Among the innumerable assumptions of the discourse on the sociological vulgar (which immediately made me think that I should write a text about it) is the idea that qualitative techniques do not allow to generalize. That said for those who dedicate themselves to the quantitative sounds to attack (‘they saw, what qualitative is limited because it does not allow to generalize’), and that such by those who are devoted to the qualitative sounds like an excuse (‘but well, it was not that; never offered it’). Now, that idea is deeply mistaken.
Because if it can be generalized with the qualitative. To understand the previous assertion, we first need to determine which involves ‘generalizing’. Because obviously in a qualitative research or quantitative normal we’re not talking about with claims of universal laws, we are simply saying, if our results are applicable to a particular population.
Now, in quantitative research many times, and so very automatic, we generalise to a population even when they are not given the technical terms for this: we All know that, in principle, do not generalize a sample by quotas, but regularly do so. Therefore, in principle, if you accept the same sins to the qualitative to the quantitative, then well it could generalize from the qualitative.
But the above is weak, and it may well consider that it should only be renewed in the conviction that the only way to generalize is by using your good random sample. Which, of course, makes no sense. If we are going to use a qualitative technique, it is because we are interested in the meanings. And a very substantial reason which the meaning are relevant is because they are embedded in the practices of the people -and that in a very basic sense, make up: practices are inseparable from the distinctions that structure. And this implies that these meanings are known by the participants, otherwise the practice would not work.
The above has a consequence very clear: That the participants of a practice to know the meanings and distinctions that make up a practice. Which implies that the inquiry of the meanings and distinctions of these participants is generalizable to the practice. It may be that a participant is not valid informant, but only some should be able to remove biases from personal issues, and acquire the meanings and distinctions of the practice. But the qualitative is generalizable: The result is valid for all those who participate in that practice
And now comes the caveat : The argument preceding it applies to the meanings and distinctions that make up a practice: let’s say, that everybody who plays football can make the distinction archer / other players and what are the actions that the archer can perform. Does not apply to other items necessarily, as the valuations, unless these are part of the practice as such. And it requires people who are part of the practice, not to mention ‘learners’ of a practice (who is just starting to play chess). Be careful also with the limits of the practice -the rules of football do not apply to the foosball. But hey, everything always has its precautions, and the statements may not be used beyond where they can be used.
None of that removes that for the type of information that supposedly we look for when we decide to use qualitative techniques, can effectively generalize the qualitative.