Basic Idea of Factor Analysis as a Data Reduction Method - How many Factors to Extract?

Remember that, so far, we are considering principal components analysis as a data reduction method, that is, as a method for reducing the number of variables. The question then is, how many factors do we want to extract? Note that as we extract consecutive factors, they account for less and less variability. The decision of when to stop extracting factors basically depends on when there is only very little "random" variability left. The nature of this decision is arbitrary; however, various guidelines have been developed, and they are reviewed in Reviewing the Results of a Principal Components Analysis in the Eigenvalues and the Number-of-Factors Problem section.