Structuring involved two distinct tasks, the sorting and rating of the brainstormed statements. For the sorting (Rosenberg and Kim, 1975; Weller and Romney, 1988), each participant was given a listing of the statements laid out in mailing label format with twelve to a page and asked to cut the listing into slips with one statement (and its identifying number) on each slip. They were instructed to group the ninety-six statement slips into piles "in a way that makes sense to you." The only restrictions in this sorting task were that there could not be: (a) N piles (in this case 96 piles of one item each); (b) one pile consisting of all 96 items; or (c) a "miscellaneous" pile (any item thought to be unique was to be put in its own separate pile). Weller and Romney (1988) point out why unstructured sorting (in their terms, the pile sort method) is appropriate in this context:

The outstanding strength of the pile sort task is the fact that it can accommodate a large number of items. We know of no other data collection method that will allow the collection of judged similarity data among over 100 items. This makes it the method of choice when large numbers are necessary. Other methods that might be used to collect similarity data, such as triads and paired comparison ratings, become impractical with a large number of items (p. 25).

After sorting the statements, each participant recorded the contents of each pile by listing a short pile label and the statement identifying numbers on a sheet that was provided. For the rating task, the brainstormed statements were listed in questionnaire form and each participant was asked to rate each statement on a 5-point Likert-type response scale in terms of the relative importance of each competency as stated above. Because participants were unlikely to brainstorm statements that were totally unimportant with respect to PSR, it was stressed that the rating should be considered a relative judgment of the importance of each item to all the other items brainstormed.

This concluded the structuring session.

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Copyright 1996, William M.K. Trochim