The Q Oracle Method

Developed by Götz Kaufmann

The Q Oracle method was developed for the purpose of the CC-VISAGES project. Its applicability ranges much further. The method is not limited to its primary scope of climate change.

It is a new method mix that helps both policy analysists and policy makers to find solutions for good governance. Combining two established methods, Q Methodology and Delphi Techniques, the method allows for transforming qualitative information from the involved stakeholders into measurable data.

The name was chosen based on its two components of Q and Delphi. Since the Delphi Technique method got its referencing name (although controversial) from the ancient world wonder of The Pythia (better known as the Oracle of Delphi), the combination with the Q from Q Methodology (as distinguishing from R statistics, also controversial) was chosen to honor the method's roots. The method is capable to reveal the discourse differences within the field (e.g. community) and test the possibility of consensus. Moreover, the method is able to provide a possible consensus or reveal the unresolved controversial aspects of a dispute.

Q Oracle analyses ideal-typical discourse differences in the field by statistical means and then tests the possibility of consensus.

Herewith, the method shows which arguments are going together with which other argument. Unlike classical surveys that can tell something about what a group of persons is thinking about a topic, Q Oracle draws connections between statements. The method provides answers to the question of what goes with what, and not who goes with whom as large surveys do. The existing discourses are inferred by the inverted bell curve. (cf. Kaufmann/Hurtienne 2011)

Based on the existing discourses, the method allows for distilling the discourse differences by statistical means. The discourse differences are found in the different degree of acceptance or disagreement regarding single statements by the experts.

The experts are then asked to discuss these differences in an anonymous and monitored manner. The Kendall W coefficient of concordance will tell whether a formal consensus can be achieved. The commentaries will give the monitoring team the information that are needed to interpret both the process of discussion and remaining open issues.

Final counselling will then rely on empirical data that can even be mapped by the geographic position of the participants. Ethic issues or issues of data privacy don't occur since the research focus is the opinion and not the person itself that provides the information.


Kaufmann, G. and T. Hurtienne. 2011. Inglehart's World Value Survey and Q Methodology. Journal of Human Subjectivity, 9(2) Winter :41-69. Download article here