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Q-sort As a Community Development Technique


[edit] Definition

Q-sort, also known as Quick Sort is defined as "A divide and conquer algorithm which relies on partition operations: to partition an array, we choose an element, called a pivot, move all smaller elements before the pivot, and move all greater elements after it. This can be done effectively in linear time and in place. We then recursively sort the lesser and greater sub-lists. Efficient implementations of quicksort (with in-place partitioning) are typically unstable sorts and somewhat complex, but are among the fastest sorting algorithms in practice. Together with its modest O(nlogn) space usage, this makes quicksort one of the most sorting algorithms, available in many standard libraries. The most complex issue in quicksort is choosing a good pivot element; consistently poor choices of pivots can result in drastically slower (O(n2)) performance, but if at each step we choose the median as the pivot then it works in O(nlogn)". [1]

An algorithum as referred to in the above definition is "A set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as for finding the greatest common divisor." [2]

A Pivot as again refered to in the above definition od Q-Sort is "the middle/medium point or fulcrum". [3]

Q-Sort in a Community is used to assist small or large groups to identify and prioritize common consensus, option and priorities. [4]

As a group, we decided on a definition of Q-sort that does not involve as much mathematics, which is an effective way to rank and organize items quickly into the importance of the item from least important to most important.

[edit] Background Information and History of Q-Sort

Q-sort was designed as part of Q-methodology which is "A way to study points of view on a specific topic by using factor analysis to reveal different perspectives in the form of factors" [5] Q-sort and Q-Methodology was invented in 1935 by William Stevenson whom had a PhD in both Psychology and Physics, and he invented the technique becuase he believed that peoples thoughts could be scientifically explored using a mathematical equation, which was O(nlogn). [6] Traditionally the technique is used for allowing brainstorming to occur, and then sort them into the order of importance. [7] It is used to visually represent the importance of statements, and then have them displayed for the participating members of the study or community see in a more verbal way.[8] Q-Sort is also used as it is a fast and effective way to reach desired outcomes. [9]

The problem that it helps address in Community Recreation is virtually anything a recreation practitioner wants to explore. It best addresses a problem by collecting as many differences as possible, and allowing patterns and attitudes to be explored and then based on the data an educated decision can be made, and all members in the community have a chance to participate in the exploration, and discussions to have their opinions heard.

[edit] Application of Q-Sort

When should your technique be used?

Q-Sort should be used when doing qualitative research of people’s opinions, attitudes or beliefs. It starts with one questions the researcher is trying to answer, and allows participants to rank their opinion of statements. With a collection of sample answers the researcher is able to then understand similar opinions of participants. (Dr. Garret Huttson) Who should use it? A researcher should use this with a specific sample group (i.e not random). These participants should have a variety of opinions regarding the topic. This is to ensure that there will be different outcomes for the ranking of statements to allow a wide range of responses. [10]

Who should it be used with?

Q-Sort can be used with anyone who may have a strong opinion about a topic. Usually a sample will include no more than 40 participants and this is to avoid results being too different and not being able to identify a relation in answers.[11]

When has the technique been used?

Q-Sort was originally created for research done in psychology. Since it was first created it has also been used in the three following ways:

1. In outdoor recreation research to study “how forest management techniques influenced preferences and changes in recreational use over a 20 year period.

2. In Canadian university outdoor education programs, which studied the differences in education in two different countries.

3. In 2008 it was used to study the safety in mountaineering

[edit] Procedure of Q-Sort

Step by Step Procedure

Step 1: Group identifies multiple issues through brainstorming

Step 2: The group weighs or sorts each item depending on its importance

Step 3: Leader records issues in two columns most important and least important.

Step 4: The group takes items in most important column and sorts again into most and least important (repeat 2 or 3 times until desired outcomes)

The step by step procedure consists of four steps. The first step is to identify multiple issues through brainstorming. This step is very important to make sure the statements are relevant to the participants. The second step was for the group to weigh or sort each of the items depending on its importance. The participant will do this individually and record their opinions. The third step is for the leader to record the issues in two columns, most important and least important which in some cases may have a neutral column however, is not always necessary. The final step, step four was to take the items from the most important column and sort it again into most and least important which you can repeat 2 or three times until the desired outcome is met. This step is completely dependent on the outcome the researcher is looking for.

Here are the links of the two youtube videos that we showed in class;

Simpson's Video (French Version)

Bar Example of Q-sort (74seconds to finish)

[edit] Strengths of Q-Sort

Q-sort research is a great technique for exploring and studying attitudes. The most recognized strength of q-sort methodology is its means of extracting subjectivity. According Brown, “it is life as lived from the standpoint of the person living it that is typically passed over by quantitative procedures and it is subjectivity in this sense that Q methodology is designed to examine."[12] One of the reasons Q-sort is able to extract subjectivity is by use of ranking. The use of ranking, rather than asking subjects to rate their agreement with statements individually, is meant to capture the idea that people think about ideas in relation to other ideas, rather than in isolation.[13] Q-sort allows people`s opinions to all be treated equally. “Subjectivity is everywhere, from the loftiest philosophizing and diplomatic negotiating to the street talk of the juvenile gang and the self-talk of the daydreamer, and it is the purpose of Q methodology to enable the person to represent his or her vantage point for purposes of holding it constant for inspection and comparison.”[14]

One of the main strengths of Q-sort is that it is very versatile. Brown argues that there is no other method or theory which matches Q methodology's versatility or reach, and which comports so well with the principles and concepts of contemporary science.[15] Another advantage of Q-sort is that it is often faster in practice than other O(nlog n) algorithms.[16] After conducing our q-sort data collection, we found that that q-sort’s data organization layout made it very easy for one to interpret the data. We found that q-sort allows one to more effectively identify patterns when analyzing data allowing for one to make decisions more effectively.

[edit] Limitations of Q-Sort

Limitations of Q-Sort Methodology include the following:

Q-Sort is more valuable when focusing on a topic of interest using a small participant size. Another weakness is that some participant’s opinions may not be able to be heard during the session. Q-Sort is not a perfect process and may be dominated by a few people. The sessions require excellent facilitation skills. As well, it is best if its two facilitators used during the Q-Sort method. [17]

[edit] Implementation Tips of Q-Sort

A few successful tips for implmentation of the Q-Sort technique include such as having a group of participants with strong opinions of the topic, choose a topic that has a wide variety of statements which allows every participants opinion to be included. Other tips include making the topic relavent to the participants interests to maximuize accuracy in the results, as well as keeping it interesting as the process will go smoother if are participants are actively engaged.

[edit] References

Brown, S.R. (1996). Q methodology and qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research. 6: 561-567

Brown, S.R. (1995). Q methodology as the foundation for a science of subjectivity. Operant Subjectivity, 18, 1–16.

Brown, S.R. (1997). The history and principles of Q methodology in psychology and the social sciences. Department of Political Science, Kent State University, Kent, OH. Available:

Excel, J.V. & Graaf, G.D. (2005). Q methodology: A sneak preview. Available from

Hutson, G., Montgomery, D., & Caneday, L. (2010). Perceptions of Outdoor Recreation Professionals Toward Place Meanings In Natural Environments: A Q Method Inquiry. Journal of Leisure Research, 42(3), pp. 417-442. Retrieved from: EBSCOhost.

Hutson, G., 2011, October 13th, Q-Sort Interview. Application Component.

Pippard, J. L. & Bjorklund, R. W. (2003). Identifying Essential Techniques for Social Work Community Practice. Journal of Community Practice, 11(4), pp. 101-116. doi: 10.1300/J125v11n04_06

Skiena, S.S. (2008). The algorithm design manual- second edition. Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008.

[edit] External Links

Here are four further video clips from youtube, that can further your understanding of the Q-Sort Techniques:

GREAT Number Q-Sort Example

Card Demonstration

Q-sort Demo (59seconds to 1 min 10 seconds)

Q-sorting the way our pres works

[edit] Authors

Jodi Alexander, Anthony Budhwani, Nicole Caringi, Erin Leslie, Tshing Kasamba, and Lacey Smith

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