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.