causality, generalization, replication in qualitative research

 While quantitative research often emphasizes establishing causal relationships, generalizing findings, and replicating studies, these concepts are approached differently in qualitative research. Let's explore each concept:

1. Causality:

  • Qualitative research aims to understand how and why things happen rather than simply establishing cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Due to the complex nature of social phenomena and the influence of various factors, establishing definitive causality can be challenging.
  • Researchers often explore how different factors interact and contribute to a specific outcome.
  • Strategies like thick descriptions, triangulation, and member checking can help enhance the credibility of causal claims.

2. Generalization:

  • Traditional notions of generalizability (applying findings to a broader population) are less relevant in qualitative research.
  • Instead, the concept of transferability is preferred.
  • Transferability focuses on the applicability of the findings to different contexts based on similarities and differences between contexts.
  • Researchers provide rich descriptions and contextual details to enable readers to judge the relevance of the findings to their own context.

3. Replication:

  • Exact replication of qualitative research is often impractical due to the dynamic nature of social settings and the influence of context and researcher-participant interactions.
  • Instead, researchers may conduct comparative studies across different contexts to examine the similarities and differences in findings.
  • Theoretical replication focuses on using the findings of a study to contribute to or refine existing theories in the field.
  • Repeatable elements like data collection methods and analysis procedures can be documented to allow for future studies to build upon the findings.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Qualitative research focuses on understanding the complexities of social phenomena rather than establishing simple cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Generalizability is less relevant, and transferability of findings to other contexts is emphasized.
  • Replication often takes the form of comparative studies or building upon existing theories.


  • Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2013). Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials (4th ed.). Sage Publications.
  • Silverman, D. (2016). Interpreting qualitative data (5th ed.). Sage Publications.
  • Shenton, A. K. (2004). Strategies for ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research projects. Education for information, 22(2), 63-75.


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