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«Abstract One of the reasons that research is conducted is to build the evidence base to inform strategic or policy directions. In this context, the ...»

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Fifth, the next point for discussion in another paper is to be rather more precise about the contexts/conditions of generalisability of the different kinds of qualitative research we have discussed here. For example, in point one above, we say that if “we can demonstrate the same findings in several (like or even unlike) population groups then we can correctly assert that the findings are generalisable beyond the initial one or two cases”. We would like to establish guidelines concerning the boundaries and warrantabilities of generalising from what kinds of qualitative and mixed methods research. Another example of the need for greater specificity lies in identifying the range of generalisable possibilities/restrictions for ‘generalisability based on theory building’.

Concluding comment The first-named researcher recently gave a university-wide lecture on the topic of this paper. Its aim was to be deliberately provocative with the purpose of promoting a debate. I asked the audience early in the lecture, ‘What are your opinions of qualitative research?’ The first answer received from a scientist was ‘Unfounded, ungeneralisable story-telling’. It certainly achieved its aim of provoking discussion.

However, after the lecture, the same person approached me and said, ‘You know we had never been aware of these things when we did research methods at university.

You’ve really made me think, and I can see now that there’s a lot in what you say’. In this paper, we would like to think that we have taken the debate a step further. First, to show there are issues worth debating in this topic, second, to give the quantitative researchers a licence and invitation to join the discussion, and third to support qualitative researchers should they wish to take up and develop the ideas we are working on.

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