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Beyond Bias? The Promise and Limits of Q Method in Human Geography

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Q method is a quantitative technique for eliciting, evaluating, and comparing human subjectivity. We introduce the method here and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, especially with regards to its incorporation into human geographic research. We conclude that Q method is particularly appropriate for human geographies informed by anti-essentialist notions of the subject and constructivist accounts of social and natural reality. Claims by the founders of Q method that hold that the procedure distances and removes the bias of the researcher are shown to be unfounded and epistemologically naïve. Nevertheless, Q method is a rigorous, hermeneutic, and iterative technique that allows the researcher to surrender the monopoly of control in their relationship with the researched and so contribute to more democratic research design and implementation.

Keywords: categories; qualitative methodology; quantitative methodology; reflexivity; subjectivity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ohio State University, 2: Clark University

Publication date: November 1, 2000


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