In our earlier work on generalizing from qualitative research (GQR) we identified our two-decade struggle to have qualitative research outcomes formally “listened to” by policy personnel and bureaucratic systems in general, with mixed success. The policy sector often seems reluctant to acknowledge that qualitative research findings can be generalized, so impacts tend to be informal or simply ignored. The “official” methodological literature on generalizing from qualitative research is epitomized by Lincoln and Guba’s (1985) still oft quoted, “The only generalization is: there is no generalization” (p. 110). We now understand there are many alternative possibilities for generalizing. In this paper we hope to provide a platform for discussion on GQR. We suggest Normative Truth Statements (NTS) as a foundation. NTSs, used in our proposed generalizability cycle, are a potential key to ensuring designated qualitative research methodology provides a capacity for generalization—and therefore be considered as a valid form of evidence in policy decisions. In other words, we need a platform to articulate how to design qualitative research to maximize the type and scope of generalizability outcomes, referred to here as Designed Generalization from Qualitative Research (DGQR). Five steps of DGQR, using progressive NTSs in the generalizability cycle, are proposed as a way forward in understanding how generalizing from qualitative research may be made more transparent, accountable, and useful. The five steps are illustrated by reference to two example studies.


policy, impact on policy, qualitative research, generalizing from qualitative research, designed qualitative research, vested interests, leverages for listening

Author Bio(s)

Professor Ian Falk, formerly Chair of Regional and Remote Education, Charles Darwin University, is now a consultant in community and regional development systems and adjunct at several universities in Indonesia, where he has been working for more than a decade on national biosecurity policy development. Professor Falk is also working as Team Leader of Counselling and Family Services at a major frontline social services provider in the Northern Territory of Australia. His research interests include qualitative methodologies, learning systems, social capital, leadership, and policy

Associate Professor John Guenther is the Research Leader for Education and Training, with Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, based in Darwin, Northern Territory of Australia. Over the last 18 years John has conducted research and evaluation projects which have focused on remote contexts, covering all states and territories of Australia. While his work has focused mainly on learning, the intersections between training and education with health, wellbeing, traditional knowledge systems, economic, natural resource management, mining and a range of social issues, feature in his work. His s research expertise extends from an array of practical qualitative and quantitative methodologies for research and evaluation, through to a range of theoretical and philosophical perspectives. He is interested in the translation of empirical evidence to policy and practice settings. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: john.guenther@batchelor.edu.au.

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