Q-sort Methodology - the systematic study of participant viewpoints in Social Research






Q-sort methodology, Data analysis methodology, Data collection procedures, Human perspectives, Social research.


In social sciences research there are instruments made up of questions and that aim to ascertain opinions, behaviors and attitudes, aim to find out how the person would act in a given situation, instead of putting the person to the test. Although there are no right or wrong answers, there is a tendency to respond in a socially acceptable way, even if the answer does not correspond to reality. This problem can be circumvented through the Q-sort methodology that combines quantitative and qualitative data and analytical techniques that are not present in other methods. In this way, it consists of presenting participants with a set of statements on a given topic and asking them to classify them according to their opinion, according to a predefined distribution, which, in general, is approximately normal. This methodology forces participants to distribute the score among the items on the scale, thus avoiding the constraints associated with social desirability and the tendency to respond in the same way or always through the midpoint to different questions. Another advantage is that it provides linearity and near-normality to the scale, which makes it possible to compare subjects more easily with each other. Notwithstanding its advantages, Q-sort methodology also has negative points because forced-choice measures produce ipsative data that lead to distorted scales and problematic psychometric properties. As the data are obtained by ordering a set of items or by forcefully choosing one item over another, it is impossible to reach very high or very low values on all scales, which gives rise to a large number of negative values that, in turn, they result in an average correlation between the scales, which is also negative. In view of the above, it was considered pertinent to review the research carried out on the q-sort methodology, presenting its main advantages and disadvantages.

Author Biographies

Paula Lopes, Lusofona University-CICANT

Paula Lopes, has a PHD in Communication and Advertising from Spanish Extremadura University, and is a full Professor in Lusófona University and Course coordinator in ISG. Paula is university Professor since 1999 and course coordinator since 2015. She’s a researcher in CICANT - - Centre for Research in Applied Communication, Culture, and New Technologies, and the main research areas are Marketing, Brands, Social Networks and Advertising.

Rosa Rodrigues, Instituto Superior de Gestão

PhD in Management, specialization in Human Resources and Organizational Behavior from ISCTE-IUL. Professor at the Instituto Superior de Gestão – Economics & Business School where teaches in the Bachelor and Master degrees. Research areas include organizational behaviour, human resource management, work and organizational psychology, psychological evaluation, soft skills, and test construction and validation.

Miguel Varela, Instituto Superior de Gestão

Miguel Varela, PhD in Economics and aggregate title in Business Economics, is full professor in Instituto Superior de Gestão (ISG) since 2010. He has been a university professor since 1994  in private and public universities. Research areas include organizational management. He holds an aggregate title in Business Economics (2008) and a PhD in Economics (2004).