Q methodology: is it useful for accounting research?



Publication Details

Massingham, P., Massingham, R. & Diment, K. (2012). Q methodology: is it useful for accounting research?. Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management, 9 (1), 66-88.


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the usefulness of Q Methodology for business research, as an alternative technique for accounting researchers.

Design/methodology/approach - Q Methodology is an innovative technique that provides quantitative structure to individuals' opinions via factor analysis. The authors present the results of a case study where Q Methodology was used to examine attitudes towards an on‐line wiki, a Technology Encyclopaedia (TE), amongst 35 engineers and technical employees at a manufacturing company. Management wanted to understand whether employees were willing to embrace social conversational technology as a way of sharing knowledge. The aim of the case study is to demonstrate how Q Methodology works in a practical setting. The authors also examine a published journal article to assess how Q Methodology might be used to enhance accounting research.

Findings - The results show that Q Methodology may provide advantages in data gathering (less respondent burden), data analysis (deeper insight into respondent sub‐conscious), and results (better respondent "ownership" of organisational problems and solutions). However, it also has weaknesses in terms of managerial application.

Research limitations/implications - A limitation is that the discussion is based on a single case study.

Practical implications - When working with an industry partner, researchers may need to consider a more positivist approach and be prepared to explain context behind the statements.

Originality/value - Q Methodology appears to offer most value as a data gathering technique. It may also be used to capture respondents' subconscious views on a topic. While the limited time involved will be attractive to practitioners, there is also the potential benefit of increasing respondents' awareness and understanding of the topic under investigation (i.e. action research), enhancing change management and other sensitive organizational issues.

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