Scope and Delimitations in Research
Delimitations are the boundaries that the researcher sets in a research study, deciding what to include and what to exclude. They help to narrow down the study and make it more manageable and relevant to the research goal.
Updated on October 19, 2022
All scientific research has boundaries, whether or not the authors clearly explain them. Your study's scope and delimitations are the sections where you define the broader parameters and boundaries of your research.
The scope details what your study will explore, such as the target population, extent, or study duration. Delimitations are factors and variables not included in the study.
Scope and delimitations are not methodological shortcomings; they're always under your control. Discussing these is essential because doing so shows that your project is manageable and scientifically sound.
This article covers:
- What's meant by “scope” and “delimitations”
- Why these are integral components of every study
- How and where to actually write about scope and delimitations in your manuscript
- Examples of scope and delimitations from published studies
What is the scope in a research paper?
Simply put, the scope is the domain of your research. It describes the extent to which the research question will be explored in your study.
Articulating your study's scope early on helps you make your research question focused and realistic.
It also helps decide what data you need to collect (and, therefore, what data collection tools you need to design). Getting this right is vital for both academic articles and funding applications.
What are delimitations in a research paper?
Delimitations are those factors or aspects of the research area that you'll exclude from your research. The scope and delimitations of the study are intimately linked.
Essentially, delimitations form a more detailed and narrowed-down formulation of the scope in terms of exclusion. The delimitations explain what was (intentionally) not considered within the given piece of research.
Scope and delimitations examples
Use the following examples provided by our expert PhD editors as a reference when coming up with your own scope and delimitations.
Your research question is, “What is the impact of bullying on the mental health of adolescents?” This topic, on its own, doesn't say much about what's being investigated.
The scope, for example, could encompass:
- Variables: “bullying” (dependent variable), “mental health” (independent variable), and ways of defining or measuring them
- Bullying type: Both face-to-face and cyberbullying
- Target population: Adolescents aged 12–17
- Geographical coverage: France or only one specific town in France
Look back at the previous example.
Exploring the adverse effects of bullying on adolescents' mental health is a preliminary delimitation. This one was chosen from among many possible research questions (e.g., the impact of bullying on suicide rates, or children or adults).
Delimiting factors could include:
- Research design : Mixed-methods research, including thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews and statistical analysis of a survey
- Timeframe : Data collection to run for 3 months
- Population size : 100 survey participants; 15 interviewees
- Recruitment of participants : Quota sampling (aiming for specific portions of men, women, ethnic minority students etc.)
We can see that every choice you make in planning and conducting your research inevitably excludes other possible options.
What's the difference between limitations and delimitations?
Delimitations and limitations are entirely different, although they often get mixed up. These are the main differences:
Example of the differences
To clarify these differences, go back to the limitations of the earlier example.
Limitations could comprise:
- Sample size : Not large enough to provide generalizable conclusions.
- Sampling approach : Non-probability sampling has increased bias risk. For instance, the researchers might not manage to capture the experiences of ethnic minority students.
- Methodological pitfalls : Research participants from an urban area (Paris) are likely to be more advantaged than students in rural areas. A study exploring the latter's experiences will probably yield very different findings.
Where do you write the scope and delimitations, and why?
It can be surprisingly empowering to realize you're restricted when conducting scholarly research. But this realization also makes writing up your research easier to grasp and makes it easier to see its limits and the expectations placed on it. Properly revealing this information serves your field and the greater scientific community.
Openly (but briefly) acknowledge the scope and delimitations of your study early on. The Abstract and Introduction sections are good places to set the parameters of your paper.
Next, discuss the scope and delimitations in greater detail in the Methods section. You'll need to do this to justify your methodological approach and data collection instruments, as well as analyses
At this point, spell out why these delimitations were set. What alternative options did you consider? Why did you reject alternatives? What could your study not address?
Let's say you're gathering data that can be derived from different but related experiments. You must convince the reader that the one you selected best suits your research question.
Finally, a solid paper will return to the scope and delimitations in the Findings or Discussion section. Doing so helps readers contextualize and interpret findings because the study's scope and methods influence the results.
For instance, agricultural field experiments carried out under irrigated conditions yield different results from experiments carried out without irrigation.
Being transparent about the scope and any outstanding issues increases your research's credibility and objectivity. It helps other researchers replicate your study and advance scientific understanding of the same topic (e.g., by adopting a different approach).
How do you write the scope and delimitations?
Define the scope and delimitations of your study before collecting data. This is critical. This step should be part of your research project planning.
Answering the following questions will help you address your scope and delimitations clearly and convincingly.
- What are your study's aims and objectives?
- Why did you carry out the study?
- What was the exact topic under investigation?
- Which factors and variables were included? And state why specific variables were omitted from the research scope.
- Who or what did the study explore? What was the target population?
- What was the study's location (geographical area) or setting (e.g., laboratory)?
- What was the timeframe within which you collected your data ?
- Consider a study exploring the differences between identical twins who were raised together versus identical twins who weren't. The data collection might span 5, 10, or more years.
- A study exploring a new immigration policy will cover the period since the policy came into effect and the present moment.
- How was the research conducted (research design)?
- Experimental research, qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods research, literature review, etc.
- What data collection tools and analysis techniques were used? e.g., If you chose quantitative methods, which statistical analysis techniques and software did you use?
- What did you find?
- What did you conclude?
Useful vocabulary for scope and delimitations
Analysis of a published scope
In one example, Simione and Gnagnarella (2020) compared the psychological and behavioral impact of COVID-19 on Italy's health workers and general population.
Here's a breakdown of the study's scope into smaller chunks and discussion of what works and why.
Also notable is that this study's delimitations include references to:
- Recruitment of participants: Convenience sampling
- Demographic characteristics of study participants: Age, sex, etc.
- Measurements methods: E.g., the death anxiety scale of the Existential Concerns Questionnaire (ECQ; van Bruggen et al., 2017) etc.
- Data analysis tool: The statistical software R
Analysis of published scope and delimitations
Scope of the study : Johnsson et al. (2019) explored the effect of in-hospital physiotherapy on postoperative physical capacity, physical activity, and lung function in patients who underwent lung cancer surgery.
The delimitations narrowed down the scope as follows:
Refine your scope, delimitations, and scientific English
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Scope and Delimitations – Explained & Example
- By DiscoverPhDs
- October 2, 2020
What Is Scope and Delimitation in Research?
The scope and delimitations of a thesis, dissertation or research paper define the topic and boundaries of the research problem to be investigated.
The scope details how in-depth your study is to explore the research question and the parameters in which it will operate in relation to the population and timeframe.
The delimitations of a study are the factors and variables not to be included in the investigation. In other words, they are the boundaries the researcher sets in terms of study duration, population size and type of participants, etc.
Difference Between Delimitations and Limitations
Delimitations refer to the boundaries of the research study, based on the researcher’s decision of what to include and what to exclude. They narrow your study to make it more manageable and relevant to what you are trying to prove.
Limitations relate to the validity and reliability of the study. They are characteristics of the research design or methodology that are out of your control but influence your research findings. Because of this, they determine the internal and external validity of your study and are considered potential weaknesses.
In other words, limitations are what the researcher cannot do (elements outside of their control) and delimitations are what the researcher will not do (elements outside of the boundaries they have set). Both are important because they help to put the research findings into context, and although they explain how the study is limited, they increase the credibility and validity of a research project.
Guidelines on How to Write a Scope
A good scope statement will answer the following six questions:
- Why – the general aims and objectives (purpose) of the research.
- What – the subject to be investigated, and the included variables.
- Where – the location or setting of the study, i.e. where the data will be gathered and to which entity the data will belong.
- When – the timeframe within which the data is to be collected.
- Who – the subject matter of the study and the population from which they will be selected. This population needs to be large enough to be able to make generalisations.
- How – how the research is to be conducted, including a description of the research design (e.g. whether it is experimental research, qualitative research or a case study), methodology, research tools and analysis techniques.
To make things as clear as possible, you should also state why specific variables were omitted from the research scope, and whether this was because it was a delimitation or a limitation. You should also explain why they could not be overcome with standard research methods backed up by scientific evidence.
How to Start Writing Your Study Scope
Use the below prompts as an effective way to start writing your scope:
- This study is to focus on…
- This study covers the…
- This study aims to…
Guidelines on How to Write Delimitations
Since the delimitation parameters are within the researcher’s control, readers need to know why they were set, what alternative options were available, and why these alternatives were rejected. For example, if you are collecting data that can be derived from three different but similar experiments, the reader needs to understand how and why you decided to select the one you have.
Your reasons should always be linked back to your research question, as all delimitations should result from trying to make your study more relevant to your scope. Therefore, the scope and delimitations are usually considered together when writing a paper.
How to Start Writing Your Study Delimitations
Use the below prompts as an effective way to start writing your study delimitations:
- This study does not cover…
- This study is limited to…
- The following has been excluded from this study…
Examples of Delimitation in Research
Examples of delimitations include:
- research objectives,
- research questions,
- research variables,
- target populations,
- statistical analysis techniques .
Examples of Limitations in Research
Examples of limitations include:
- Issues with sample and selection,
- Insufficient sample size, population traits or specific participants for statistical significance,
- Lack of previous research studies on the topic which has allowed for further analysis,
- Limitations in the technology/instruments used to collect your data,
- Limited financial resources and/or funding constraints.
Are you always finding yourself working on sections of your research tasks right up until your deadlines? Are you still finding yourself distracted the moment
The scope of the study is defined at the start of the study. It is used by researchers to set the boundaries and limitations within which the research study will be performed.
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Setting Limits and Focusing Your Study: Exploring scope and delimitation
As a researcher, it can be easy to get lost in the vast expanse of information and data available. Thus, when starting a research project, one of the most important things to consider is the scope and delimitation of the study. Setting limits and focusing your study is essential to ensure that the research project is manageable, relevant, and able to produce useful results. In this article, we will explore the importance of setting limits and focusing your study through an in-depth analysis of scope and delimitation.
Table of Contents
Scope and Delimitation – Definition and difference
Scope refers to the range of the research project and the study limitations set in place to define the boundaries of the project and delimitation refers to the specific aspects of the research project that the study will focus on.
In simpler words, scope is the breadth of your study, while delimitation is the depth of your study.
Scope and delimitation are both essential components of a research project, and they are often confused with one another. The scope defines the parameters of the study, while delimitation sets the boundaries within those parameters. The scope and delimitation of a study are usually established early on in the research process and guide the rest of the project.
Types of Scope and Delimitation
Significance of Scope and Delimitation
Setting limits and focusing your study through scope and delimitation is crucial for the following reasons:
- It allows researchers to define the research project’s boundaries, enabling them to focus on specific aspects of the project. This focus makes it easier to gather relevant data and avoid unnecessary information that might complicate the study’s results.
- Setting limits and focusing your study through scope and delimitation enables the researcher to stay within the parameters of the project’s resources.
- A well-defined scope and delimitation ensure that the research project can be completed within the available resources, such as time and budget, while still achieving the project’s objectives.
5 Steps to Setting Limits and Defining the Scope and Delimitation of Your Study
There are a few steps that you can take to set limits and focus your study.
1. Identify your research question or topic
The first step is to identify what you are interested in learning about. The research question should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Once you have a research question or topic, you can start to narrow your focus.
2. Consider the key terms or concepts related to your topic
What are the important terms or concepts that you need to understand in order to answer your research question? Consider all available resources, such as time, budget, and data availability, when setting scope and delimitation.
The scope and delimitation should be established within the parameters of the available resources. Once you have identified the key terms or concepts, you can start to develop a glossary or list of definitions.
3. Consider the different perspectives on your topic
There are often different perspectives on any given topic. Get feedback on the proposed scope and delimitation. Advisors can provide guidance on the feasibility of the study and offer suggestions for improvement.
It is important to consider all of the different perspectives in order to get a well-rounded understanding of your topic.
4. Narrow your focus
Be specific and concise when setting scope and delimitation. The parameters of the study should be clearly defined to avoid ambiguity and ensure that the study is focused on relevant aspects of the research question.
This means deciding which aspects of your topic you will focus on and which aspects you will eliminate.
5. Develop the final research plan
Revisit and revise the scope and delimitation as needed. As the research project progresses, the scope and delimitation may need to be adjusted to ensure that the study remains focused on the research question and can produce useful results. This plan should include your research goals, methods, and timeline.
Examples of Scope and Delimitation
To better understand scope and delimitation, let us consider two examples of research questions and how scope and delimitation would apply to them.
Research question: What are the effects of social media on mental health?
Scope: The scope of the study will focus on the impact of social media on the mental health of young adults aged 18-24 in the United States.
Delimitation: The study will specifically examine the following aspects of social media: frequency of use, types of social media platforms used, and the impact of social media on self-esteem and body image.
Research question: What are the factors that influence employee job satisfaction in the healthcare industry?
Scope: The scope of the study will focus on employee job satisfaction in the healthcare industry in the United States.
Delimitation: The study will specifically examine the following factors that influence employee job satisfaction: salary, work-life balance, job security, and opportunities for career growth.
Setting limits and defining the scope and delimitation of a research study is essential to conducting effective research. By doing so, researchers can ensure that their study is focused, manageable, and feasible within the given time frame and resources. It can also help to identify areas that require further study, providing a foundation for future research.
So, the next time you embark on a research project, don’t forget to set clear limits and define the scope and delimitation of your study. It may seem like a tedious task, but it can ultimately lead to more meaningful and impactful research. And if you still can’t find a solution, reach out to Enago Academy using #AskEnago and tag @EnagoAcademy on Twitter , Facebook , and Quora .
Frequently Asked Questions
The scope in research refers to the boundaries and extent of a study, defining its specific objectives, target population, variables, methods, and limitations, which helps researchers focus and provide a clear understanding of what will be investigated.
Delimitation in research defines the specific boundaries and limitations of a study, such as geographical, temporal, or conceptual constraints, outlining what will be excluded or not within the scope of investigation, providing clarity and ensuring the study remains focused and manageable.
To write a scope; 1. Clearly define research objectives. 2. Identify specific research questions. 3. Determine the target population for the study. 4. Outline the variables to be investigated. 5. Establish limitations and constraints. 6. Set boundaries and extent of the investigation. 7. Ensure focus, clarity, and manageability. 8. Provide context for the research project.
To write delimitations; 1. Identify geographical boundaries or constraints. 2. Define the specific time period or timeframe of the study. 3. Specify the sample size or selection criteria. 4. Clarify any demographic limitations (e.g., age, gender, occupation). 5. Address any limitations related to data collection methods. 6. Consider limitations regarding the availability of resources or data. 7. Exclude specific variables or factors from the scope of the study. 8. Clearly state any conceptual boundaries or theoretical frameworks. 9. Acknowledge any potential biases or constraints in the research design. 10. Ensure that the delimitations provide a clear focus and scope for the study.
What is an example of delimitation of the study?
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How to Present the Limitations of the Study Examples
What are the limitations of a study?
The limitations of a study are the elements of methodology or study design that impact the interpretation of your research results. The limitations essentially detail any flaws or shortcomings in your study. Study limitations can exist due to constraints on research design, methodology, materials, etc., and these factors may impact the findings of your study. However, researchers are often reluctant to discuss the limitations of their study in their papers, feeling that bringing up limitations may undermine its research value in the eyes of readers and reviewers.
In spite of the impact it might have (and perhaps because of it) you should clearly acknowledge any limitations in your research paper in order to show readers—whether journal editors, other researchers, or the general public—that you are aware of these limitations and to explain how they affect the conclusions that can be drawn from the research.
In this article, we provide some guidelines for writing about research limitations, show examples of some frequently seen study limitations, and recommend techniques for presenting this information. And after you have finished drafting and have received manuscript editing for your work, you still might want to follow this up with academic editing before submitting your work to your target journal.
Why do I need to include limitations of research in my paper?
Although limitations address the potential weaknesses of a study, writing about them toward the end of your paper actually strengthens your study by identifying any problems before other researchers or reviewers find them.
Furthermore, pointing out study limitations shows that you’ve considered the impact of research weakness thoroughly and have an in-depth understanding of your research topic. Since all studies face limitations, being honest and detailing these limitations will impress researchers and reviewers more than ignoring them.
Where should I put the limitations of the study in my paper?
Some limitations might be evident to researchers before the start of the study, while others might become clear while you are conducting the research. Whether these limitations are anticipated or not, and whether they are due to research design or to methodology, they should be clearly identified and discussed in the discussion section —the final section of your paper. Most journals now require you to include a discussion of potential limitations of your work, and many journals now ask you to place this “limitations section” at the very end of your article.
Some journals ask you to also discuss the strengths of your work in this section, and some allow you to freely choose where to include that information in your discussion section—make sure to always check the author instructions of your target journal before you finalize a manuscript and submit it for peer review .
Limitations of the Study Examples
There are several reasons why limitations of research might exist. The two main categories of limitations are those that result from the methodology and those that result from issues with the researcher(s).
Common Methodological Limitations of Studies
Limitations of research due to methodological problems can be addressed by clearly and directly identifying the potential problem and suggesting ways in which this could have been addressed—and SHOULD be addressed in future studies. The following are some major potential methodological issues that can impact the conclusions researchers can draw from the research.
Issues with research samples and selection
Sampling errors occur when a probability sampling method is used to select a sample, but that sample does not reflect the general population or appropriate population concerned. This results in limitations of your study known as “sample bias” or “selection bias.”
For example, if you conducted a survey to obtain your research results, your samples (participants) were asked to respond to the survey questions. However, you might have had limited ability to gain access to the appropriate type or geographic scope of participants. In this case, the people who responded to your survey questions may not truly be a random sample.
Insufficient sample size for statistical measurements
When conducting a study, it is important to have a sufficient sample size in order to draw valid conclusions. The larger the sample, the more precise your results will be. If your sample size is too small, it will be difficult to identify significant relationships in the data.
Normally, statistical tests require a larger sample size to ensure that the sample is considered representative of a population and that the statistical result can be generalized to a larger population. It is a good idea to understand how to choose an appropriate sample size before you conduct your research by using scientific calculation tools—in fact, many journals now require such estimation to be included in every manuscript that is sent out for review.
Lack of previous research studies on the topic
Citing and referencing prior research studies constitutes the basis of the literature review for your thesis or study, and these prior studies provide the theoretical foundations for the research question you are investigating. However, depending on the scope of your research topic, prior research studies that are relevant to your thesis might be limited.
When there is very little or no prior research on a specific topic, you may need to develop an entirely new research typology. In this case, discovering a limitation can be considered an important opportunity to identify literature gaps and to present the need for further development in the area of study.
Methods/instruments/techniques used to collect the data
After you complete your analysis of the research findings (in the discussion section), you might realize that the manner in which you have collected the data or the ways in which you have measured variables has limited your ability to conduct a thorough analysis of the results.
For example, you might realize that you should have addressed your survey questions from another viable perspective, or that you were not able to include an important question in the survey. In these cases, you should acknowledge the deficiency or deficiencies by stating a need for future researchers to revise their specific methods for collecting data that includes these missing elements.
Common Limitations of the Researcher(s)
Study limitations that arise from situations relating to the researcher or researchers (whether the direct fault of the individuals or not) should also be addressed and dealt with, and remedies to decrease these limitations—both hypothetically in your study, and practically in future studies—should be proposed.
Limited access to data
If your research involved surveying certain people or organizations, you might have faced the problem of having limited access to these respondents. Due to this limited access, you might need to redesign or restructure your research in a different way. In this case, explain the reasons for limited access and be sure that your finding is still reliable and valid despite this limitation.
Just as students have deadlines to turn in their class papers, academic researchers might also have to meet deadlines for submitting a manuscript to a journal or face other time constraints related to their research (e.g., participants are only available during a certain period; funding runs out; collaborators move to a new institution). The time available to study a research problem and to measure change over time might be constrained by such practical issues. If time constraints negatively impacted your study in any way, acknowledge this impact by mentioning a need for a future study (e.g., a longitudinal study) to answer this research problem.
Conflicts arising from cultural bias and other personal issues
Researchers might hold biased views due to their cultural backgrounds or perspectives of certain phenomena, and this can affect a study’s legitimacy. Also, it is possible that researchers will have biases toward data and results that only support their hypotheses or arguments. In order to avoid these problems, the author(s) of a study should examine whether the way the research problem was stated and the data-gathering process was carried out appropriately.
Steps for Organizing Your Study Limitations Section
When you discuss the limitations of your study, don’t simply list and describe your limitations—explain how these limitations have influenced your research findings. There might be multiple limitations in your study, but you only need to point out and explain those that directly relate to and impact how you address your research questions.
We suggest that you divide your limitations section into three steps: (1) identify the study limitations; (2) explain how they impact your study in detail; and (3) propose a direction for future studies and present alternatives. By following this sequence when discussing your study’s limitations, you will be able to clearly demonstrate your study’s weakness without undermining the quality and integrity of your research.
Step 1. Identify the limitation(s) of the study
- This part should comprise around 10%-20% of your discussion of study limitations.
The first step is to identify the particular limitation(s) that affected your study. There are many possible limitations of research that can affect your study, but you don’t need to write a long review of all possible study limitations. A 200-500 word critique is an appropriate length for a research limitations section. In the beginning of this section, identify what limitations your study has faced and how important these limitations are.
You only need to identify limitations that had the greatest potential impact on: (1) the quality of your findings, and (2) your ability to answer your research question.
Step 2. Explain these study limitations in detail
- This part should comprise around 60-70% of your discussion of limitations.
After identifying your research limitations, it’s time to explain the nature of the limitations and how they potentially impacted your study. For example, when you conduct quantitative research, a lack of probability sampling is an important issue that you should mention. On the other hand, when you conduct qualitative research, the inability to generalize the research findings could be an issue that deserves mention.
Explain the role these limitations played on the results and implications of the research and justify the choice you made in using this “limiting” methodology or other action in your research. Also, make sure that these limitations didn’t undermine the quality of your dissertation .
Step 3. Propose a direction for future studies and present alternatives (optional)
- This part should comprise around 10-20% of your discussion of limitations.
After acknowledging the limitations of the research, you need to discuss some possible ways to overcome these limitations in future studies. One way to do this is to present alternative methodologies and ways to avoid issues with, or “fill in the gaps of” the limitations of this study you have presented. Discuss both the pros and cons of these alternatives and clearly explain why researchers should choose these approaches.
Make sure you are current on approaches used by prior studies and the impacts they have had on their findings. Cite review articles or scientific bodies that have recommended these approaches and why. This might be evidence in support of the approach you chose, or it might be the reason you consider your choices to be included as limitations. This process can act as a justification for your approach and a defense of your decision to take it while acknowledging the feasibility of other approaches.
P hrases and Tips for Introducing Your Study Limitations in the Discussion Section
The following phrases are frequently used to introduce the limitations of the study:
- “There may be some possible limitations in this study.”
- “The findings of this study have to be seen in light of some limitations.”
- “The first is the…The second limitation concerns the…”
- “The empirical results reported herein should be considered in the light of some limitations.”
- “This research, however, is subject to several limitations.”
- “The primary limitation to the generalization of these results is…”
- “Nonetheless, these results must be interpreted with caution and a number of limitations should be borne in mind.”
- “As with the majority of studies, the design of the current study is subject to limitations.”
- “There are two major limitations in this study that could be addressed in future research. First, the study focused on …. Second ….”
For more articles on research writing and the journal submissions and publication process, visit Wordvice’s Academic Resources page.
And be sure to receive professional English editing and proofreading services , including paper editing services , for your journal manuscript before submitting it to journal editors.
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APA In-Text Citation Guide for Research Writing
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- How to Present Limitations and Alternatives (UMASS)
Pearson-Stuttard, J., Kypridemos, C., Collins, B., Mozaffarian, D., Huang, Y., Bandosz, P.,…Micha, R. (2018). Estimating the health and economic effects of the proposed US Food and Drug Administration voluntary sodium reformulation: Microsimulation cost-effectiveness analysis. PLOS. https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002551
Xu, W.L, Pedersen, N.L., Keller, L., Kalpouzos, G., Wang, H.X., Graff, C,. Fratiglioni, L. (2015). HHEX_23 AA Genotype Exacerbates Effect of Diabetes on Dementia and Alzheimer Disease: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study. PLOS. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001853
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SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
National High school,school year 2017-2018 who will represent the population This study will not cover other problems that are not consider as one of the stress and depression. The other students which do not fall as part of grade 9 and grade 10 students are not within the scope of this research. The study would be done through the utilization of questionnaire to the students as a survey and reference. By their strategy the researchers will be able to know the effects of stress and depression to grade 9 and grade 10 students.
cristina jose kampfner
Why so many Latino students drop out of schools is considered from the perspective that much of the literature on this problem is inadequate because it ignores the experiences of Latino youth at home, in school, and in the community, and attempts to explain the failure of the educational system in terms of just one area. Interviews were conducted with 10 focus groups in southwest Detroit (Michigan). Three groups were for junior high school students and two were for parents, with one each for teachers, community workers, and school counselors, and two fcr Latino dropouts. In addition, a program that brings together college students as tutors, mentors, and group leaders with junior high school students was examined. Both the focus groups and the successes of the "Youth Helping Youth" program demonstrate that violence is endemic in the contexts in which these urban Latino students live and that traditional approaches have failed to recognize or to address the needs of these s...
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While digital communication is almost universal amongst adolescents, we do not yet know why adolescent girls seek support electronically or how they perceive this support. The prevalence of adolescent girls’ informal digital support seeking was determined by a self-report questionnaire with 186 early and middle adolescent girls (Mage = 13.64 years), drawn from four socioeconomically advantaged schools in Australia. Digital support seeking from friends was extremely common, with 73.66% seeking emotional support and 85.48% seeking academic support. Next, to determine perceptions of digital support seeking, we conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with a representative subsample of 31 girls (Mage = 13.95 years). Interview data was analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Themes of friendship and emotional self-regulation emerged as perceived benefits. Girls perceived digital support to be poorer in quality than face-to-face support, and were particularly concerned about limi...
School Social Work Journal
Elementary School Social Workers’ Perspectives on the Development of Resilience in Early Childhood by Danny John Podraza MA, Northeastern Illinois University, 1973 BS, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1970 Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education Walden University April 2017 Abstract Researchers have stressed the importance of addressing the social/emotional needs of early childhood (EC) children, including the development of resilience; however, some U.S. school personnel focus more on academics than on these needs. When young children possess these skills, they can handle social/emotional challenges later in life. The purpose of this qualitative bounded case study was to explore school social workers’ (SWs) perspectives about resilience in EC settings. Research questions focused on knowledge of existing programs, participants’ perceptions of the successes and challenges of working with EC students, and their recommend...
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This research is entitled to state the effects of social rejection to the students of Roosevelt College, an Educational Institution in the Philippines.
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This thesis paper only contain its 1-3 chapters. Indeed, socialization and coordination starts within the home, far back to one’s infancy stage up to the growing morale and activities of his family. Children are encouraged to continue a certain action because they are rewarded and this concept is Motivation from Psychological terms. The researcher would like to conduct this study to better understand the concept of socialization and of participation in extracurricular activities to the academic performance concerning some nursing students of Far Eastern University – Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation or FEU-NRMF for short. In fact, the socialization gives us the tools… They are our building blocks (Warren Farrell, 1997). The researcher aims to point if socialization may affect the academic performance of some students whether it may be increased or decreased and this will be achieved by putting on a survey to correspondents in form of questionnaires.
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21 Research Limitations Examples
Research limitations refer to the potential weaknesses inherent in a study. All studies have limitations of some sort, meaning declaring limitations doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing, so long as your declaration of limitations is well thought-out and explained.
Rarely is a study perfect. Researchers have to make trade-offs when developing their studies, which are often based upon practical considerations such as time and monetary constraints, weighing breadth of participants against depth of insight, and choosing one methodology or another.
In research, studies can have limitations such as limited scope, researcher subjectivity, and lack of available research tools.
Acknowledging the limitations of your study should be seen as a strength. It demonstrates your willingness for transparency , humility and submission to the scientific method , and can bloster the integrity of the study. It can also inform future research direction.
Typically, scholars will explore the limitations of their study in either their methodology section, their conclusion section, or both.
Research Limitations Examples
Qualitative and quantitative research offer different perspectives and methods in exploring phenomena, each with its own strengths and limitations. So, I’ve split the limitations examples sections in qualitative and quantitative below.
Qualitative Research Limitations
Qualitative research seeks to understand phenomena in-depth and in context. It focuses on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions.
It’s often used to explore new or complex issues, and it provides rich, detailed insights into participants’ experiences, behaviors, and attitudes. However, these strengths also create certain limitations, explained below.
Qualitative research often requires the researcher to interpret subjective data. One researcher may examine a text and identify different themes or concepts as more dominant than others.
Close qualitative readings of texts are necessarily subjective – and while this may be a limitation, qualitative researchers argue this is the best way to deeply understand everything in context.
Suggested Solution and Response: To minimize subjectivity bias, you could consider cross-checking your own readings of themes and data against other scholars’ readings and interpretations. This may involve giving the raw data to a supervisor or colleague and asking them to code the data separately, then coming together to compare and contrast results.
2. Researcher Bias
The concept of researcher bias is related to, but slightly different from, subjectivity.
Researcher bias refers to the perspectives and opinions you bring with you when doing your research.
For example, a researcher who is explicitly of a certain philosophical or political persuasion may bring that persuasion to bear when interpreting data.
In many scholarly traditions, we will attempt to minimize researcher bias through the utilization of clear procedures that are set out in advance, or, through the use of statistical analysis tools.
However, in other traditions, such as in postmodern feminist research , declaration of bias is expected, and acknowledgment of bias is seen as a positive because, in those traditions, it is believed that bias cannot be eliminated from research, so instead, it is a matter of integrity to present it upfront.
Suggested Solution and Response: Acknowledge the potential for researcher bias and, depending on your theoretical framework , accept this, or identify procedures you have taken to seek a closer approximation to objectivity in your coding and analysis.
If you’re struggling to find a limitation to discuss in your own qualitative research study, then this one is for you: all qualitative research, of all persuasions and perspectives, cannot be generalized.
This is a core feature that sets qualitative and quantitative data apart.
The point of qualitative data is to select case studies and similarly small corpora and dig deep through in-depth analysis and thick description of data.
Often, this will also mean that you have a non-randomize sample size.
While this is a positive – you’re going to get some really deep, contextualized, interesting insights – it also means that the findings may not be generalizable to a larger population that may not be representative of the small group of people in your study.
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that take a quantitative approach to the question.
4. The Hawthorne Effect
The Hawthorne effect refers to the phenomenon where research participants change their ‘observed behavior’ when they’re aware that they are being observed.
This effect was first identified by Elton Mayo who conducted studies of the effects of various factors ton workers’ productivity. He noticed that no matter what he did – turning up the lights, turning down the lights, etc. – there was an increase in worker outputs compared to prior to the study taking place.
Mayo realized that the mere act of observing the workers made them work harder – his observation was what was changing behavior.
So, if you’re looking for a potential limitation to name for your observational research study , highlight the possible impact of the Hawthorne effect (and how you could reduce your footprint or visibility in order to decrease its likelihood).
Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight ways you have attempted to reduce your footprint while in the field, and guarantee anonymity to your research participants.
Quantitative research has the great benefit that the studies are replicable – a researcher can get a similar sample size, duplicate the variables, and re-test a study. But you can’t do that in qualitative research.
Wualitative research relies heavily on context – a specific case study, or specific variables that make a certain instance worthy of analysis. As a result, it’s often difficult to re-enter the same setting with the same variables and repeat the study.
Furthermore, the individual researcher’s interpretation is more influential in qualitative research, meaning even if a new researcher enters an environment and makes observations, their observations may be different, because subjectivity comes into play much more. This doesn’t make the research bad necessarily (great insights can be made in qualitative research), but it certainly does demonstrate a weakness of qualitative research.
6. Limited Scope
“Limited scope” is perhaps one of the most common limitations listed by researchers – and while this is often a catch-all way of saying “well, I’m not studying that in this study”, it’s also a valid point.
No study can explore everything related to a topic. At some point, we have to make decisions about what’s include in the study and what excluded from the study.
So, you could say that a limitation of your study is that it doesn’t look at an extra variable or concept that’s certainly worthy of study, but will have to be explore in your next project, because this project has a clearly and narrowly defined goal.
Suggested Solution and Response: Be clear about what’s in and out of the study when writing your research question.
7. Time Constraints
This is also a catch-all claim you can make about your research project: that you would have included more people in the study, looked at more variable, and so on. But, you’ve got to submit this thing by the end of next semester! You’ve got time constraints.
And time constraints are a recognized reality in all research.
But this means you’ll need to explain how time has limited your decisions. As with “limited scope”, this may mean that you had to study a smaller group of subjects, limit the amount of time you spent in the field, and so forth.
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will build on your current work, possibly as a PhD project.
8. Resource Intensiveness
Qualitative research can be expensive due to the cost of transcription, the involvement of trained researchers, and potential travel for interviews or observations.
So, resource intensiveness is similar to the time constraints concept. If you don’t have the funds, you have to make decisions about which tools to use, which statistical software to employ, and how many research assistants you can dedicate to the study.
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will gain more funding on the back of this ‘exploratory study’.
9. Coding Difficulties
Data analysis in qualitative research often involves coding, which can be subjective and complex, especially when dealing with ambiguous or contradicting data.
After naming this as a limitation in your research, it’s important to explain how you’ve attempted to address this. Some ways to ‘limit the limitation’ include:
- Triangulation: Have 2 other researchers code the data as well and cross-check your results with theirs to identify outliers that may need to be re-examined, debated with the other researchers, or removed altogether.
- Procedure: Use a clear coding procedure to demonstrate reliability in your coding process. I personally use the thematic network analysis method outlined in this academic article by Attride-Stirling (2001).
Suggested Solution and Response: Triangulate your coding findings with colleagues, and follow a thematic network analysis procedure.
10. Risk of Non-Responsiveness
There is always a risk in research that research participants will be unwilling or uncomfortable sharing their genuine thoughts and feelings in the study.
This is particularly true when you’re conducting research on sensitive topics, politicized topics, or topics where the participant is expressing vulnerability .
This is similar to the Hawthorne effect (aka participant bias), where participants change their behaviors in your presence; but it goes a step further, where participants actively hide their true thoughts and feelings from you.
Suggested Solution and Response: One way to manage this is to try to include a wider group of people with the expectation that there will be non-responsiveness from some participants.
11. Risk of Attrition
Attrition refers to the process of losing research participants throughout the study.
This occurs most commonly in longitudinal studies , where a researcher must return to conduct their analysis over spaced periods of time, often over a period of years.
Things happen to people over time – they move overseas, their life experiences change, they get sick, change their minds, and even die. The more time that passes, the greater the risk of attrition.
Suggested Solution and Response: One way to manage this is to try to include a wider group of people with the expectation that there will be attrition over time.
12. Difficulty in Maintaining Confidentiality and Anonymity
Given the detailed nature of qualitative data, ensuring participant anonymity can be challenging.
If you have a sensitive topic in a specific case study, even anonymizing research participants sometimes isn’t enough. People might be able to induce who you’re talking about.
Sometimes, this will mean you have to exclude some interesting data that you collected from your final report. Confidentiality and anonymity come before your findings in research ethics – and this is a necessary limiting factor.
Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight the efforts you have taken to anonymize data, and accept that confidentiality and accountability place extremely important constraints on academic research.
13. Difficulty in Finding Research Participants
A study that looks at a very specific phenomenon or even a specific set of cases within a phenomenon means that the pool of potential research participants can be very low.
Compile on top of this the fact that many people you approach may choose not to participate, and you could end up with a very small corpus of subjects to explore. This may limit your ability to make complete findings, even in a quantitative sense.
You may need to therefore limit your research question and objectives to something more realistic.
Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight that this is going to limit the study’s generalizability significantly.
14. Ethical Limitations
Ethical limitations refer to the things you cannot do based upon ethical concerns identified either by yourself or your institution’s ethics review board.
This might include threats to the physical or psychological wellbeing of your research subjects, the potential of releasing data that could harm a person’s reputation, and so on.
Furthermore, even if your study follows all expected standards of ethics, you still as an ethical researcher need to allow a research participant to pull out at any point in time, after which you cannot use their data, which demonstrates an overlap between ethical constraints and participant attrition.
Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight that these ethical limitations are inevitable, but important to sustain the integrity of the research.
For more on Qualiative Research, Explore my Qualitative Research Guide
Quantitative Research Limitations
Quantitative research focuses on quantifiable data and statistical, mathematical, or computational techniques. It’s often used to test hypotheses, assess relationships and causality, and generalize findings across larger populations.
Quantitative research is widely respected for its ability to provide reliable, measurable, and generalizable data (if done well!). Its structured methodology has strengths over qualitative research, such as the fact it allows for replication of the study, which underpins the validity of the research.
However, this approach is not without it limitations, explained below.
Quantitative research is powerful because it allows you to measure and analyze data in a systematic and standardized way. However, one of its limitations is that it can sometimes simplify complex phenomena or situations.
In other words, it might miss the subtleties or nuances of the research subject.
For example, if you’re studying why people choose a particular diet, a quantitative study might identify factors like age, income, or health status. But it might miss other aspects, such as cultural influences or personal beliefs, that can also significantly impact dietary choices.
When writing about this limitation, you can say that your quantitative approach, while providing precise measurements and comparisons, may not capture the full complexity of your subjects of study.
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest a follow-up case study using the same research participants in order to gain the additional context and depth.
2. Lack of Context
Another potential issue with quantitative research is that it often focuses on numbers and statistics at the expense of context or qualitative information.
Let’s say you’re studying the effect of classroom size on student performance. You might find that students in smaller classes generally perform better. However, this doesn’t take into account other variables, like teaching style, student motivation, or family support.
When describing this limitation, you might say, “Although our research provides important insights into the relationship between class size and student performance, it does not incorporate the impact of other potentially influential variables. Future research could benefit from a mixed-methods approach that combines quantitative analysis with qualitative insights.”
3. Applicability to Real-World Settings
Oftentimes, experimental research takes place in controlled environments to limit the influence of outside factors.
This control is great for isolation and understanding the specific phenomenon but can limit the applicability or “external validity” of the research to real-world settings.
For example, if you conduct a lab experiment to see how sleep deprivation impacts cognitive performance, the sterile, controlled lab environment might not reflect real-world conditions where people are dealing with multiple stressors.
Therefore, when explaining limitations of your quantitative study in your methodology section, you could state:
“While our findings provide valuable information about [topic], the controlled conditions of the experiment may not accurately represent real-world scenarios where extraneous variables will exist. As such, the direct applicability of our results to broader contexts may be limited.”
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will engage in real-world observational research, such as ethnographic research.
4. Limited Flexibility
Once a quantitative study is underway, it can be challenging to make changes to it. This is because, unlike in grounded research, you’re putting in place your study in advance and you can’t make changes part-way through.
Your study design, data collection methods, and analysis techniques need to be decided upon before you start collecting data.
For example, if you are conducting a survey on the impact of social media on teenage mental health, and halfway through, you realize that you should have included a question about their screen time, it’s generally too late to add it.
When discussing this limitation, you could write something like, “The structured nature of our quantitative approach allows for consistent data collection and analysis, but also limits our flexibility to adapt and modify the research process in response to emerging insights and ideas.”
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will use mixed-methods or qualitative research methods to gain additional depth of insight.
5. Risk of Survey Error
Surveys are a common tool in quantitative research, but they carry risks of error.
There can be measurement errors (if a question is misunderstood), coverage errors (if some groups aren’t adequately represented), non-response errors (if certain people don’t respond), and sampling errors (if your sample isn’t representative of the population).
For instance, if you’re surveying college students about their study habits , but only daytime students respond because you conduct the survey during the day, your results will be skewed.
In discussing this limitation, you might say, “Despite our best efforts to develop a comprehensive survey, there remains a risk of survey error, including measurement, coverage, non-response, and sampling errors. These could potentially impact the reliability and generalizability of our findings.”
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will use other survey tools to compare and contrast results.
6. Limited Ability to Probe Answers
With quantitative research, you typically can’t ask follow-up questions or delve deeper into participants’ responses like you could in a qualitative interview.
For instance, imagine you are surveying 500 students about study habits in a questionnaire. A respondent might indicate that they study for two hours each night. You might want to follow-up by asking them to elaborate on what those study sessions involve or how effective they feel their habits are.
But quantitative research generally disallows this in the way a qualitative semi-structured interview could.
When discussing this limitation, you might write, “Given the structured nature of our survey, our ability to probe deeper into individual responses is limited. This means we may not fully understand the context or reasoning behind the responses, potentially limiting the depth of our findings.”
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that engage in mixed-method or qualitative methodologies to address the issue from another angle.
7. Reliance on Instruments for Data Collection
In quantitative research, the collection of data heavily relies on instruments like questionnaires, surveys, or machines.
The limitation here is that the data you get is only as good as the instrument you’re using. If the instrument isn’t designed or calibrated well, your data can be flawed.
For instance, if you’re using a questionnaire to study customer satisfaction and the questions are vague, confusing, or biased, the responses may not accurately reflect the customers’ true feelings.
When discussing this limitation, you could say, “Our study depends on the use of questionnaires for data collection. Although we have put significant effort into designing and testing the instrument, it’s possible that inaccuracies or misunderstandings could potentially affect the validity of the data collected.”
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will use different instruments but examine the same variables to triangulate results.
8. Time and Resource Constraints (Specific to Quantitative Research)
Quantitative research can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, especially when dealing with large samples.
It often involves systematic sampling, rigorous design, and sometimes complex statistical analysis.
If resources and time are limited, it can restrict the scale of your research, the techniques you can employ, or the extent of your data analysis.
For example, you may want to conduct a nationwide survey on public opinion about a certain policy. However, due to limited resources, you might only be able to survey people in one city.
When writing about this limitation, you could say, “Given the scope of our research and the resources available, we are limited to conducting our survey within one city, which may not fully represent the nationwide public opinion. Hence, generalizability of the results may be limited.”
Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will have more funding or longer timeframes.
How to Discuss your Research Limitations
1. in your research proposal and methodology section.
In the research proposal, which will become the methodology section of your dissertation, I would recommend taking the four following steps, in order:
- Be Explicit about your Scope – If you limit the scope of your study in your research question, aims, and objectives, then you can set yourself up well later in the methodology to say that certain questions are “outside the scope of the study.” For example, you may identify the fact that the study doesn’t address a certain variable, but you can follow-up by stating that the research question is specifically focused on the variable that you are examining, so this limitation would need to be looked at in future studies.
- Acknowledge the Limitation – Acknowledging the limitations of your study demonstrates reflexivity and humility, and can make your research more reliable and valid. It also pre-empts questions the people grading your paper may have so instead of them down-grading you for your limitations, they will congratulate you on explaining the limitations and how you have addressed them!
- Explain your Decisions – You may have chosen your approach (depsite its limitations) for a very specific reason. This might be because your approach remains, on balance, the best one to answer your research question. Or, it might be because of time and monetary constraints that are outside of your control.
- Highlight the Strengths of your Approach – Conclude your limitations section by strongly demonstrating that, despite limitations, you’ve worked hard to minimize the effects of the limitations and that you have chosen your specific approach and methodology because it’s also got some terrific strengths. Name the strengths.
Overall, you’ll want to acknowledge your own limitations but also explain that the limitations don’t detract from the value of your study as it stands.
2. In the Conclusion Section or Chapter
In the conclusion of your study, it is generally expected that you return to a discussion of the study’s limitations. Here, I recommend the following steps:
- Acknowledge issues faced – After completing your study, you will be increasingly aware of issues you may have faced that, if you re-did the study, you may have addressed earlier in order to avoid those issues. Acknowledge these issues as limitations, and frame them as recommendations for subsequent studies.
- Suggest further research – Scholarly research aims to fill gaps in the current literature and knowledge. Having established your expertise through your study, suggest lines of inquiry for future researchers. You could state that your study had certain limitations, and “future studies” can address those limitations.
- Suggest a mixed methods approach – Qualitative and quantitative research each have pros and cons. So, note those ‘cons’ of your approach, then say the next study should approach the topic using the opposite methodology, or, could approach it using a mixed-methods approach that could achieve the benefits of quantitative studies with the nuanced insights of associated qualitative insights as part of an in-study case-study.
Overall, be clear both about your limitations and how those limitations can inform future studies.
In sum, each type of research method has its own strengths and limitation. Qualitative research excels in exploring depth, context, and complexity, while quantitative research excels in examining breadth, generalizability, and quantifiable measures. Despite their individual limitations, each method contributes unique and valuable insights, and researchers often use them together to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon being studied.
Attride-Stirling, J. (2001). Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative research , 1 (3), 385-405.
Atkinson, P., Delamont, S., Cernat, A., Sakshaug, J., & Williams, R. A. (2021). SAGE research methods foundations . London: Sage Publications.
Clark, T., Foster, L., Bryman, A., & Sloan, L. (2021). Bryman’s social research methods . Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Köhler, T., Smith, A., & Bhakoo, V. (2022). Templates in qualitative research methods: Origins, limitations, and new directions. Organizational Research Methods , 25 (2), 183-210.
Lenger, A. (2019). The rejection of qualitative research methods in economics. Journal of Economic Issues , 53 (4), 946-965.
Taherdoost, H. (2022). What are different research approaches? Comprehensive review of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method research, their applications, types, and limitations. Journal of Management Science & Engineering Research , 5 (1), 53-63.
Walliman, N. (2021). Research methods: The basics . New York: Routledge.
Chris Drew (PhD)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]
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