What is analysis ? – Synaps source code


  • What is analysis ? – Synaps source code
    Peter Harling


    ANALYSIS IS AN ODDLY VAGUE CONCEPT, given how central it is to our lives. There are many ordinary things we could not do without it. It would be dangerous to drive or cross the street without analysing the tangle of moving objects, road signs and weather conditions that inform our movements. The concept pervades virtually every field: Chemistry, mathematics, syntax, finance, journalism, and psychology all hinge on analysis. Such diversity makes it difficult to pin down: Can a blood test and a thesis in political science have anything in common? It will take a few analytic steps to prove it.
    Dictionaries tend to define analysis as one of two things. On one hand, the word refers to a process of examining an object to achieve a better understanding of it. On the other, it denotes the outcomes of such a process—the judgment or opinion we eventually form about that object. Such definitions hardly help, because they don’t tell us how to reach such conclusions. At the other extreme, social science manuals, for instance, usually confuse us with excessive methodological detail. The truth is that good sociological analysis is at least as much about instinct and experience as it is about rigorous methodology. Ultimately, most researchers just learn to analyse on the job.
    It is useful, however, to see that analysis proceeds in five stages. First, one must break the subject into its constituent parts. Any topic can be divided into subtopics, sub-subtopics and so on. A diplomatic crisis, for example, will involve at least two countries, whose officials have different views, which in turn are informed by a range of domestic, foreign and even personal factors. A speech can be broken into several themes, which in turn are held up by certain facts, views, or lies. The unemployment rate, for its part, may be split up by year, socioeconomic class and geography. The breakdown serves the essential function of producing distinct, descriptive categories containing data points: a network of players, a string of arguments, or a set of statistics.

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