Working paper on generalizability in the social sciences

Here’s the latest draft of my working paper on generalizability in the social sciences.  Abstract:

Generalizability is widely agreed to be a desirable characteristic of social science research. Many discussions of the topic present it as a tradeoff between a study’s internal validity, and its generalizability, which is achieved by increasing its sample size. I argue that we should view the process of aggregating data and assessing the generalizability of research results as a distinctive step in disciplinary research cycles, rather than something which every study needs to accomplish on its own. This is best done through systematic reviews and coordinated multi-site research projects. The substantive implication of this argument is that researchers should focus on their preferred type of internally valid research, and disciplines should focus on building better systems for assessing generalizability, rather than delegating that responsibility to individual researchers.

Any comments on this are welcome!  I’m also looking for a good publication venue for this, either as an article or as commentary, so please let me know if you’ve got thoughts on that.

2 thoughts on “Working paper on generalizability in the social sciences

  1. Hey Rachel,
    This looks really interesting (and accords with stuff both IPA and Y-RISE have been thinking about, in a few different ways), I’m on vacation now and looking forward to reading but mentioning now so I don’t forget that I saw a paper discussing the culture of prizing internal validity over generalizability in econ l, and how to think about it differently (I think about econ/RCTs in general, not development-specific). I’m so sorry I can’t remember where, but maybe if of interest check the usual suspects (e.g. John Holbein, etc) on twitter?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh nice, that would be a really useful citation! I’m having trouble finding it as well, but if you see it, I’d definitely love to get a link. Looking forward to hearing other comments as well! (I do need to look into Y-RISE more and see how they’re approaching this, as well.)



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s