All statistical techniques which simultaneously analyse more than two variables on a sample of observations can be categorized as multivariate techniques. Most of the research studies involve more than two variables in which situation analysis is desired of the association between one (at times many) criterion variable and several independent variables.
Of late, multivariate techniques have emerged as a powerful tool to analyse data represented in terms of many variables. The main reason being that a series of univariate analysis carried out separately for each variable may, at times, lead to incorrect interpretation of the result. This is so because univariate analysis does not consider the correlation or inter-dependence among the variables.
Multivariate techniques are largely empirical and deal with the reality; they possess the ability to analyse complex data. The basic objective underlying multivariate techniques is to represent a collection of massive data in a simplified way.
There exist a great variety of multivariate techniques which can be conveniently classified into two broad categories viz., dependence methods and interdependence methods. We have two types of multivariate techniques: one type for data containing both dependent and independent variables, and the other type for data containing several variables without dependency relationship. In the former category are included techniques like multiple regression analysis, multiple discriminant analysis, multivariate analysis of variance and canonical analysis, whereas in the latter category we put techniques like factor analysis, cluster analysis, multidimensional scaling or MDS (both metric and non-metric) and the latent structure analysis.