Generalizability of Randomized Trial Results to Target Populations: Design and Analysis Possibilities

Elizabeth A. Stuart, Benjamin Ackerman, Daniel Westreich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Randomized trials play an important role in estimating the effect of a policy or social work program in a given population. While most trial designs benefit from strong internal validity, they often lack external validity, or generalizability, to the target population of interest. In other words, one can obtain an unbiased estimate of the study sample average treatment effect from a randomized trial; however, this estimate may not equal the target population average treatment effect if the study sample is not fully representative of the target population. This article provides an overview of existing strategies to assess and improve upon the generalizability of randomized trials, both through statistical methods and study design, as well as recommendations on how to implement these ideas in social work research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-537
Number of pages6
JournalResearch on Social Work Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • evidence-based practice
  • literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)


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