Characteristics of Analysis

Analysis uses scientific methodology: a systematic, rational, critical appraisal of the phenomenon under investigation based on emperical facts. Analysis in the social sciences is different in some respects from analysis in the natural sciences, which take a much narrower view of what can be measured and known. However, the basic motivation—to understand and to establish control over the environment—is the same, as are the essential methods. The distinction between analysis in the natural and social sciences lies in the kinds of questions explored.

The intellectual activities of analysis are directed toward practice issues and practical application. Assessment of the data and the search for relevant research and theoratical constructs are part of a progression toward action. The goal is to enable the change agent to make informed choices.

In addition, analysis is carried out within a social context and involves subjective judgments, preferences, and values. Naturality and disinterested inquiry are not characteristics of social science analysis. Ideologies, beliefs, and assumptions affect both the perception and the interpretation of imperical data.

The purpose of analysis in the planned change process is to facilitate decision-making. Analysis clarifies the nature and dynamics of the change opportunity and the relevance of possible responses. However, it is not realistic to expect analysis to provide “the answer.”

Different planners can assess the same situation and produce quite different analyses insofar as each shapes the problem in terms of his background, training, experience, and values. The reality of competing views of human service conditions, problems, needs, issues, and change opportunities in no way lessens the importance of analysis.

Analysis, then, may be expected to clarify options, trace implications, and provide grounding for judgments. Useful analysis will be critical, thorough, and systematic and will be oriented toward practical application.

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