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When assessing generalisability, focusing on differences in population or setting alone is insufficient

Burchett, HED; Kneale, D; Blanchard, L; Thomas, J; (2020) When assessing generalisability, focusing on differences in population or setting alone is insufficient. Trials , 21 , Article 286. 10.1186/s13063-020-4178-6. Green open access

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Abstract

Generalisability is typically only briefly mentioned in discussion sections of evaluation articles, which are unhelpful in judging whether an intervention could be implemented elsewhere, with similar effects. Several tools to assess generalisability exist, but they are difficult to operationalise and are rarely used. We believe a different approach is needed. Instead of focusing on similarities (or more likely, differences) in generic population and setting characteristics, generalisability assessments should focus on understanding an intervention's mechanism of action - why or how an intervention was effective. We believe changes are needed to four types of research. First, outcome evaluations should draw on programme theory. Second, process evaluations should aim to understand interventions' mechanism of action, rather than simply 'what happened'. Third, small scoping studies should be conducted in new settings, to explore how to enact identified mechanisms. Finally, innovative synthesis methods are required, in order to identify mechanisms of action where there is a lack of existing process evaluations.

Type: Article
Title: When assessing generalisability, focusing on differences in population or setting alone is insufficient
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s13063-020-4178-6
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-020-4178-6
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Applicability, Generalisability, Methodology, Research use
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10094657
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