Generalisation: Learning Across Epistemologies


  • Mike Metcalfe University of South Australia



generalising, epistemology, irony


Any debate about the quality of research may be wise to include how the knowledge claims that result from that research are generalised. This paper is about the different conceptions of making knowledge claims general, making them applicable to more than one situation. The more general a knowledge claim, the more significant it becomes. A quality of qualitative research debate needs to identify and compare the different priorities each epistemology has regarding generalisation. After outlining these priorities for four overlapping epistemologies, scientific, systems thinking, argument, and interpretive, this paper will use the ironic view to argue that each epistemology might learn from the others so as to enrich their own priorities. Identification of difference may not only improve the quality of qualitative knowledge but may also provide the opportunity to creatively define what is meant by the quality of qualitative research. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501175


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Author Biography

Mike Metcalfe, University of South Australia

Mike METCALFE is an associate research professor at the University of South Australia, where his main duties are as PhD thesis adviser. His own PhD is from Adelaide University, on group problem solving. He has published five books and over 50 lead-author refereed academic articles on different aspects of perspectival systems thinking and argumentative inquiry in journals that include Systems Research and Behavioral Science, IT & People, FQS and the European Journal of Information Systems. He has lived in over six countries including 17 years in Australasia, and has worked in the merchant navy, the army reserves, system design, university lecturing and consulting, including a term as adviser to the Deputy Premier and Treasurer of South Australia.




How to Cite

Metcalfe, M. (2005). Generalisation: Learning Across Epistemologies. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(1).



FQS Debate: Quality of Qualitative Research