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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?
Mapping of Significant Findings in the Field
Linking Research to Public Interest
Publications of Interest
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