Generalizability and Transferability

A Comparison of Generalizability and Transferability

Although generalizability has been a preferred method of research for quite some time, transferability is relatively a new idea. In theory, however, it has always accompanied research issues. It is important to note that generalizability and transferability are not necessarily mutually exclusive; they can overlap.

From an experimental study to a case study, readers transfer the methods, results, and ideas from the research to their own context. Therefore, a generalizable study can also be transferable. For example, a researcher may generalize the results of a survey of 350 people in a university to the university population as a whole; readers of the results may apply, or transfer, the results to their own situation. They will ask themselves, basically, if they fall into the majority or not. However, a transferable study is not always generalizable. For example, in case studies, transferability allows readers the option of applying results to outside contexts, whereas generalizability is basically impossible because one person or a small group of people is not necessarily representative of the larger population.

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