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How to Use Q Methodology in Engineering Education Research

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 1

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Renee Desing The Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Renee Desing is currently a PhD Candidate at the Ohio State University in the Department of Engineering Education. Ms. Desing holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a M.S. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the Pennsylvania State University. Most recently, Ms. Desing worked as a managing consultant for IBM Public Sector Advanced Analytics.

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Rachel Louis Kajfez The Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rachel Louis Kajfez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Ohio State and earned her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests focus on the intersection between motivation and identity of undergraduate and graduate students, first-year engineering programs, mixed methods research, and innovative approaches to teaching.

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Graduate and undergraduate student researchers are continually learning and performing research methodologies as part of research assistantships or for independent theses and dissertations. Particularly in engineering education research, qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research methods are employed depending on the research study, and it is important for student researchers to have working knowledge of and practice using a variety of methodologies. To support the growth of student researchers, this “tricks of the trade” paper explains Q methodology, a mixed methods research methodology, and how it can be utilized in engineering education.

Q methodology is a social science research methodology focused on systematically studying subjectivity utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. The methodology is used to study how people think about a topic (e.g., their viewpoints, perspectives, or beliefs). As a convergent mixed methods design, Q methodology explains the quantitative results of a factor analysis using the qualitative findings from interview responses. The results of a Q methodology study are a set of subjective viewpoints, or factors, which represent the various ways of thinking regarding a specific topic or domain and explanations for those viewpoints. While Q methodology has had limited use in engineering education research to-date, it has a larger presence in education research more broadly. Example studies include undergraduate women’s perspectives on mathematics, undergraduate engineering students’ out-of-class activities, and construction engineering program assessment.

This paper details the history of Q methodology, when it is appropriate to use it as a research design within engineering education research, the components of the methodology, how to execute a Q methodology study, and how to analyze and interpret the results. A detailed example from a dissertation is provided for how Q methodology is currently being used to study the experiences of early career women engineers when they encounter gender-based challenges in the workplace. Ultimately, this paper demonstrates and promotes the strengths of Q methodology within engineering education research and provides student researchers actionable steps and knowledge to advance their research skills.

Desing, R., & Kajfez, R. L. (2020, June), How to Use Q Methodology in Engineering Education Research Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34737

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