SCOPE, LIMITATIONS, and DELIMITATIONS
By Marilyn K. Simon and Jim Goes
Includes excerpts from Simon & Goes (2013), Dissertation and Scholarly Research: Recipes for Success. Seattle, WA: Dissertation Success LLC
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The scope of the study refers to the parameters under which the study will be operating. The problem you seek to resolve will fit within certain parameters. Think of the scope as the domain of your research—what’s in the domain, and what is not. You need to make it as clear as possible what you will be studying and what factors are within the accepted range of your study. For example, if you are studying the ill effects of bullying on middle school children, the scope could include both face-to-face bullying and cyber-bullying in grades 6 through 8.
Limitations are matters and occurrences that arise in a study which are out of the researcher's control. They limit the extensity to which a study can go, and sometimes affect the end result and conclusions that can be drawn. Every study, no matter how well it is conducted and constructed, has limitations. This is one of the reasons why we do not use the words "prove" and "disprove" with respect to research findings. It is always possible that future research may cast doubt on the validity of any hypothesis or conclusion from a study. Your study might have access to only certain people in an organization, certain documents, and certain data. These are limitations. Subsequent studies may overcome these limitations.
Limitations of Qualitative Studies
A limitation associated with qualitative study is related to validity and reliability. “Because qualitative research occurs in the natural setting it is extremely difficult to replicate studies” (Wiersma, 2000, p. 211). When you select certain methodologies and designs, for example phenomenology, they come with limitations over which you may have...
References: Delva, M. D., Kirby, J. R., Knapper, C. K. & Birtwhistle, R. V. (2002). Postal survey of
approaches to learning among Ontario physicians: Implications for continuing
medical education. British Medical Journal, 325, 1218-1222.
Wiersma, W. (2000). Research methods in education: An introduction. Boston,
MA. Allyn and Bacon.
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