Generalizability and Transferability: Synthesis
Generalizability allows us to form coherent interpretations in any situation, and to act purposefully and effectively in daily life. Transferability gives us the opportunity to sort through given methods and conclusions to decide what to apply to our own circumstances. In essence, then, both generalizability and transferability allow us to make comparisons between situations. For example, we can generalize that most people in the United States will drive on the right side of the road, but we cannot transfer this conclusion to England or Australia without finding ourselves in a treacherous situation. It is important, therefore, to always consider context when generalizing or transferring results.
Whether a study emphasizes transferability or generalizability is closely related to the goals of the researcher and the needs of the audience. Studies done for a magazine such as Time or a daily newspaper tend towards generalizability, since the publishers want to provide information relevant to a large portion of the population. A research project pointed toward a small group of specialists studying a similar problem may emphasize transferability, since specialists in the field have the ability to transfer aspects of the study results to their own situations without overt generalizations provided by the researcher. Ultimately, the researcher's subject, audience, and goals will determine the method the researcher uses to perform a study, which will then determine the transferability or generalizability of the results.