[Air-l] Unit of analysis

Alex Halavais halavais at gmail.com
Wed Apr 6 20:38:30 PDT 2005

The appropriate unit of analysis is not related to the possible world
of exposure for a model reader (or I should say "need not be"), but is
instead related to your research question. You are correct in noting
that the web, as an object of study, requires more care be taken in
defining the unit of analysis, if only because there is not a deep
tradition of research or of information design to fall back on.

In analyzing newspaper text, for example, a researcher can refer to an
article or paragraph and be assured that others will comprehend what
he or she is measuring. Perhaps the only similar measure for the web
is the "page," though even this can be problematic given the dynamic
nature of the web. It is therefore vital that any examination of web
content explicitly define the unit of analysis.

That the web is assembled and structured through hyperlinks is, I
think, not particularly important; interesting, yes, but not a
limiting factor. Books, newspapers, television and conversation are
also structured in various ways and bound together with glue and
citations and other structural stuff.

The question comes first, and both the unit and the method of analysis
follows that question, I think.


// Alexander Halavais
// Graduate Director of Informatics
// University at Buffalo School of Informatics
// contact info: http://alex.halavais.net

More information about the Air-L mailing list