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Methodological Pluralism in Theory and in Practice: The Case for Q in the Community

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In this article, we discuss the issue of methodological pluralism in qualitative research and in particular the case of Q methodology. Q methodology occupies an interesting position in arguments around methodological pluralism in that its location within qualitative (as well as quantitative) traditions has often been represented as a contestable issue. To contextualise our exploration of qualitative methodological pluralism, we will begin by presenting the theoretical questions we see as relevant to the mixing of Q method with other qualitative methods, including Q's own contested positioning within this grouping. This strand of our argument highlights continuities between some conceptualisations of the pattern analytics of Q methodology and discursive and thematic analysis. To ground this point, we present an empirical study that used both Q methodology and thematic analysis to address an issue in the community. More specifically, we will describe how Q methodology and thematic analysis were used to approach the evaluation of a programme to reduce recidivism amongst offenders and thus offer practical solutions in an applied setting. We will conclude by reflecting on the possibilities of pluralism when methodological boundaries are understood as mobile, and when stability of boundary construction is conceptualised as relationally produced rather than pre-existing.
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Keywords: Q methodology; methodological pluralism; multiagency; offender rehabilitation; thematic analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Northampton, UK 2: The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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