External validity, generalizability, and knowledge utilization

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2004;36(1):16-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.2004.04006.x.


Purpose: To examine the concepts of external validity and generalizability, and explore strategies to strengthen generalizability of research findings, because of increasing demands for knowledge utilization in an evidence-based practice environment.

Framework: The concepts of external validity and generalizability are examined, considering theoretical aspects of external validity and conflicting demands for internal validity in research designs. Methodological approaches for controlling threats to external validity and strategies to enhance external validity and generalizability of findings are discussed.

Conclusions: Generalizability of findings is not assured even if internal validity of a research study is addressed effectively through design. Strict controls to ensure internal validity can compromise generalizability. Researchers can and should use a variety of strategies to address issues of external validity and enhance generalizability of findings. Enhanced external validity and assessment of generalizability of findings can facilitate more appropriate use of research findings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / standards
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Nursing Research / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results*
  • Research Design / standards*