I'm looking to run a card sort to help gain understanding of how people would group & categorise courses. I currently have a list of 142 courses. I'm worried that the list is too long and participants will not complete the task. I could break it down and randomly surface say 50 different titles to sort for each participant, but would this skew the results?

  • How many participants will be taking part in the card sort? (this may have an impact on the ability to break the task down)
    – Whitingx
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 9:51
  • We're going to start with a sample of 40 people then expand to a further 100. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 10:16
  • Thanks @dereck - in that case I'd see no issue with breaking this task down.
    – Whitingx
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 10:20
  • Is this a physical card sort or will you be using some program that will hopefully make it easier for the participants?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 23:45

2 Answers 2


You could use the Delphi method:

In this approach, the first participant creates an initial sort, and then the remaining participants review and modify that sort. This imposes a much lower mental load on the remaining participants, rendering a sort of 200+ items a much more tractable proposition (in theory).

Ref: Card Sorting using the Delphi Method

It's an alternative supported by Donna Spencer who wrote the Card Sorting Book.

enter image description here

  • 1
    An interesting technique, thanks for sharing that link. I wonder if having an initial sort could lead to response bias from the remaining participants. Something to be aware of perhaps?
    – Whitingx
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:49

Breaking the card sort down into random groups of ~50 course titles shouldn't skew the results.

Bearing in mind the average times taken to complete a card sort exercise based on number of items;


you could be looking at 1-2 hours for the participants to complete the exercise. The potential drop-off in participant engagement over this time would have more of a negative effect on your data then you would get by breaking the task down.

Hope this helps.

  • The time to sort is one of my concerns. A quick test with a couple of people highlighted this. I think I'm going to run with the random 50 items. Thanks for the link too. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 11:11
  • No problem :) glad it proved useful
    – Whitingx
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 12:55

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