On Generalization in Qualitatively Oriented Research
In this article, I open a debate about the importance and possibilities of generalization in qualitative oriented research. Generalization traditionally is seen as a central aim of science, as a process of theory formulation for further applications. Others criticize the concept in general, either because of the insufficiency of inductive arguments (POPPER, 1959) or because of context specificity of all scientific findings (LINCOLN & GUBA, 1985). In this paper, I argue that generalization is necessary in qualitative research, but we have to differentiate different aims of generalization: laws, rules, context specific statements, similarities and differences, and procedures. There are different possibilities to arrive at a generalization: analysis of total population, falsification, random or stratified samples, argumentative generalization, theoretical sampling, variation, and triangulation. Depending on the type of research or research design some of those strategies of generalization can be important for qualitative oriented research. This is discussed especially in respect to single case analysis.
generalization; qualitative research; single case analysis