Generalizing from Qualitative Research: A Reconceptualization Based on Vocational Learning Examples

John Guenther, Ian Falk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The field of research on “generalizing from qualitative research” (for convenience now referred to as GQR) is quite recent. It stems from an era which could be characterized as the “discourse of self-justification” when disclaimers about not generalizing from qualitative research were considered mandatory. Within this discourse of self-justification, there was always – small at first – some acceptance that generalization is possible and occurs. So from within the self-justification, there was also a strand that said “But maybe, just maybe we do? Or we can?”. Our point here is to review the recent field of research and then step back and look at “generalization” in general in its historical sense and follow how generalization, in any form, was always used – in fact it was/is mandatory for survival and became essential as a process in the statistical and scientific communities. To illustrate the processes of generalization in a contemporary applied vocational learning context, we provide two case studies – one from Australia and the other from Indonesia. To conclude, we will revisit GQR in the light of this vocational learning context in order to conceptualize GQR processes without the constraints of definitions based on narrowly proscribed paradigms which limit truth and reality to what can be measured or counted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Vocational Education and Training
Subtitle of host publicationdevelopments in the changing world of work
EditorsSimon McGrath, Martin Mulder, Joy Papier, Rebecca Suart
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783319945330, 9783319945323
ISBN (Print)9783319945316
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • vocational education and training
  • qualitative research
  • normative truth


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