chapter  4
16 Pages

Generalization from Qualitative Inquiry


How do you generalize from a qualitative study? [You] might answer candidly and succinctly, “You don’t.” That is a safe and accurate answer. It is the basis on which American anthropology was founded under Franz Boas. With an empiricism directed toward rigorous historical particularism, Boas insisted that no generalizations were warranted from the study of any particular society. (p. 163)

Marilyn Lichtman’s “user’s guide” to qualitative research in education (2006) makes a similar claim, stating on p. 7 that qualitative researchers are “not interested in cause and effect or generalizing, but want people to apply [research fi ndings] to their own situations.” And Phil Carspecken

(1996) in his “theoretical and practical guide” to critical ethnography writes: “Generalizing across contexts is dangerous” (p. 25).