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Ways of Using National Data Sets To Enhance Your Research
By Susan D. Wiley

1. Using the larger context to plan in-depth study.

  • What is already known about the topic/variable?  Does it vary across individuals, groups, institutions, regions?  Knowing this, what is not known about it that might add to the knowledge base about it?
  • What are the characteristics and correlates of extreme cases on the variable of interest?  Can these be used to identify cases for in-depth study?

2. Validity

  • Are findings on your smaller/local sample true for the larger population, state, region, national?  Where does your sample fall in the national distribution?
  • Does a phenomenon observed in a subpopulation exist to the same degree in the larger population? Or is it idiosyncratic to the case study or subpopulation? And/or does it exist in other subpopulations?

3. Defining new questions and next steps in your study.

  • Which characteristics and phenomena are correlated with the finding?
  • Can these correlates explain the findings?  What else do you need to know to explain the findings?

4. Generalization

  • Is it likely that findings from a case study are true for the larger population of the case study?  That is, if a random sample from the larger population were studied is it likely that the same findings will result and can be generalized to the larger population?

5. Interpreting results of smaller/local sample study

  • Are the attitudes, perceptions, and practices of a purposefully selected sample or case study different from the national or state population?
  • Are the attitudes, perceptions, and practices of study participants, after an intervention or treatment, different from the national or state population?
 
 
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