Low $R^2$ value in social science or education research?

I’m looking for paper(s) that talk about “why low $R^2$ value is acceptable in social science or education research”. Please point me to the right journal if you know one.


A paper by Abelson (1985) titled “A variance explanation paradox: When a little is a lot”, published in Psychological Bulletin, addresses (part of) this issue. In particular, Abelson shows that the proportion of variance shared between a dichotomous and a continuous variable can be surprisingly small, even when intuition would dictate a very large $R^2$ (he uses the example of whether a baseball batter would hit a ball or not, as a function of the batter’s batting average–yielding a whopping $R^2 < .001$).

Abelson goes on to explain that even such a tiny $R^2$ can be meaningful, as long as the effect under investigation can make itself felt over time.

P.S.: I used this paper a few months ago to respond to a reviewer who was unimpressed with our low $R^2$’s, and it hit the mark–our paper is now in press 🙂

  • Reference: Abelson, R. P. (1985). A variance explanation paradox: When a little is a lot. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 129-133.

Source : Link , Question Author : Amin , Answer Author : Patrick Coulombe

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