Unit of analysis and unit of observation??

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    Malish C M

    It is general question..but its part of my thesis…I am little confused with unit of analysis…my thesis focuses on how engineering students from disadvantaged groups negotiate with demands of modern private industry for placement…is student or negotiating demands (what I am going to understand)) unit of analysis.


    Roger Gomm

    Students will be units of observation but since you are almost certainly going to be interested in some characteristics of students in addition to their disadvantaged status, this is a group which you will analyse into types, even if only classified as male or female. And of course by designating the students as disadvantaged you are presupposing an analysis of the category ‘student’ into those who are disadvantaged and those who are not, and presumably into degrees of (dis)advantage. Hence students will be both units of observation and units of analyis. You are going to observe their differential responses to placements (units of observation)- and since there will be a number of types of these you will analyse them into types – hence units of analysis. In combination, you will both observe and create through analysis, different types of students,adopting different ways of negotiating the demands of placements.

    It seems to me that you are worrying about a problem which you may not be facing, or perhaps not yet. This is a problem which arises when there is a serious mismatch between what is observable, and what are the categories constituting an analytical framework. For example if you introduced some formal theoretical framework into your study, for example, some notion of different students having different quanta of cultural capital relevant to negotating the placement situation, then you might have some difficulty in equating what you could observe with the categories of the analytical framework: how could you ‘observe’ different kinds and quanta of cultural capital ? Many, if not most, sociological theories at higher levels of abstraction entail problematic relationships between analytic categories and observable entities and hence make the distinction between units of observation and units of analysis a fraught one.

    (Although I doubt this is relevant to this particular query, it is worth noting that the distinction between analysis and observation breaks down under an ethnomethdological gaze inso far as it takes a great deal of analytic work to constitute an observation)

    Malish C M

    Thanks..In fact I am trying to understand how students of ex-untouchable castes negotiating cultural capital of information capitalism in india. In nut shell thesis will be looking at class – caste relationship…Since no capital exists in isolation I am trying locate cultural capital in relation with others.. social capital, symbolic capital and class backgrounds. My interviews with participants covered almost all aspects of negotiating institutionalised, embodied and objectified cultural capital…


    If you are comparing at the class level (e.g. mean level of social capital in lower versus middle class), then class is the level of analysis.
    But if you are comparing individual persons, with class as a variable (e.g. as a factor in succes), the analysis is at the individual level, I would say. So probably you are doing analyses both at the individual and the collectivity levels.

    Malish C M

    I am little confused with two level of analysis. My research question is how students belongs to ex untouchable castes negotiating cultural capital of information capitalism…Among the 15 participants I will analyse their class backgrounds and relative chance of success and failure (occupational and educational back ground of parents).

    So it means I will have two units of analysis and one unit of observation?


    hello everyone. I am presently conducting a preliminary survey on children below five for prevalence of anaemia. i have been given a task of collecting data on 40 household. But since m collecting data from mothers about their children’s dietary habits and deworming status, i was confused on what would be my unit of analysis? households as has been assigned to us or individual child?

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