One of the important ideas in a research is the units of analysis. It is the main entity that a researcher analyzes in his study. The individuals or objects whose characteristics will be measured are classified as the units of analysis. They may be persons, groups of persons, businesses, inanimate objects, transactions, monetary units, or just about objects or activity a person can name are the examples of unit of analysis in research methodology.
Figure: Examples of Unit of Analysis in Research
For example, consider the selection of units, think about a company of small electric engines who wants to determine the extent to which its prospective clients know the company exists. The potential clients are basically business entities. But the units of the universe may be thought as purchasing divisions, manufacturing divisions, engineering sections, or certain people within one or more departments. Again we come to all the pervasive question of what alternative actions are being taken into consideration by the company. When it comes to these actions, who should be aware of the company’s existence? Is the company considering specific acts that may possibly improve awareness levels for certain groups? These are the basic forms of questions that needs to be considered in specifying the appropriate units of analysis.
Allow me to go a step further. Is each and every unit, however defined, equally important? Or does importance differs with the buying power of the prospective consumer? If purchasing power is the critical item, one approach is to use the units as established by the prior thought pattern and to weight each by the buying ability of the entity it represents. With this particular approach, no difficulty or complexity is introduced in the definition of the universe, but a complexity needs to be introduced later in the processing.
As an alternative, the basic unit of analysis could possibly be defined in terms of transactions instead of terms of prospective customers. With purchasers as units, the universe is made up of persons, groups of persons, or business organizations. With transactions as units, the universe is made up of activities as the focus of interest. Generally, in research, we want to categorize or measure the units in accordance to some qualities. Once more we see the interdependence of research decisions: the selection of universe units is best identified only in conjunction with what is to be measured.
Is the company enthusiastic about obtaining the number of clients who are aware of the its existence? Or is the company more worried about the percentage of the purchases in the market place in which the customer is aware (or unaware) of its existence? The same type of comparison could well be needed if level of awareness were measured; here it might be average level of awareness of purchasers versus average level per transaction.