Assessing the Generalizability of Randomized Trial Results to Target Populations

Assessing the Generalizability of Randomized Trial Results to Target Populations Recent years have seen increasing interest in and attention to evidence-based practices, where the “evidence” generally comes from well-conducted randomized trials. However, while those trials yield accurate estimates of the effect of the intervention for the participants in the trial (known as “internal validity”), they do not always yield relevant information about the effects in a particular target population (known as “external validity”). This may be due to a lack of specification of a target population when designing the trial, difficulties recruiting a sample that is representative of a prespecified target population, or to interest in considering a target population somewhat different from the population directly targeted by the trial. This paper first provides an overview of existing design and analysis methods for assessing and enhancing the ability of a randomized trial to estimate treatment effects in a target population. It then provides a case study using one particular method, which weights the subjects in a randomized trial to match the population on a set of observed characteristics. The case study uses data from a randomized trial of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS); our interest is in generalizing the results to the state of Maryland. In the case of PBIS, after weighting, estimated effects in the target population were similar to those observed in the randomized trial. The paper illustrates that statistical methods can be used to assess and enhance the external validity of randomized trials, making the results more applicable to policy and clinical questions. However, there are also many open research questions; future research should focus on questions of treatment effect heterogeneity and further developing these methods for enhancing external validity. Researchers should think carefully about the external validity of randomized trials and be cautious about extrapolating results to specific populations unless they are confident of the similarity between the trial sample and that target population. Prevention Science Springer Journals

Assessing the Generalizability of Randomized Trial Results to Target Populations

Loading next page...
Springer US
Copyright © 2014 by Society for Prevention Research
Medicine & Public Health; Public Health; Health Psychology; Child and School Psychology
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site


You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.

DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 12 million articles from more than
10,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Unlimited reading

Read as many articles as you need. Full articles with original layout, charts and figures. Read online, from anywhere.

Stay up to date

Keep up with your field with Personalized Recommendations and Follow Journals to get automatic updates.

Organize your research

It’s easy to organize your research with our built-in tools.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

Monthly Plan

  • Read unlimited articles
  • Personalized recommendations
  • No expiration
  • Print 20 pages per month
  • 20% off on PDF purchases
  • Organize your research
  • Get updates on your journals and topic searches


Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial

Best Deal — 39% off

Annual Plan

  • All the features of the Professional Plan, but for 39% off!
  • Billed annually
  • No expiration
  • For the normal price of 10 articles elsewhere, you get one full year of unlimited access to articles.



billed annually
Start Free Trial

14-day Free Trial