Unit(s) of analysis: what do you mean?

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    Dear All,

    I have a question: How do you account for unit(s) of analysis in your research?

    My research is about analysing the implementation of a health promotion intervention in a birthing center.

    The Center is situated in a university hospital. Some decisions taken by the hospital have an impact on

    the  Center’s intervention and on employees and patients’ relationships and perceptions.

    So, I would like to know whether my unit of analysis is:

    1. only the Center as an organization or;
    2. the hospital (macro unit) plus the Center (meso)  plus people relationships resulting from the organizational change (micro) or;
    3. The intervention itself? or
    4. something else.

    Thanks for your help,



    Dear Iynda,

    the unit of analysis is often understood as what is scored in your analysis. In research on welfare state spending of OECD countries, most people would say that the countries are the units of analysis. In your study, I would say the situation is less clear because your case – implementation of a health promotion intervention in a birthing center in a specific university – involves multiple levels. My reading is (which I explain in more detail in chapter 5 of my book Case Studies and Causal Inference) that there is not a single unit in your research (and in empirical research more generally). You could say that the hospital is the unit, or the center, or the intervention, or some other feature of your case. You can simply call the unit of analysis what you find most important about your case.

    I hope this helps



    Dear Ingo.

    Thank you for your clarification. Indeed, I read in Yin’s book (Case studies) that I could have one case and multiple units of analysis. I will read the reference you gave to have a better insight on this and I will come back to you, if you don’t mind. But is the book accessible somewhere online or do I have to buy it?
    Thank you,



    In principle, you have fulltext access on the publisher’s website, Google books and Amazon US, though I do not know whether the pages in question are covered. Just have a try.

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