One of the most important activities in the conduct of research is that of classifying the collected information so as to render the research outcomes understandable. Classifying consists of placing data into categories that can be compared. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce key features of classification schemes and to illustrate the application of different schemes in various research projects. The early portion of the chapter addresses: (a) characteristics of classification systems, (b) how and when, in the process of conducting research, classes are established, and (c) how data can be reliably assigned to categories. The latter portion of the chapter contains examples of diverse classification schemes employed in typical research projects.
One of the most fundamental attributes of human thought is people's propensity to arrange their experiences in terms of categories or classes. By assigning happenings to categories, we render events comprehensible by revealing how they are similar to, and different from, other events. Classifying people, objects, and incidents enables people to compare and contrast experiences and thereby construct an orderly mental map of reality that assists them in coping with the demands of their lives. And certainly classification is the essence of comparative education.
The tendency--indeed, the necessity--for people to classify experiences derives at least partly from the limited capacity of the human mind to simultaneously contemplate a multitude of variables.
How many comparisons can be assimilated by those who seek an understanding of the patterns of comparisons? Writers on psychology such as Nobel laureate Herbert Simon believe that humans can simultaneously consider only a few items of information, perhaps fewer than four (depending partly on [how much is