Sampling bias and Transferability

Qualitative researchers don’t tend to use the term generalise and prefer to use the term transfer, however the issues are similar with both concepts.

Qualitative researchers should comment in their reports about the extent to which findings might or might not be transferable to other settings. Readers of qualitative research reports often work in other similar applied contexts and might want to know whether the findings of the report could be applied to their area , e.g. could they design a support programme for their clients based on the findings of this particular report. If they go ahead but later find that the initial report used a very different type of person, their programme might fail and this would present an ethical problem in terms of lack of information supplied in the report causing problems with applications and clients in the second setting suffering as a consequence.

Tranferability is also really only advisable if the reader is able to find examples of other similar studies which all point towards the same conclusions. With case -studies this is known as cross-case analyses.

Sampling bias may decrease the transferrability of the findings of a qualitative research study and the reader should carefully examine the sampling technique (e.g. purposive sampling using snowballing) and characteristics of the participants in order to see whether the findings would be transferable to the group they work with or an interested in.

Types of generalisability applicable to Qualitative Research

Representational Generalisability


Inferential Generalisability

Theoretical Generalisability