) frustrated and interested, but with reservations; 3) interested mainly in benefits, willing to expend minimal effort; and 4) knowledgeable, independent learner. Q-methodology can be used to determine the structure of attitudes on a subjective topic, often yielding new insights.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Teaching Materials*