Q‐analysis is a methodology for investigating a wide range of structural phenomena. Structures are defined in terms of relations between members of sets and their salient features are revealed using techniques of algebraic topology. However, the basic method can be mastered by non‐mathematicians. Q‐analysis has been applied to problems as diverse as discovering the rules for the diagnosis of a rare disease and the study of tactics in a football match. Other applications include some of interest to librarians and information scientists. In bibliometrics, Q‐analysis has proved capable of emulating techniques such as bibliographic coupling, co‐citation analysis and co‐word analysis. It has also been used to produce a classification scheme for television programmes based on different principles from most bibliographic classifications. This paper introduces the basic ideas of Q‐analysis. Applications relevant to librarianship and information science are reviewed and present limitations of the approach described. New theoretical advances including some in other fields such as planning and design theory and artificial intelligence may lead to a still more powerful method of investigating structure.
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