Generalizability and Transferability

Applications of Transferability and Generalizability: Case Study

Research Design
Case studies examine individuals or small groups within a specific context. Research is typically gathered through qualitative means: interviews, observations, etc. Data is usually analyzed either holistically or by coding methods.

In research involving case studies, a researcher typically assumes that the results will be transferable. Generalizing is difficult or impossible because one person or small group cannot represent all similar groups or situations. For example, one group of beginning writing students in a particular classroom cannot represent all beginning student writers. Also, conclusions drawn in case studies are only about the participants being observed. With rare exceptions, case studies are not meant to establish cause/effect relationships between variables. The results of a case study are transferable in that researchers "suggest further questions, hypotheses, and future implications," and present the results as "directions and questions" (Lauer & Asher 32).

In order to illustrate the writing skills of beginning college writers, a researcher completing a case study might single out one or more students in a composition classroom and set about talking to them about how they judge their own writing as well as reading actual papers, setting up criteria for judgment, and reviewing paper grades/teacher interpretation.

Results of a Study
In presenting the results of the previous example, a researcher should define the criteria that were established in order to determine what the researcher meant by "writing skills," provide noteworthy quotes from student interviews, provide other information depending on the kinds of research methods used (e.g., surveys, classroom observation, collected writing samples), and include possibilities for furthering this type of research. Readers are then able to assess for themselves how the researcher's observations might be transferable to other writing classrooms.

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