Generalisability and Transferability

Generalisability and transferability are the concepts that are defined as external validity in qualitative terms. Generalisability is viewed as “the extent to which it is possible to generalise from the data and context of the research study to broader populations and settings” (Van der Riet & Durrheim, 2008, p. 91). Generalisability in this study is seen as “less urgent” (Gummesson, 2000, p. 91), since a person’s life is explored by applying selected theories without wanting to generalise the findings to other studies or individuals. However, in terms of generalisability for this study, the concept of theoretical generalisation is applicable, in which the study data and findings support the understanding, development and interpretation of existing theories by using the study’s data (Lewis & Ritchie, 2003, p. 267, see Chap. 9).

Transferability is connected to generalisability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Transferability refers to the possibility to transfer data into other contexts, environments, settings or persons to then generalise the findings in terms of other individuals, settings or groups (Golafshani, 2003). The researcher ensures transferability through rich descriptions of contexts and settings (Blanchard & Horan, 1998). By providing rich descriptions, other researchers are enabled to decide and judge about the findings’ transferability to other contexts and other research settings (Guba & Lincoln, 1985), while preserving the meanings and interpretations from this study (Leininger, 1994). Dawson (2009), as well as Lewis and Ritchie (2003), highlight that transferability (described by Lewis and Ritchie as inferential generalisation, is provided by using thick descriptions (Geertz, 1987) throughout the findings’ descriptions. Graneheim and Lundman (2004) support the idea of thick descriptions and inferential generalisation by highlighting that a rich presentation of data can lead to transferability (inferential generalisation).

In this research the concepts of theoretical generalisation and transferability are used by providing thick descriptions and rich findings and through internal, case study-relevant generalisations.

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