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A unit of observation is an object about which information is collected. Researchers base conclusions on information that is collected and analyzed, so using defined units of observation in a survey or other study helps to clarify the reasonable conclusions that can be drawn from the information collected.

An example of a unit of observation is an individual person. Other examples include a family or a neighborhood.

A survey or other type of study can involve many different levels of units of observation. For example, the U.S. Census 2000 used a hierarchical arrangement to describe the units of observation about which it collected information. These units range from “United States” to “region” to “census block.”

Some researchers distinguish between the terms unit of observation and unit of ...

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