Combining participatory mapping with Q-methodology to map stakeholder perceptions of complex environmental problems

John Martin Forrester, Brian Cook, Louise Bracken, Steve Cinderby, Andrew Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is readily accepted that understanding socio-environmental challenges requires consideration of multiple stakeholder perspectives and knowledge claims. But a largely ignored question is ‘how best to analyse those competing perspectives and claims?’. This paper explores the development of one GIS-based methodology – and reports on its application – to understand and map stakeholder knowledge. We find that combining Q-methodology with participatory mapping helps to overcome a significant problem in social engagement: representing the unclear connection between what people say or do and their underlying attitudes, values or beliefs. The paper is based on a reflexive engagement with flood management and natural adaptive capacity in the Scottish-English Borderlands. The paper confirms how such topics can benefit from an appreciation of the wide range of stakeholders' positions, as well as the underlying beliefs informing those positions. Most importantly, we provide an account of our methodology, offering a template for others interested in unpacking complex socio-environmental issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-208
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Geography
Early online date23 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • GIS
  • Flood management
  • Wicked problems
  • Mixed-methods
  • Participation
  • Q-method

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