A Guidance Book for Lawyers, Legislators and Regulators
Thinking about the ‘units of analysis’ is an important task in empirical research; units of analysis include individuals, groups, families, officials, organizations, municipalities, courts, prisons, but also contracts, wills, guidelines, protocols and verdicts. Once the units of analysis have been selected, the next question is: who (or what) is in the unit? Are all courts within a country selected or just a sample? Is it a sample of victims under 25 or over 65, or is it the complete demographic spectrum? Are all the documents found in registers and dossiers on procurement fraud the units of analysis, or a sample from those that are less than three years old? When a population is sufficiently large, one can work with samples. If the sample is selected randomly and high-quality data collection methods are used (see below; and Chapter 8), statistical techniques to infer information about the broader population (inferential statistics) can be used. Sampling may look simple, but ‘is perhaps the messiest part of inferential empirical work’.As sampling is strongly related to the statistical analysis of data, in Chapter 8 we will discuss more in depth (statistical) aspects of sampling. Often complicated, and also dangerously messy, is the operationalization of central concepts of the study into variables that can be measured. Concepts (also known as constructs) are generalizable properties or characteristics associated with objects, events or people (Whetten, 1989; Bhattacherjee, 2012: 26–8).
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