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FAQ 37: How shall I compare my findings with research by others?

What's the issue?

It is indeed very important to compare individual findings with research done by others. Replication is a key element when it comes to generalisation and the claim that certain research findings are applicable in other populations than those sampled for a particular research.

Common practice

Research findings are always interpreted in the context of some prior knowledge or assumptions which sometimes is based on research and sometimes not. A single study is never so influential that it eliminates all argument. Therefore replication is crucial. After all, if the result of a study is contrary to prior beliefs there will most likely be strong holders of those prior beliefs who will defend their position.

To facilitate comparison between studies many researchers strive for compatibility in methods and research design. This applies, for example, to sampling and measurement.

Pitfalls to avoid

Not noting what others have done leads to confusion in concepts, using different questions from one survey to another, asking about similar things in different manners etc.

The research world is much too full of isolated studies which yielded significant results with idiosyncratic samples under particular circumstances.

Questions to consider

In the field of media studies there is a long tradition of focusing on new media and a notorious lack of longitudinal or long term research. A thorough overview of studies on children's use of online media in 18 European countries between 1999 and 2006 for example found only two examples of a longitudinal study (Staksrud et al., 2007)