Question 1: What is meant by ‘factor analysis’? What is its function here?

Factor analysis is a method to investigate the latent or underlying variables, which cannot be observed directly, but which predict the values of, usually many more, observed. We take the correlations between the observed variables, here the answers to the questions, and use these to find groups of questions which are correlated together. These may enable us to estimate the value of the unobserved factor.

Factor analysis has three main functions: to decide whether the scale is measuring one thing, or more than one related thing, to help to decide what is the nature of the thing being measured, and to reduce the number of dimensions of a set of variables. Here it is being used to determine the number of underlying factors to which the questions relate and to label these factors.

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Last updated: 5 March, 2007.