External validity refers to the accuracy of scientific results when generalized beyond the laboratory or survey situation to the real world.
If it is thought that the researcher could not expect to find confirmation of research results in the ordinary life of the community, the results would be said to be externally invalid.
A study that readily allows its findings to generalise to the population at large
has high external validity. To the degree that we are successful in eliminating
confounding variables within the study itself is referred to as internal validity.
External and internal validity are not all-or-none, black-and-white, present-or-absent
dimensions of an experimental design. Validity varies along a continuum from low to high.
When testing theories, all measures are indirect indicators of theoretical constructs, and no methodological procedures, taken alone, can produce external validity. External validity can be assessed through determining:
(1) extent to which empirical measures accurately reflect theoretical constructs,
(2) whether the research setting conforms to the scope of the theory under test,
(3) our confidence that findings will repeat under identical conditions,
(4) whether findings support the theory being tested,
(5) the confirmatory status of the theory under test.
In these ways, the assessment of external validity relies on an examination of the interplay between theory and methods.
Ecological validity is generally confused with external validity. Though
ecological validity and external validity are closely related, they are independent. A
study may possess external validity but not ecological validity, and vice-versa. But,
Improving the ecological validity of an experiment will improve the external validity.