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What is Generalizability in Research?

In this article we will discuss what is generlaizability in research. We will discuss how and why generalizability is an important characteristic of research. How the researchers can improve the generalizability of their research by using certain tools. The researcher should have understanding of how to make a research generalizable before conducting the research.


Generalizability can be defined as the application of research findings based on a sample to the whole population, it also means that the findings of one study is transferable to another similar situation. Generalizability and transferability of the research are two interrelated characteristics of research.

Dimensions of generalizability

There are two features or dimensions of generalizability when it is considered in research: generalizability as it is related to the specific population on which the research is conducted; and its universal application.

Specific population

Specifically a research is weighed on the basis of its generalizability to the specific population on which the study is conducted. A more generalizable research can be applied to the overall population. Many medical research are aimed to find out why a disease spread in a specific population and how the spread of disease can be prevented. Such studies are very useful if conducted accurately. The results are generalized on the whole population and are very significant. The researcher needs to understand that the use of right sampling techniques, right sample size and accurate procedures will help such studies be more generalizable.

Universal application

The researchers are very much interested in knowing the universal appeal of the research and its findings. Once a research outcomes look promising more and more researcher s want to replicate such studies to authenticate the findings. The results thus become more generalizable to the overall similar populations universally. The findings thus help in the development of theories and establishment of hypothesis.

Why generalizability is so important?

If the researcher uses the whole population to conduct the research the resultant research will be highly generalizable as it has been conducted on the whole population. But this is not possible in research. As the researcher conducts research on a sample it is not possible to achieve absolute generalizability. To be able to achieve absolute generalizability you have to use full population to study the research problem. Studying the whole population is not possible as it is time consuming, and needs lots of resources. When you study a sample you make some agreement and compromise between the quality of research and possibility to conduct a research. There are tools and means that you can use to make sure that you have chosen the right sample size and the sample is representable of the whole population. You cannot make absolute claim that your sample is fully representable but you can show the probability of representation through the use of statistical techniques.

How to achieve generalizability?

It is quite possible to prove it through the use of right sampling techniques, right sample size, and through the application of statistical procedures.

The chosen sample size should be representable of the whole population for that purpose you have to use a sampling formula to calculate the sample size. The sample should not be too small so that it is not representable of the whole population. The sample should not be too large so that it is difficult to manage it. Some researchers think that a large sample will be more representable but this is not the case as large samples are difficult to manage and hence cause chances of mistakes in research.

The sampling method or type should also be chosen according to the requirement of the research. There are random and non-random sampling techniques. Random sampling seems to be more representable of the population but in some cases it is not possible to have a random sample.

The research should also be conducted in a rigorous and controlled environment to make it generalizable.

You also need to use accurate research procedures and techniques to ensure that you did not make any mistakes that could make the research less generalizable. Accuracy in research is another very important characteristic of research and it should be noted that all characteristics of research are in some way interrelated to each other.

To prove the generalizability of the research and to make it applicable universally the studies should be replicated with same techniques and study designs.




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