”Generalizability” as Recognition: Reflections on a Foundational Problem in Qualitative Research

Charlotte Delmar


The aim of the article is to develop what counts as “generalizability” in qualitative research. By taking an ontological and epistemic stance in relation to the four foundational problems: 1)Knowledge and its various forms. 2) Properties of reality and the doubleness of the situation. 3) How is understanding possible? 4) The researcher’s role: What are the fundamental questions that the researcher must ask himself before a study is designed? we are able to approach the exploration of ”generalizability” in qualitative research. Methodological theorists agree that the question of applicability is essential in the discussion of “generalizability” in qualitative research. If the quantitative tradition’s requirement for replicability also has to be met, the pressing question during the article is what counts as replicability and applicability in qualitative research. In the exploration of what is involved in “generalizability” in qualitative research a combination of Gadamer and Flyvbjerg´s thinking are important sources for a reflection on the ontological and epistemic questions related to the four foundational problems. The ontological question of what establishes a situation is an essential interpretation for the finding. A situation is characterised by its quality of doubleness: it is unique and typical at the same time. People with each their unique story and life world constitute the uniqueness of the situation. And a situation is typical in the sense that fundamental experiences can be found in every situation. The typical is what we as people have in common. There will be typical traits and recogizable patterns in every situation. The finding show us that “generalizability” in qualitative research builds on recognisability and a challenge to practice as a practical reasoning.

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ISSN 1903-7031

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