Q Sorting with Non-Reading Participants: Some Effective Adaptations to the Q- Methodological Workflow
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As a participatory method combining qualitative and quantitative aspects, Q methodology has proven effective in academic as well as “practice- based” research and can be especially valuable in work with Indigenous groups and people who are in weak power positions. However, non-reading populations have often been excluded because procedures for sorting written statements often disqualified them. In cooperation with a Maasai research assistant and research participants in Northern Tanzania, I engaged in an approach through which participants who do not read rank ordered 42 written statements relative to each other, showing remarkable consistency when asked control questions. Thus, their perspectives regarding abstract concepts were made explicit and comparable to each other and to those who are literate. I discuss the involved extensions to the regular Q-sorting process, which can help researchers to acquire systematic insights into the worldviews of individuals or groups who are not proficient in reading. The approach in which they are embedded is valuable more widely when dealing with cultural and power disparities in Q research, underlining the importance of empathic and trusting researcher-participant relationships in a time when Covid-19 and calls for cognitive justice are impacting research designs.