Are there any general rules that one can use to infer what can be learned/generalized from a particular data set? Suppose the dataset was taken from a sample of people. Can these rules be stated as functions of the sample or total population?
I understand the above may be vague, so a case scenario: Users participate in a search task, where the data are their queries, clicked results, and the HTML content (text only) of those results. Each of these are tagged with their user and timestamp. A user may generate a few pages - for a simple fact-finding task - or hundreds of pages - for a longer-term search task, like for class report.
Edit: In addition to generalizing about a population, given a sample, I'm interested in generalizing about an individual's overall search behavior, given a time slice. Theory and paper references are a plus!