Sociology Index

UNIT OF ANALYSIS

The things that researchers are comparing or examining are referred to as the units of analysis, or the units to be analyzed. Social research looks for patterns when comparing ‘things’ one to another. The most frequent unit of analysis is the individual, suggesting that researchers look for patterns among a collection of individuals. Research can also be conducted in which a pattern is sought among a collection of groups; the group would be the unit of analysis. For example, like Durkheim, one might try to determine what social factors are linked to the variation in suicide rates among nations or regions. One can also look for patterns among things like newspaper stories, advertisements, a category of social interaction, social events, or speech utterances. In this case the unit of analysis would be what Earl Babbie has called social artifacts.

In Search of `the Appropriate' Unit of Analysis for Sociocultural Research
Eugene Matusov, University of Delaware, Culture & Psychology, Vol. 13, No. 3, 307-333 (2007)
The polysemic notion of `unit of analysis' has been developed by Gestalt psychologists and fruitfully used by Vygotsky in the struggle against reductionism in psychology. Currently, it has been appropriated by a sociocultural approach for criticizing cognitive approaches for using the `individual as unit of analysis'. In this article, I argue that a sociocultural approach is experiencing a crisis as it is being affected by holism—a tendency to include the universal whole in the studied phenomenon. I propose and discuss alternatives to reductionism and holism for a sociocultural approach.

The Couple Versus the Spouse as the Unit of Analysis in Marital Research. Revised.
Honeycutt, James M.; Norton, Robert W.- Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association (Boston, MA, May 2-5, 1982).
Abstract: A brief narrative description of the journal article, document, or resource.     Traditionally the unit of analysis in marital research has been the individual spouse. Using scores as the unit of analysis in a study of marital happiness and communicator images among 40 married couples, it is evident that the dispersion score can reveal an effect for the degree of a couple's agreement on marital happiness and not the level of happiness. The reporting of individual and couples' scores when a couple's analysis is used is often needed in order to give a full picture of the couple's agreement on the criterion variable and their rank on the criterion. However, in some situations depending on the exact research question, a summation score or dispersion score may solely be used.

City Markets as a Unit of Analysis in Audit Research and the Re-examination of Big 6 Market Shares - Jere R. Francis, Donald J. Stokes, Don Anderson, Abacus, Vol 35, No 2, 1999
Abstract: Big 6 audit market shares based on aggregate national data have been used in prior research to infer market leadership and industry expertise, and to differentiate Big 6 accounting firms from one another. In this study it is demonstrated that further differences exist with respect to city-specific audit markets, both between firms and within the same firm across different city markets. The specific finding is that the national market leader is not the city-specific market leader the vast majority of time. Usefulness of the city-level unit of analysis is further demonstrated by re-examining the 1989 mergers creating the accounting firms Ernst & Young and Deloitte Touche.

Units of analysis in task-analytic research - T G Haring and C H Kennedy
Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106.
J Appl Behav Anal. 1988 Summer; 21(2): 207–215. 1988.21-207.
Abstract: We develop and discuss four criteria for evaluating the appropriateness of units of analysis for task-analytic research and suggest potential alternatives to the units of analysis currently used. Of the six solutions discussed, the most commonly used unit of analysis in current behavior analytic work, percentage correct, meets only one of the four criteria. Five alternative units of analysis are presented and evaluated.