What Is the Purpose of Factor Analysis?

••• Kantamard Lamasai/iStock/GettyImages

Factor analysis is a statistical data reduction and analysis technique that strives to explain correlations among multiple outcomes as the result of one or more underlying explanations, or factors. The technique involves data reduction, as it attempts to represent a set of variables by a smaller number.


Factor analysis attempts to discover the unexplained factors that influence the co-variation among multiple observations. These factors represent underlying concepts that cannot be adequately measured by a single variable. For example, various measures of political attitudes may be influenced by one or more underlying factors.


Factor analysis is especially popular in survey research, in which the responses to each question represent an outcome. Because multiple questions often are related, underlying factors may influence subject responses.


Because the purpose of factor analysis is to uncover underlying factors that explain correlations among multiple outcomes, it is important that the variables studied be at least somewhat correlated; otherwise, factor analysis is not an appropriate analytical technique.


Factor analysis requires the use of a computer, usually with a statistical software program, such as SAS or SPSS. The spreadsheet program Excel cannot conduct factor analysis without a program that expands its statistical capabilities.


One program that enables Excel to conduct more complex statistical analysis, such as factor analysis, is XLStat, which can be purchased online.

Related Articles

How Are Ethics Different From Bioethics?
The Definition of an Uncontrolled Variable
How to Report the Results of Confirmatory Factor Analysis
How to Find a Z Score
What Is the Meaning of Variables in Research?
How to Calculate a Sigma Value
Differences Between Conceptual Independent Variables...
How to Use the Pearson Correlation Coefficient
Disadvantages of Factor Analysis
How to Factor Polynomials With a TI-83 Plus
How to Calculate a P-Value
Why Should You Only Test for One Variable at a Time...
Characteristics of Aquatic Plants
How to Calculate Logit
How to Create Bar Charts From Likert Scale Results
How to Calculate Weighted Factors
How to Factor Trinomials on a TI-84
How to Convert Pounds Per Square Foot to PSI
How to Write a Summary on a Science Project
What Are the Different Types of Correlations?

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!