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21 Research Limitations Examples

21 Research Limitations Examples

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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research limitations examples and definition, explained below

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 the breadth of participants against the 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 bolster 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 into 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, as explained below.

1. Subjectivity

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.

3. Generalizability

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 data 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-randomized 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.

5. Replicability

Quantitative research has a great benefit in 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.

Qualitative 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 included in the study and what is 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 explored 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 variables, 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 on ethical concerns identified either by yourself or your institution’s ethics review board.

This might include threats to the physical or psychological well-being 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 Qualitative 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.

1. Over-Simplification

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 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 the 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.

However, 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, the 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 (despite 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 about both your limitations and how those limitations can inform future studies.

In sum, each type of research method has its own strengths and limitations. 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. ( Source )

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. ( Source )

Lenger, A. (2019). The rejection of qualitative research methods in economics.  Journal of Economic Issues ,  53 (4), 946-965. ( Source )

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. ( Source )

Walliman, N. (2021).  Research methods: The basics . New York: Routledge.

Chris

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Scope and Delimitations – Explained & Example

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  • By DiscoverPhDs
  • October 2, 2020

Scope and Delimitation

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:

Delimitation Scope for Thesis Statement

  • 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.

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Scientific misconduct can be described as a deviation from the accepted standards of scientific research, study and publication ethics.

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Research Limitations 101 📖

A Plain-Language Explainer (With Practical Examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewer: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | May 2024

Research limitations are one of those things that students tend to avoid digging into, and understandably so. No one likes to critique their own study and point out weaknesses. Nevertheless, being able to understand the limitations of your study – and, just as importantly, the implications thereof – a is a critically important skill.

In this post, we’ll unpack some of the most common research limitations you’re likely to encounter, so that you can approach your project with confidence.

Overview: Research Limitations 101

  • What are research limitations ?
  • Access – based limitations
  • Temporal & financial limitations
  • Sample & sampling limitations
  • Design limitations
  • Researcher limitations
  • Key takeaways

What (exactly) are “research limitations”?

At the simplest level, research limitations (also referred to as “the limitations of the study”) are the constraints and challenges that will invariably influence your ability to conduct your study and draw reliable conclusions .

Research limitations are inevitable. Absolutely no study is perfect and limitations are an inherent part of any research design. These limitations can stem from a variety of sources , including access to data, methodological choices, and the more mundane constraints of budget and time. So, there’s no use trying to escape them – what matters is that you can recognise them.

Acknowledging and understanding these limitations is crucial, not just for the integrity of your research, but also for your development as a scholar. That probably sounds a bit rich, but realistically, having a strong understanding of the limitations of any given study helps you handle the inevitable obstacles professionally and transparently, which in turn builds trust with your audience and academic peers.

Simply put, recognising and discussing the limitations of your study demonstrates that you know what you’re doing , and that you’ve considered the results of your project within the context of these limitations. In other words, discussing the limitations is a sign of credibility and strength – not weakness. Contrary to the common misconception, highlighting your limitations (or rather, your study’s limitations) will earn you (rather than cost you) marks.

So, with that foundation laid, let’s have a look at some of the most common research limitations you’re likely to encounter – and how to go about managing them as effectively as possible.

Need a helping hand?

scope and limitation of study in research paper example

Limitation #1: Access To Information

One of the first hurdles you might encounter is limited access to necessary information. For example, you may have trouble getting access to specific literature or niche data sets. This situation can manifest due to several reasons, including paywalls, copyright and licensing issues or language barriers.

To minimise situations like these, it’s useful to try to leverage your university’s resource pool to the greatest extent possible. In practical terms, this means engaging with your university’s librarian and/or potentially utilising interlibrary loans to get access to restricted resources. If this sounds foreign to you, have a chat with your librarian 🙃

In emerging fields or highly specific study areas, you might find that there’s very little existing research (i.e., literature) on your topic. This scenario, while challenging, also offers a unique opportunity to contribute significantly to your field , as it indicates that there’s a significant research gap .

All of that said, be sure to conduct an exhaustive search using a variety of keywords and Boolean operators before assuming that there’s a lack of literature. Also, remember to snowball your literature base . In other words, scan the reference lists of the handful of papers that are directly relevant and then scan those references for more sources. You can also consider using tools like Litmaps and Connected Papers (see video below).

Limitation #2: Time & Money

Almost every researcher will face time and budget constraints at some point. Naturally, these limitations can affect the depth and breadth of your research – but they don’t need to be a death sentence.

Effective planning is crucial to managing both the temporal and financial aspects of your study. In practical terms, utilising tools like Gantt charts can help you visualise and plan your research timeline realistically, thereby reducing the risk of any nasty surprises. Always take a conservative stance when it comes to timelines, especially if you’re new to academic research. As a rule of thumb, things will generally take twice as long as you expect – so, prepare for the worst-case scenario.

If budget is a concern, you might want to consider exploring small research grants or adjusting the scope of your study so that it fits within a realistic budget. Trimming back might sound unattractive, but keep in mind that a smaller, well-planned study can often be more impactful than a larger, poorly planned project.

If you find yourself in a position where you’ve already run out of cash, don’t panic. There’s usually a pivot opportunity hidden somewhere within your project. Engage with your research advisor or faculty to explore potential solutions – don’t make any major changes without first consulting your institution.

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Limitation #3: Sample Size & Composition

As we’ve discussed before , the size and representativeness of your sample are crucial , especially in quantitative research where the robustness of your conclusions often depends on these factors. All too often though, students run into issues achieving a sufficient sample size and composition.

To ensure adequacy in terms of your sample size, it’s important to plan for potential dropouts by oversampling from the outset . In other words, if you aim for a final sample size of 100 participants, aim to recruit 120-140 to account for unexpected challenges. If you still find yourself short on participants, consider whether you could complement your dataset with secondary data or data from an adjacent sample – for example, participants from another city or country. That said, be sure to engage with your research advisor before making any changes to your approach.

A related issue that you may run into is sample composition. In other words, you may have trouble securing a random sample that’s representative of your population of interest. In cases like this, you might again want to look at ways to complement your dataset with other sources, but if that’s not possible, it’s not the end of the world. As with all limitations, you’ll just need to recognise this limitation in your final write-up and be sure to interpret your results accordingly. In other words, don’t claim generalisability of your results if your sample isn’t random.

Limitation #4: Methodological Limitations

As we alluded earlier, every methodological choice comes with its own set of limitations . For example, you can’t claim causality if you’re using a descriptive or correlational research design. Similarly, as we saw in the previous example, you can’t claim generalisability if you’re using a non-random sampling approach.

Making good methodological choices is all about understanding (and accepting) the inherent trade-offs . In the vast majority of cases, you won’t be able to adopt the “perfect” methodology – and that’s okay. What’s important is that you select a methodology that aligns with your research aims and research questions , as well as the practical constraints at play (e.g., time, money, equipment access, etc.). Just as importantly, you must recognise and articulate the limitations of your chosen methods, and justify why they were the most suitable, given your specific context.

Limitation #5: Researcher (In)experience 

A discussion about research limitations would not be complete without mentioning the researcher (that’s you!). Whether we like to admit it or not, researcher inexperience and personal biases can subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) influence the interpretation and presentation of data within a study. This is especially true when it comes to dissertations and theses , as these are most commonly undertaken by first-time (or relatively fresh) researchers.

When it comes to dealing with this specific limitation, it’s important to remember the adage “ We don’t know what we don’t know ”. In other words, recognise and embrace your (relative) ignorance and subjectivity – and interpret your study’s results within that context . Simply put, don’t be overly confident in drawing conclusions from your study – especially when they contradict existing literature.

Cultivating a culture of reflexivity within your research practices can help reduce subjectivity and keep you a bit more “rooted” in the data. In practical terms, this simply means making an effort to become aware of how your perspectives and experiences may have shaped the research process and outcomes.

As with any new endeavour in life, it’s useful to garner as many outsider perspectives as possible. Of course, your university-assigned research advisor will play a large role in this respect, but it’s also a good idea to seek out feedback and critique from other academics. To this end, you might consider approaching other faculty at your institution, joining an online group, or even working with a private coach .

Your inexperience and personal biases can subtly (but significantly) influence how you interpret your data and draw your conclusions.

Key Takeaways

Understanding and effectively navigating research limitations is key to conducting credible and reliable academic work. By acknowledging and addressing these limitations upfront, you not only enhance the integrity of your research, but also demonstrate your academic maturity and professionalism.

Whether you’re working on a dissertation, thesis or any other type of formal academic research, remember the five most common research limitations and interpret your data while keeping them in mind.

  • Access to Information (literature and data)
  • Time and money
  • Sample size and composition
  • Research design and methodology
  • Researcher (in)experience and bias

If you need a hand identifying and mitigating the limitations within your study, check out our 1:1 private coaching service .

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Limitations of the Study
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Applying Critical Thinking
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

The limitations of the study are those characteristics of design or methodology that impacted or influenced the interpretation of the findings from your research. Study limitations are the constraints placed on the ability to generalize from the results, to further describe applications to practice, and/or related to the utility of findings that are the result of the ways in which you initially chose to design the study or the method used to establish internal and external validity or the result of unanticipated challenges that emerged during the study.

Price, James H. and Judy Murnan. “Research Limitations and the Necessity of Reporting Them.” American Journal of Health Education 35 (2004): 66-67; Theofanidis, Dimitrios and Antigoni Fountouki. "Limitations and Delimitations in the Research Process." Perioperative Nursing 7 (September-December 2018): 155-163. .

Importance of...

Always acknowledge a study's limitations. It is far better that you identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor and have your grade lowered because you appeared to have ignored them or didn't realize they existed.

Keep in mind that acknowledgment of a study's limitations is an opportunity to make suggestions for further research. If you do connect your study's limitations to suggestions for further research, be sure to explain the ways in which these unanswered questions may become more focused because of your study.

Acknowledgment of a study's limitations also provides you with opportunities to demonstrate that you have thought critically about the research problem, understood the relevant literature published about it, and correctly assessed the methods chosen for studying the problem. A key objective of the research process is not only discovering new knowledge but also to confront assumptions and explore what we don't know.

Claiming limitations is a subjective process because you must evaluate the impact of those limitations . Don't just list key weaknesses and the magnitude of a study's limitations. To do so diminishes the validity of your research because it leaves the reader wondering whether, or in what ways, limitation(s) in your study may have impacted the results and conclusions. Limitations require a critical, overall appraisal and interpretation of their impact. You should answer the question: do these problems with errors, methods, validity, etc. eventually matter and, if so, to what extent?

Price, James H. and Judy Murnan. “Research Limitations and the Necessity of Reporting Them.” American Journal of Health Education 35 (2004): 66-67; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation. Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook. Laerd.com.

Descriptions of Possible Limitations

All studies have limitations . However, it is important that you restrict your discussion to limitations related to the research problem under investigation. For example, if a meta-analysis of existing literature is not a stated purpose of your research, it should not be discussed as a limitation. Do not apologize for not addressing issues that you did not promise to investigate in the introduction of your paper.

Here are examples of limitations related to methodology and the research process you may need to describe and discuss how they possibly impacted your results. Note that descriptions of limitations should be stated in the past tense because they were discovered after you completed your research.

Possible Methodological Limitations

  • Sample size -- the number of the units of analysis you use in your study is dictated by the type of research problem you are investigating. Note that, if your sample size is too small, it will be difficult to find significant relationships from the data, as statistical tests normally require a larger sample size to ensure a representative distribution of the population and to be considered representative of groups of people to whom results will be generalized or transferred. Note that sample size is generally less relevant in qualitative research if explained in the context of the research problem.
  • Lack of available and/or reliable data -- a lack of data or of reliable data will likely require you to limit the scope of your analysis, the size of your sample, or it can be a significant obstacle in finding a trend and a meaningful relationship. You need to not only describe these limitations but provide cogent reasons why you believe data is missing or is unreliable. However, don’t just throw up your hands in frustration; use this as an opportunity to describe a need for future research based on designing a different method for gathering data.
  • Lack of prior research studies on the topic -- citing prior research studies forms the basis of your literature review and helps lay a foundation for understanding the research problem you are investigating. Depending on the currency or scope of your research topic, there may be little, if any, prior research on your topic. Before assuming this to be true, though, consult with a librarian! In cases when a librarian has confirmed that there is little or no prior research, you may be required to develop an entirely new research typology [for example, using an exploratory rather than an explanatory research design ]. Note again that discovering a limitation can serve as an important opportunity to identify new gaps in the literature and to describe the need for further research.
  • Measure used to collect the data -- sometimes it is the case that, after completing your interpretation of the findings, you discover that the way in which you gathered data inhibited your ability to conduct a thorough analysis of the results. For example, you regret not including a specific question in a survey that, in retrospect, could have helped address a particular issue that emerged later in the study. Acknowledge the deficiency by stating a need for future researchers to revise the specific method for gathering data.
  • Self-reported data -- whether you are relying on pre-existing data or you are conducting a qualitative research study and gathering the data yourself, self-reported data is limited by the fact that it rarely can be independently verified. In other words, you have to the accuracy of what people say, whether in interviews, focus groups, or on questionnaires, at face value. However, self-reported data can contain several potential sources of bias that you should be alert to and note as limitations. These biases become apparent if they are incongruent with data from other sources. These are: (1) selective memory [remembering or not remembering experiences or events that occurred at some point in the past]; (2) telescoping [recalling events that occurred at one time as if they occurred at another time]; (3) attribution [the act of attributing positive events and outcomes to one's own agency, but attributing negative events and outcomes to external forces]; and, (4) exaggeration [the act of representing outcomes or embellishing events as more significant than is actually suggested from other data].

Possible Limitations of the Researcher

  • Access -- if your study depends on having access to people, organizations, data, or documents and, for whatever reason, access is denied or limited in some way, the reasons for this needs to be described. Also, include an explanation why being denied or limited access did not prevent you from following through on your study.
  • Longitudinal effects -- unlike your professor, who can literally devote years [even a lifetime] to studying a single topic, the time available to investigate a research problem and to measure change or stability over time is constrained by the due date of your assignment. Be sure to choose a research problem that does not require an excessive amount of time to complete the literature review, apply the methodology, and gather and interpret the results. If you're unsure whether you can complete your research within the confines of the assignment's due date, talk to your professor.
  • Cultural and other type of bias -- we all have biases, whether we are conscience of them or not. Bias is when a person, place, event, or thing is viewed or shown in a consistently inaccurate way. Bias is usually negative, though one can have a positive bias as well, especially if that bias reflects your reliance on research that only support your hypothesis. When proof-reading your paper, be especially critical in reviewing how you have stated a problem, selected the data to be studied, what may have been omitted, the manner in which you have ordered events, people, or places, how you have chosen to represent a person, place, or thing, to name a phenomenon, or to use possible words with a positive or negative connotation. NOTE :   If you detect bias in prior research, it must be acknowledged and you should explain what measures were taken to avoid perpetuating that bias. For example, if a previous study only used boys to examine how music education supports effective math skills, describe how your research expands the study to include girls.
  • Fluency in a language -- if your research focuses , for example, on measuring the perceived value of after-school tutoring among Mexican-American ESL [English as a Second Language] students and you are not fluent in Spanish, you are limited in being able to read and interpret Spanish language research studies on the topic or to speak with these students in their primary language. This deficiency should be acknowledged.

Aguinis, Hermam and Jeffrey R. Edwards. “Methodological Wishes for the Next Decade and How to Make Wishes Come True.” Journal of Management Studies 51 (January 2014): 143-174; Brutus, Stéphane et al. "Self-Reported Limitations and Future Directions in Scholarly Reports: Analysis and Recommendations." Journal of Management 39 (January 2013): 48-75; Senunyeme, Emmanuel K. Business Research Methods. Powerpoint Presentation. Regent University of Science and Technology; ter Riet, Gerben et al. “All That Glitters Isn't Gold: A Survey on Acknowledgment of Limitations in Biomedical Studies.” PLOS One 8 (November 2013): 1-6.

Structure and Writing Style

Information about the limitations of your study are generally placed either at the beginning of the discussion section of your paper so the reader knows and understands the limitations before reading the rest of your analysis of the findings, or, the limitations are outlined at the conclusion of the discussion section as an acknowledgement of the need for further study. Statements about a study's limitations should not be buried in the body [middle] of the discussion section unless a limitation is specific to something covered in that part of the paper. If this is the case, though, the limitation should be reiterated at the conclusion of the section.

If you determine that your study is seriously flawed due to important limitations , such as, an inability to acquire critical data, consider reframing it as an exploratory study intended to lay the groundwork for a more complete research study in the future. Be sure, though, to specifically explain the ways that these flaws can be successfully overcome in a new study.

But, do not use this as an excuse for not developing a thorough research paper! Review the tab in this guide for developing a research topic . If serious limitations exist, it generally indicates a likelihood that your research problem is too narrowly defined or that the issue or event under study is too recent and, thus, very little research has been written about it. If serious limitations do emerge, consult with your professor about possible ways to overcome them or how to revise your study.

When discussing the limitations of your research, be sure to:

  • Describe each limitation in detailed but concise terms;
  • Explain why each limitation exists;
  • Provide the reasons why each limitation could not be overcome using the method(s) chosen to acquire or gather the data [cite to other studies that had similar problems when possible];
  • Assess the impact of each limitation in relation to the overall findings and conclusions of your study; and,
  • If appropriate, describe how these limitations could point to the need for further research.

Remember that the method you chose may be the source of a significant limitation that has emerged during your interpretation of the results [for example, you didn't interview a group of people that you later wish you had]. If this is the case, don't panic. Acknowledge it, and explain how applying a different or more robust methodology might address the research problem more effectively in a future study. A underlying goal of scholarly research is not only to show what works, but to demonstrate what doesn't work or what needs further clarification.

Aguinis, Hermam and Jeffrey R. Edwards. “Methodological Wishes for the Next Decade and How to Make Wishes Come True.” Journal of Management Studies 51 (January 2014): 143-174; Brutus, Stéphane et al. "Self-Reported Limitations and Future Directions in Scholarly Reports: Analysis and Recommendations." Journal of Management 39 (January 2013): 48-75; Ioannidis, John P.A. "Limitations are not Properly Acknowledged in the Scientific Literature." Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 60 (2007): 324-329; Pasek, Josh. Writing the Empirical Social Science Research Paper: A Guide for the Perplexed. January 24, 2012. Academia.edu; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation. Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook. Laerd.com; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.

Writing Tip

Don't Inflate the Importance of Your Findings!

After all the hard work and long hours devoted to writing your research paper, it is easy to get carried away with attributing unwarranted importance to what you’ve done. We all want our academic work to be viewed as excellent and worthy of a good grade, but it is important that you understand and openly acknowledge the limitations of your study. Inflating the importance of your study's findings could be perceived by your readers as an attempt hide its flaws or encourage a biased interpretation of the results. A small measure of humility goes a long way!

Another Writing Tip

Negative Results are Not a Limitation!

Negative evidence refers to findings that unexpectedly challenge rather than support your hypothesis. If you didn't get the results you anticipated, it may mean your hypothesis was incorrect and needs to be reformulated. Or, perhaps you have stumbled onto something unexpected that warrants further study. Moreover, the absence of an effect may be very telling in many situations, particularly in experimental research designs. In any case, your results may very well be of importance to others even though they did not support your hypothesis. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that results contrary to what you expected is a limitation to your study. If you carried out the research well, they are simply your results and only require additional interpretation.

Lewis, George H. and Jonathan F. Lewis. “The Dog in the Night-Time: Negative Evidence in Social Research.” The British Journal of Sociology 31 (December 1980): 544-558.

Yet Another Writing Tip

Sample Size Limitations in Qualitative Research

Sample sizes are typically smaller in qualitative research because, as the study goes on, acquiring more data does not necessarily lead to more information. This is because one occurrence of a piece of data, or a code, is all that is necessary to ensure that it becomes part of the analysis framework. However, it remains true that sample sizes that are too small cannot adequately support claims of having achieved valid conclusions and sample sizes that are too large do not permit the deep, naturalistic, and inductive analysis that defines qualitative inquiry. Determining adequate sample size in qualitative research is ultimately a matter of judgment and experience in evaluating the quality of the information collected against the uses to which it will be applied and the particular research method and purposeful sampling strategy employed. If the sample size is found to be a limitation, it may reflect your judgment about the methodological technique chosen [e.g., single life history study versus focus group interviews] rather than the number of respondents used.

Boddy, Clive Roland. "Sample Size for Qualitative Research." Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal 19 (2016): 426-432; Huberman, A. Michael and Matthew B. Miles. "Data Management and Analysis Methods." In Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), pp. 428-444; Blaikie, Norman. "Confounding Issues Related to Determining Sample Size in Qualitative Research." International Journal of Social Research Methodology 21 (2018): 635-641; Oppong, Steward Harrison. "The Problem of Sampling in qualitative Research." Asian Journal of Management Sciences and Education 2 (2013): 202-210.

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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

Scope and Delimitations in Research

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.

Scope example

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

Delimitations example

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:

scope and limitation of study in research paper example

This chart explains the difference between delimitations and limitations. Delimitations are the boundaries of the study while the limitations are the characteristics of the research design or methodology.

Delimitations encompass the elements outside of the boundaries you've set and depends on your decision of what yo include and exclude. On the flip side, limitations are the elements outside of your control, such as:

  • limited financial resources
  • unplanned work or expenses
  • unexpected events (for example, the COVID-19 pandemic)
  • time constraints
  • lack of technology/instruments
  • unavailable evidence or previous research on the topic

Delimitations involve narrowing your study to make it more manageable and relevant to what you're trying to prove. Limitations influence the validity and reliability of your research findings. Limitations are seen as potential weaknesses in your research.

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

scope and limitation of study in research paper example

When explaining both the scope and delimitations, it's important to use the proper language to clearly state each.

For the scope , use the following language:

  • This study focuses on/considers/investigates/covers the following:
  • This study aims to . . . / Here, we aim to show . . . / In this study, we . . .
  • The overall objective of the research is . . . / Our objective is to . . .

When stating the delimitations, use the following language:

  • This [ . . . ] will not be the focus, for it has been frequently and exhaustively discusses in earlier studies.
  • To review the [ . . . ] is a task that lies outside the scope of this study.
  • The following [ . . . ] has been excluded from this study . . .
  • This study does not provide a complete literature review of [ . . . ]. Instead, it draws on selected pertinent studies [ . . . ]

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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How to present limitations in research

Last updated

30 January 2024

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Short on time? Get an AI generated summary of this article instead

Limitations don’t invalidate or diminish your results, but it’s best to acknowledge them. This will enable you to address any questions your study failed to answer because of them.

In this guide, learn how to recognize, present, and overcome limitations in research.

  • What is a research limitation?

Research limitations are weaknesses in your research design or execution that may have impacted outcomes and conclusions. Uncovering limitations doesn’t necessarily indicate poor research design—it just means you encountered challenges you couldn’t have anticipated that limited your research efforts.

Does basic research have limitations?

Basic research aims to provide more information about your research topic . It requires the same standard research methodology and data collection efforts as any other research type, and it can also have limitations.

  • Common research limitations

Researchers encounter common limitations when embarking on a study. Limitations can occur in relation to the methods you apply or the research process you design. They could also be connected to you as the researcher.

Methodology limitations

Not having access to data or reliable information can impact the methods used to facilitate your research. A lack of data or reliability may limit the parameters of your study area and the extent of your exploration.

Your sample size may also be affected because you won’t have any direction on how big or small it should be and who or what you should include. Having too few participants won’t adequately represent the population or groups of people needed to draw meaningful conclusions.

Research process limitations

The study’s design can impose constraints on the process. For example, as you’re conducting the research, issues may arise that don’t conform to the data collection methodology you developed. You may not realize until well into the process that you should have incorporated more specific questions or comprehensive experiments to generate the data you need to have confidence in your results.

Constraints on resources can also have an impact. Being limited on participants or participation incentives may limit your sample sizes. Insufficient tools, equipment, and materials to conduct a thorough study may also be a factor.

Common researcher limitations

Here are some of the common researcher limitations you may encounter:

Time: some research areas require multi-year longitudinal approaches, but you might not be able to dedicate that much time. Imagine you want to measure how much memory a person loses as they age. This may involve conducting multiple tests on a sample of participants over 20–30 years, which may be impossible.

Bias: researchers can consciously or unconsciously apply bias to their research. Biases can contribute to relying on research sources and methodologies that will only support your beliefs about the research you’re embarking on. You might also omit relevant issues or participants from the scope of your study because of your biases.

Limited access to data : you may need to pay to access specific databases or journals that would be helpful to your research process. You might also need to gain information from certain people or organizations but have limited access to them. These cases require readjusting your process and explaining why your findings are still reliable.

  • Why is it important to identify limitations?

Identifying limitations adds credibility to research and provides a deeper understanding of how you arrived at your conclusions.

Constraints may have prevented you from collecting specific data or information you hoped would prove or disprove your hypothesis or provide a more comprehensive understanding of your research topic.

However, identifying the limitations contributing to your conclusions can inspire further research efforts that help gather more substantial information and data.

  • Where to put limitations in a research paper

A research paper is broken up into different sections that appear in the following order:

Introduction

Methodology

The discussion portion of your paper explores your findings and puts them in the context of the overall research. Either place research limitations at the beginning of the discussion section before the analysis of your findings or at the end of the section to indicate that further research needs to be pursued.

What not to include in the limitations section

Evidence that doesn’t support your hypothesis is not a limitation, so you shouldn’t include it in the limitation section. Don’t just list limitations and their degree of severity without further explanation.

  • How to present limitations

You’ll want to present the limitations of your study in a way that doesn’t diminish the validity of your research and leave the reader wondering if your results and conclusions have been compromised.

Include only the limitations that directly relate to and impact how you addressed your research questions. Following a specific format enables the reader to develop an understanding of the weaknesses within the context of your findings without doubting the quality and integrity of your research.

Identify the limitations specific to your study

You don’t have to identify every possible limitation that might have occurred during your research process. Only identify those that may have influenced the quality of your findings and your ability to answer your research question.

Explain study limitations in detail

This explanation should be the most significant portion of your limitation section.

Link each limitation with an interpretation and appraisal of their impact on the study. You’ll have to evaluate and explain whether the error, method, or validity issues influenced the study’s outcome and how.

Propose a direction for future studies and present alternatives

In this section, suggest how researchers can avoid the pitfalls you experienced during your research process.

If an issue with methodology was a limitation, propose alternate methods that may help with a smoother and more conclusive research project . Discuss the pros and cons of your alternate recommendation.

Describe steps taken to minimize each limitation

You probably took steps to try to address or mitigate limitations when you noticed them throughout the course of your research project. Describe these steps in the limitation section.

  • Limitation example

“Approaches like stem cell transplantation and vaccination in AD [Alzheimer’s disease] work on a cellular or molecular level in the laboratory. However, translation into clinical settings will remain a challenge for the next decade.”

The authors are saying that even though these methods showed promise in helping people with memory loss when conducted in the lab (in other words, using animal studies), more studies are needed. These may be controlled clinical trials, for example. 

However, the short life span of stem cells outside the lab and the vaccination’s severe inflammatory side effects are limitations. Researchers won’t be able to conduct clinical trials until these issues are overcome.

  • How to overcome limitations in research

You’ve already started on the road to overcoming limitations in research by acknowledging that they exist. However, you need to ensure readers don’t mistake weaknesses for errors within your research design.

To do this, you’ll need to justify and explain your rationale for the methods, research design, and analysis tools you chose and how you noticed they may have presented limitations.

Your readers need to know that even when limitations presented themselves, you followed best practices and the ethical standards of your field. You didn’t violate any rules and regulations during your research process.

You’ll also want to reinforce the validity of your conclusions and results with multiple sources, methods, and perspectives. This prevents readers from assuming your findings were derived from a single or biased source.

  • Learning and improving starts with limitations in research

Dealing with limitations with transparency and integrity helps identify areas for future improvements and developments. It’s a learning process, providing valuable insights into how you can improve methodologies, expand sample sizes, or explore alternate approaches to further support the validity of your findings.

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How To Write Scope and Delimitation of a Research Paper (With Examples)

How To Write Scope and Delimitation of a Research Paper (With Examples)

An effective research paper or thesis has a well-written Scope and Delimitation.  This portion specifies your study’s coverage and boundaries.

Not yet sure about how to write your research’s Scope and Delimitation? Fret not, as we’ll guide you through the entire writing process through this article.

Related: How To Write Significance of the Study (With Examples)

Table of Contents

What is the scope and delimitation of a research paper.

how to write scope and delimitation 1

The “Scope and Delimitation” section states the concepts and variables your study covered. It tells readers which things you have included and excluded in your analysis.

This portion tells two things: 1

  • The study’s “Scope” – concepts and variables you have explored in your research and;
  • The study’s “Delimitation” – the “boundaries” of your study’s scope. It sets apart the things included in your analysis from those excluded.

For example, your scope might be the effectiveness of plant leaves in lowering blood sugar levels. You can “delimit” your study only to the effect of gabi leaves on the blood glucose of Swiss mice.

Where Should I Put the Scope and Delimitation?

This portion is in Chapter 1, usually after the “Background of the Study.”

Why Should I Write the Scope and Delimitation of My Research Paper?

There’s a lot to discover in a research paper or thesis. However, your resources and time dedicated to it are scarce. Thus, given these constraints, you have to narrow down your study. You do this in the Scope and Delimitation.

Suppose you’re studying the correlation between the quantity of organic fertilizer and plant growth . Experimenting with several types of plants is impossible because of several limitations. So, you’ve decided to use one plant type only. 

Informing your readers about this decision is a must. So, you have to state it in your Scope and Delimitation. It also acts as a “disclaimer” that your results are inapplicable to the entire plant kingdom.

What Is the Difference Between Delimitation and Limitation?

how to write scope and delimitation 2

People often use the terms “Delimitation” and “Limitation” interchangeably. However, these words differ 2 .

Delimitation refers to factors you set to limit your analysis. It delineates those that are included in your research and those that are excluded. Remember, delimitations are within your control. 

Meanwhile, limitations are factors beyond your control that may affect your research’s results.  You can think of limitations as the “weaknesses” of your study. 

Let’s go back to our previous example. Due to some constraints, you’ve only decided to examine one plant type: dandelions. This is an example of a delimitation since it limits your analysis to dandelions only and not other plant types. Note that the number of plant types used is within your control. 

Meanwhile, your study cannot state that a higher quantity of organic fertilizer is the sole reason for plant growth. That’s because your research’s focus is only on correlation. Since this is already beyond your control, then this is a limitation. 

How To Write Scope and Delimitation: Step-by-Step Guide

To write your research’s Scope and Delimitation section, follow these steps:

1. Review Your Study’s Objectives and Problem Statement

how to write scope and delimitation 3

Your study’s coverage relies on its objectives. Thus, you can only write this section if you know what you’re researching. Furthermore, ensure that you understand the problems you ought to answer. 

Once you understand the abovementioned things, you may start writing your study’s Scope and Delimitation.

2. State the Key Information To Explain Your Study’s Coverage and Boundaries

how to write scope and delimitation 4

a. The Main Objective of the Research

This refers to the concept that you’re focusing on in your research. Some examples are the following:

  • level of awareness or satisfaction of a particular group of people
  • correlation between two variables
  • effectiveness of a new product
  • comparison between two methods/approaches
  • lived experiences of several individuals

It’s helpful to consult your study’s Objectives or Statement of the Problem section to determine your research’s primary goal.

b. Independent and Dependent Variables Included

Your study’s independent variable is the variable that you manipulate. Meanwhile, the dependent variable is the variable whose result depends upon the independent variable. Both of these variables must be clear and specific when indicated. 

Suppose you study the relationship between social media usage and students’ language skills. These are the possible variables for the study:

  • Independent Variable: Number of hours per day spent on using Facebook
  • Dependent Variable: Grade 10 students’ scores in Quarterly Examination in English. 

Note how specific the variables stated above are. For the independent variable, we narrow it down to Facebook only. Since there are many ways to assess “language skills,” we zero in on the students’ English exam scores as our dependent variable. 

c. Subject of the Study

This refers to your study’s respondents or participants. 

In our previous example, the research participants are Grade 10 students. However, there are a lot of Grade 10 students in the Philippines. Thus, we have to select from a specific school only—for instance, Grade 10 students from a national high school in Manila. 

d. Timeframe and Location of the Study

Specify the month(s), quarter(s), or year(s) as the duration of your study. Also, indicate where you will gather the data required for your research. 

e. Brief Description of the Study’s Research Design and Methodology

You may also include whether your research is quantitative or qualitative, the sampling method (cluster, stratified, purposive) applied, and how you conducted the experiment.

Using our previous example, the Grade 10 students can be selected using stratified sampling. Afterward, the researchers may obtain their English quarterly exam scores from their respective teachers. You can add these things to your study’s Scope and Delimitation. 

3. Indicate Which Variables or Factors Are Not Covered by Your Research

how to write scope and delimitation 5

Although you’ve already set your study’s coverage and boundaries in Step 2, you may also explicitly mention things you’ve excluded from your research. 

Returning to our previous example, you can state that your assessment will not include the vocabulary and oral aspects of the English proficiency skill. 

Examples of Scope and Delimitation of a Research Paper

1. scope and delimitation examples for quantitative research.

how to write scope and delimitation 6

a. Example 1

Research Title

    A Study on the Relationship of the Extent of Facebook Usage on the English Proficiency Level of Grade 10 Students of Matagumpay High School

Scope and Delimitation

(Main Objective)

This study assessed the correlation between the respondents’ duration of Facebook usage and their English proficiency level. 

(Variables used)

The researchers used the number of hours per day of using Facebook and the activities usually performed on the platform to assess the respondents’ extent of Facebook usage. Meanwhile, the respondents’ English proficiency level is limited to their quarterly English exam scores. 

(Subject of the study)

A sample of fifty (50) Grade 10 students of Matagumpay High School served as the study’s respondents. 

(Timeframe and location)

This study was conducted during the Second Semester of the School Year 2018 – 2019 on the premises of Matagumpay High School in Metro Manila. 

(Methodology)

The respondents are selected by performing stratified random sampling to ensure that there will be ten respondents from five Grade 10 classes of the school mentioned above. The researchers administered a 20-item questionnaire to assess the extent of Facebook usage of the selected respondents. Meanwhile, the data for the respondents’ quarterly exam scores were acquired from their English teachers. The collected data are handled with the utmost confidentiality. Spearman’s Rank Order Correlation was applied to quantitatively assess the correlation between the variables.

(Exclusions)

This study didn’t assess other aspects of the respondents’ English proficiency, such as English vocabulary and oral skills. 

Note: The words inside the parentheses in the example above are guides only. They are not included in the actual text.

b. Example 2

  Level of Satisfaction of Grade 11 Students on the Implementation of the Online Learning Setup of Matagumpay High School for SY 2020 – 2021

This study aims to identify students’ satisfaction levels with implementing online learning setups during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students’ satisfaction was assessed according to teachers’ pedagogy, school policies, and learning materials used in the online learning setup. The respondents included sixty (60) Grade 11 students of Matagumpay High School who were randomly picked. The researchers conducted the study from October 2020 to February 2021. 

Online platforms such as email and social media applications were used to reach the respondents. The researchers administered a 15-item online questionnaire to measure the respondents’ satisfaction levels. Each response was assessed using a Likert Scale to provide a descriptive interpretation of their answers. A weighted mean was applied to determine the respondents’ general satisfaction. 

This study did not cover other factors related to the online learning setup, such as the learning platform used, the schedule of synchronous learning, and channels for information dissemination.

2. Scope and Delimitation Examples for Qualitative Research

how to write scope and delimitation 7

  Lived Experiences of Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Drivers of Antipolo City Amidst the Continuous June 2022 Oil Price Hikes

This research focused on the presentation and discussion of the lived experiences of PUV drivers during the constant oil price hike in June 2022.

The respondents involved are five (5) jeepney drivers from Antipolo City who agreed to be interviewed. The researchers assessed their experiences in terms of the following: (1) daily net income; (2) duration and extent of working; (3) alternative employment opportunity considerations; and (4) mental and emotional status. The respondents were interviewed daily at their stations on June 6 – 10, 2022. 

In-depth one-on-one interviews were used for data collection.  Afterward, the respondents’ first-hand experiences were drafted and annotated with the researchers’ insights. 

The researchers excluded some factors in determining the respondents’ experiences, such as physical and health conditions and current family relationship status. 

 A Study on the Perception of the Residents of Mayamot, Antipolo City on the Political and Socioeconomic Conditions During the Post-EDSA Period (1986 – 1996)

This research aims to discuss the perception of Filipinos regarding the political and socioeconomic economic conditions during the post-EDSA period, specifically during the years 1986 – 1996. 

Ten (10) residents of Mayamot, Antipolo City, who belonged to Generation X (currently 40 – 62 years old), were purposively selected as the study’s respondents. The researchers asked them about their perception of the following aspects during the period mentioned above (1) performance of national and local government; (2) bureaucracy and government services; (3) personal economic and financial status; and (4) wage purchasing power. 

The researchers conducted face-to-face interviews in the respondents’ residences during the second semester of AY 2018 – 2019. The responses were written and corroborated with the literature on the post-EDSA period. 

The following factors were not included in the research analysis: political conflicts and turmoils, the status of the legislative and judicial departments, and other macroeconomic indicators. 

Tips and Warnings

1. use the “5ws and 1h” as your guide in understanding your study’s coverage.

  • Why did you write your study?  
  • What variables are included?
  • Who are your study’s subject
  • Where did you conduct the study?
  • When did your study start and end?
  • How did you conduct the study?

2. Use key phrases when writing your research’s scope

  • This study aims to … 
  • This study primarily focuses on …
  • This study deals with … 
  • This study will cover …
  • This study will be confined…

3. Use key phrases when writing factors beyond your research’s delimitations

  • The researcher(s) decided to exclude …
  • This study did not cover….
  • This study excluded … 
  • These variables/factors were excluded from the study…

4. Don’t forget to ask for help

Your research adviser can assist you in selecting specific concepts and variables suitable to your study. Make sure to consult him/her regularly. 

5. Make it brief

No need to make this section wordy. You’re good to go if you meet the “5Ws and 1Hs”. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what are scope and delimitation in tagalog.

In a Filipino research ( pananaliksik ), Scope and Delimitation is called “ Saklaw at Delimitasyon”. 

Here’s an example of Scope and Delimitation in Filipino:

Pamagat ng Pananaliksik

Epekto Ng Paggamit Ng Mga Digital Learning Tools Sa Pag-Aaral Ng Mga Mag-Aaral Ng Mataas Na Paaralan Ng Matagumpay Sa General Mathematics

Sakop at Delimitasyon ng Pag-aaral

Nakatuon ang pananaliksik na ito sa epekto ng paggamit ng mga digital learning aids sa pag-aaral ng mga mag-aaral.

Ang mga digital learning tools na kinonsidera sa pag-aaral na ito ay Google Classroom, Edmodo, Kahoot, at mga piling bidyo mula YouTube. Samantala, ang epekto sa pag-aaral ng mga mag-aaral ng mga nabanggit na digital learning tools ay natukoy sa pamamagitan ng kanilang (1) mga pananaw hinggil sa benepisyo nito sa kanilang pag-aaral sa General Mathematics at (2) kanilang average grade sa asignaturang ito.

Dalawampu’t-limang (25) mag-aaral mula sa Senior High School ng Mataas na Paaralan ng Matagumpay ang pinili para sa pananaliksik na ito. Sila ay na-interbyu at binigyan ng questionnaire noong Enero 2022 sa nasabing paaralan. Sinuri ang resulta ng pananaliksik sa pamamagitan ng mga instrumentong estadistikal na weighted mean at Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). Hindi saklaw ng pananaliksik na ito ang ibang mga aspeto hinggil sa epekto ng online learning aids sa pag-aaral gaya ng lebel ng pag-unawa sa aralin at kakayahang iugnay ito sa araw-araw na buhay. 

2. The Scope and Delimitation should consist of how many paragraphs?

Three or more paragraphs will suffice for your study’s Scope and Delimitation. Here’s our suggestion on what you should write for each paragraph:

Paragraph 1: Introduction (state research objective) Paragraph 2: Coverage and boundaries of the research (you may divide this section into 2-3 paragraphs) Paragraph 3 : Factors excluded from the study

  • University of St. La Salle. Unit 3: Lesson 3 Setting the Scope and Limitation of a Qualitative Research [Ebook] (p. 12). Retrieved from https://www.studocu.com/ph/document/university-of-st-la-salle/senior-high-school/final-sg-pr1-11-12-unit-3-lesson-3-setting-the-scope-and-limitation-of-a-qualitative-research/24341582
  • Theofanidis, D., & Fountouki, A. (2018). Limitations and Delimitations in the Research Process. Perioperative Nursing (GORNA), 7(3), 155–162. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.2552022

Written by Jewel Kyle Fabula

in Career and Education , Juander How

scope and limitation of study in research paper example

Jewel Kyle Fabula

Jewel Kyle Fabula is a Bachelor of Science in Economics student at the University of the Philippines Diliman. His passion for learning mathematics developed as he competed in some mathematics competitions during his Junior High School years. He loves cats, playing video games, and listening to music.

Browse all articles written by Jewel Kyle Fabula

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scope and limitation of study in research paper example

scope and limitation of study in research paper example

Stating the Obvious: Writing Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations

Stating the Obvious: Writing Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations

During the process of writing your thesis or dissertation, you might suddenly realize that your research has inherent flaws. Don’t worry! Virtually all projects contain restrictions to your research. However, being able to recognize and accurately describe these problems is the difference between a true researcher and a grade-school kid with a science-fair project. Concerns with truthful responding, access to participants, and survey instruments are just a few of examples of restrictions on your research. In the following sections, the differences among delimitations, limitations, and assumptions of a dissertation will be clarified.

Delimitations

Delimitations are the definitions you set as the boundaries of your own thesis or dissertation, so delimitations are in your control. Delimitations are set so that your goals do not become impossibly large to complete. Examples of delimitations include objectives, research questions, variables, theoretical objectives that you have adopted, and populations chosen as targets to study. When you are stating your delimitations, clearly inform readers why you chose this course of study. The answer might simply be that you were curious about the topic and/or wanted to improve standards of a professional field by revealing certain findings. In any case, you should clearly list the other options available and the reasons why you did not choose these options immediately after you list your delimitations. You might have avoided these options for reasons of practicality, interest, or relativity to the study at hand. For example, you might have only studied Hispanic mothers because they have the highest rate of obese babies. Delimitations are often strongly related to your theory and research questions. If you were researching whether there are different parenting styles between unmarried Asian, Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic women, then a delimitation of your study would be the inclusion of only participants with those demographics and the exclusion of participants from other demographics such as men, married women, and all other ethnicities of single women (inclusion and exclusion criteria). A further delimitation might be that you only included closed-ended Likert scale responses in the survey, rather than including additional open-ended responses, which might make some people more willing to take and complete your survey. Remember that delimitations are not good or bad. They are simply a detailed description of the scope of interest for your study as it relates to the research design. Don’t forget to describe the philosophical framework you used throughout your study, which also delimits your study.

Limitations

Limitations of a dissertation are potential weaknesses in your study that are mostly out of your control, given limited funding, choice of research design, statistical model constraints, or other factors. In addition, a limitation is a restriction on your study that cannot be reasonably dismissed and can affect your design and results. Do not worry about limitations because limitations affect virtually all research projects, as well as most things in life. Even when you are going to your favorite restaurant, you are limited by the menu choices. If you went to a restaurant that had a menu that you were craving, you might not receive the service, price, or location that makes you enjoy your favorite restaurant. If you studied participants’ responses to a survey, you might be limited in your abilities to gain the exact type or geographic scope of participants you wanted. The people whom you managed to get to take your survey may not truly be a random sample, which is also a limitation. If you used a common test for data findings, your results are limited by the reliability of the test. If your study was limited to a certain amount of time, your results are affected by the operations of society during that time period (e.g., economy, social trends). It is important for you to remember that limitations of a dissertation are often not something that can be solved by the researcher. Also, remember that whatever limits you also limits other researchers, whether they are the largest medical research companies or consumer habits corporations. Certain kinds of limitations are often associated with the analytical approach you take in your research, too. For example, some qualitative methods like heuristics or phenomenology do not lend themselves well to replicability. Also, most of the commonly used quantitative statistical models can only determine correlation, but not causation.

Assumptions

Assumptions are things that are accepted as true, or at least plausible, by researchers and peers who will read your dissertation or thesis. In other words, any scholar reading your paper will assume that certain aspects of your study is true given your population, statistical test, research design, or other delimitations. For example, if you tell your friend that your favorite restaurant is an Italian place, your friend will assume that you don’t go there for the sushi. It’s assumed that you go there to eat Italian food. Because most assumptions are not discussed in-text, assumptions that are discussed in-text are discussed in the context of the limitations of your study, which is typically in the discussion section. This is important, because both assumptions and limitations affect the inferences you can draw from your study. One of the more common assumptions made in survey research is the assumption of honesty and truthful responses. However, for certain sensitive questions this assumption may be more difficult to accept, in which case it would be described as a limitation of the study. For example, asking people to report their criminal behavior in a survey may not be as reliable as asking people to report their eating habits. It is important to remember that your limitations and assumptions should not contradict one another. For instance, if you state that generalizability is a limitation of your study given that your sample was limited to one city in the United States, then you should not claim generalizability to the United States population as an assumption of your study. Statistical models in quantitative research designs are accompanied with assumptions as well, some more strict than others. These assumptions generally refer to the characteristics of the data, such as distributions, correlational trends, and variable type, just to name a few. Violating these assumptions can lead to drastically invalid results, though this often depends on sample size and other considerations.

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Academic Research in Education

  • How to Find Books, Articles and eBooks
  • Books, eBooks, & Multimedia
  • Evaluating Information
  • Deciding on a Topic
  • Creating a Thesis Statement
  • The Literature Review
  • Scope of Research

Defining the Scope of your Project

What is scope.

  • Choosing a Design
  • Citing Sources & Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Contact Library

Post-Grad Collective [PGC]. (2017, February 13). Thesis Writing-Narrow the Scope   [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlCO5yRB9No&feature=youtu.be

Learn to cite a YouTube Video! 

The scope of your project sets clear parameters for your research. 

A scope statement will give basic information about the depth and breadth of the project. It tells your reader exactly what you want to find out , how you will conduct your study, the reports and deliverables  that will be part of the outcome of the study, and the responsibilities of the researchers involved in the study. The extent of the scope will be a part of acknowledging any biases in the research project. 

Defining the scope of a project: 

  • focuses your research goals
  • clarifies the expectations for your research project
  •  helps you determine potential biases in your research methodology by acknowledging the limits of your research study 
  • identifies the limitations of your research 
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scope and limitation of study in research paper example

Decoding the Scope and Delimitations of the Study in Research

scope and limitation of study in research paper example

Scope and delimitations of the study are two essential elements of a research paper or thesis that help to contextualize and convey the focus and boundaries of a research study. This allows readers to understand the research focus and the kind of information to expect. For researchers, especially students and early career researchers, understanding the meaning and purpose of the scope and delimitation of a study is crucial to craft a well-defined and impactful research project. In this article, we delve into the core concepts of scope and delimitation in a study, providing insightful examples, and practical tips on how to effectively incorporate them into your research endeavors.

Table of Contents

What is scope and delimitation in research

The scope of a research paper explains the context and framework for the study, outlines the extent, variables, or dimensions that will be investigated, and provides details of the parameters within which the study is conducted. Delimitations in research , on the other hand, refer to the limitations imposed on the study. It identifies aspects of the topic that will not be covered in the research, conveys why these choices were made, and how this will affect the outcome of the research. By narrowing down the scope and defining delimitations, researchers can ensure focused research and avoid pitfalls, which ensures the study remains feasible and attainable.

Example of scope and delimitation of a study

A researcher might want to study the effects of regular physical exercise on the health of senior citizens. This would be the broad scope of the study, after which the researcher would refine the scope by excluding specific groups of senior citizens, perhaps based on their age, gender, geographical location, cultural influences, and sample sizes. These then, would form the delimitations of the study; in other words, elements that describe the boundaries of the research.

The purpose of scope and delimitation in a study

The purpose of scope and delimitation in a study is to establish clear boundaries and focus for the research. This allows researchers to avoid ambiguity, set achievable objectives, and manage their project efficiently, ultimately leading to more credible and meaningful findings in their study. The scope and delimitation of a study serve several important purposes, including:

  • Establishing clarity: Clearly defining the scope and delimitation of a study helps researchers and readers alike understand the boundaries of the investigation and what to expect from it.
  • Focus and relevance: By setting the scope, researchers can concentrate on specific research questions, preventing the study from becoming too broad or irrelevant.
  • Feasibility: Delimitations of the study prevent researchers from taking on too unrealistic or unmanageable tasks, making the research more achievable.
  • Avoiding ambiguity: A well-defined scope and delimitation of the study minimizes any confusion or misinterpretation regarding the research objectives and methods.

Given the importance of both the scope and delimitations of a study, it is imperative to ensure that they are mentioned early on in the research manuscript. Most experts agree that the scope of research should be mentioned as part of the introduction and the delimitations must be mentioned as part of the methods section. Now that we’ve covered the scope and delimitation meaning and purpose, we look at how to write each of these sections.

How to write the scope of the study in research

When writing the scope of the study, remain focused on what you hope to achieve. Broadening the scope too much might make it too generic while narrowing it down too much may affect the way it would be interpreted. Ensure the scope of the study is clear, concise and accurate. Conduct a thorough literature review to understand existing literature, which will help identify gaps and refine the scope of your study.

It is helpful if you structure the scope in a way that answers the Six Ws – questions whose answers are considered basic in information-gathering.

Why: State the purpose of the research by articulating the research objectives and questions you aim to address in your study.

What: Outline the specific topic to be studied, while mentioning the variables, concepts, or aspects central to your research; these will define the extent of your study.

Where: Provide the setting or geographical location where the research study will be conducted.

When : Mention the specific timeframe within which the research data will be collected.

Who : Specify the sample size for the study and the profile of the population they will be drawn from.

How : Explain the research methodology, research design, and tools and analysis techniques.

How to write the delimitations of a study in research

When writing the delimitations of the study, researchers must provide all the details clearly and precisely. Writing the delimitations of the study requires a systematic approach to narrow down the research’s focus and establish boundaries. Follow these steps to craft delimitations effectively:

  • Clearly understand the research objectives and questions you intend to address in your study.
  • Conduct a comprehensive literature review to identify gaps and areas that have already been extensively covered. This helps to avoid redundancies and home in on a unique issue.
  • Clearly state what aspects, variables, or factors you will be excluding in your research; mention available alternatives, if any, and why these alternatives were rejected.
  • Explain how you the delimitations were set, and they contribute to the feasibility and relevance of your study, and how they align with the research objectives.
  • Be sure to acknowledge limitations in your research, such as constraints related to time, resources, or data availability.

Being transparent ensures credibility, while explaining why the delimitations of your study could not be overcome with standard research methods backed up by scientific evidence can help readers understand the context better.

Differentiating between delimitations and limitations

Most early career researchers get confused and often use these two terms interchangeably which is wrong. Delimitations of a study refer to the set boundaries and specific parameters within which the research is carried out. They help narrow down your focus and makes it more relevant to what you are trying to prove.

Meanwhile, limitations in a study refer to the validity and reliability of the research being conducted. They are those elements of your study that are usually out of your immediate control but are still able to affect your findings in some way. In other words, limitation are potential weaknesses of your research.

In conclusion, scope and delimitation of a study are vital elements that shape the trajectory of your research study. The above explanations will have hopefully helped you better understand the scope and delimitations meaning, purpose, and importance in crafting focused, feasible, and impactful research studies. Be sure to follow the simple techniques to write the scope and delimitations of the study to embark on your research journey with clarity and confidence. Happy researching!

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Writing Limitations of Research Study — 4 Reasons Why It Is Important!

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It is not unusual for researchers to come across the term limitations of research during their academic paper writing. More often this is interpreted as something terrible. However, when it comes to research study, limitations can help structure the research study better. Therefore, do not underestimate significance of limitations of research study.

Allow us to take you through the context of how to evaluate the limits of your research and conclude an impactful relevance to your results.

Table of Contents

What Are the Limitations of a Research Study?

Every research has its limit and these limitations arise due to restrictions in methodology or research design.  This could impact your entire research or the research paper you wish to publish. Unfortunately, most researchers choose not to discuss their limitations of research fearing it will affect the value of their article in the eyes of readers.

However, it is very important to discuss your study limitations and show it to your target audience (other researchers, journal editors, peer reviewers etc.). It is very important that you provide an explanation of how your research limitations may affect the conclusions and opinions drawn from your research. Moreover, when as an author you state the limitations of research, it shows that you have investigated all the weaknesses of your study and have a deep understanding of the subject. Being honest could impress your readers and mark your study as a sincere effort in research.

peer review

Why and Where Should You Include the Research Limitations?

The main goal of your research is to address your research objectives. Conduct experiments, get results and explain those results, and finally justify your research question . It is best to mention the limitations of research in the discussion paragraph of your research article.

At the very beginning of this paragraph, immediately after highlighting the strengths of the research methodology, you should write down your limitations. You can discuss specific points from your research limitations as suggestions for further research in the conclusion of your thesis.

1. Common Limitations of the Researchers

Limitations that are related to the researcher must be mentioned. This will help you gain transparency with your readers. Furthermore, you could provide suggestions on decreasing these limitations in you and your future studies.

2. Limited Access to Information

Your work may involve some institutions and individuals in research, and sometimes you may have problems accessing these institutions. Therefore, you need to redesign and rewrite your work. You must explain your readers the reason for limited access.

3. Limited Time

All researchers are bound by their deadlines when it comes to completing their studies. Sometimes, time constraints can affect your research negatively. However, the best practice is to acknowledge it and mention a requirement for future study to solve the research problem in a better way.

4. Conflict over Biased Views and Personal Issues

Biased views can affect the research. In fact, researchers end up choosing only those results and data that support their main argument, keeping aside the other loose ends of the research.

Types of Limitations of Research

Before beginning your research study, know that there are certain limitations to what you are testing or possible research results. There are different types that researchers may encounter, and they all have unique characteristics, such as:

1. Research Design Limitations

Certain restrictions on your research or available procedures may affect your final results or research outputs. You may have formulated research goals and objectives too broadly. However, this can help you understand how you can narrow down the formulation of research goals and objectives, thereby increasing the focus of your study.

2. Impact Limitations

Even if your research has excellent statistics and a strong design, it can suffer from the influence of the following factors:

  • Presence of increasing findings as researched
  • Being population specific
  • A strong regional focus.

3. Data or statistical limitations

In some cases, it is impossible to collect sufficient data for research or very difficult to get access to the data. This could lead to incomplete conclusion to your study. Moreover, this insufficiency in data could be the outcome of your study design. The unclear, shabby research outline could produce more problems in interpreting your findings.

How to Correctly Structure Your Research Limitations?

There are strict guidelines for narrowing down research questions, wherein you could justify and explain potential weaknesses of your academic paper. You could go through these basic steps to get a well-structured clarity of research limitations:

  • Declare that you wish to identify your limitations of research and explain their importance,
  • Provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices.
  • Write how you are suggesting that it is possible to overcome them in the future.

In this section, your readers will see that you are aware of the potential weaknesses in your business, understand them and offer effective solutions, and it will positively strengthen your article as you clarify all limitations of research to your target audience.

Know that you cannot be perfect and there is no individual without flaws. You could use the limitations of research as a great opportunity to take on a new challenge and improve the future of research. In a typical academic paper, research limitations may relate to:

1. Formulating your goals and objectives

If you formulate goals and objectives too broadly, your work will have some shortcomings. In this case, specify effective methods or ways to narrow down the formula of goals and aim to increase your level of study focus.

2. Application of your data collection methods in research

If you do not have experience in primary data collection, there is a risk that there will be flaws in the implementation of your methods. It is necessary to accept this, and learn and educate yourself to understand data collection methods.

3. Sample sizes

This depends on the nature of problem you choose. Sample size is of a greater importance in quantitative studies as opposed to qualitative ones. If your sample size is too small, statistical tests cannot identify significant relationships or connections within a given data set.

You could point out that other researchers should base the same study on a larger sample size to get more accurate results.

4. The absence of previous studies in the field you have chosen

Writing a literature review is an important step in any scientific study because it helps researchers determine the scope of current work in the chosen field. It is a major foundation for any researcher who must use them to achieve a set of specific goals or objectives.

However, if you are focused on the most current and evolving research problem or a very narrow research problem, there may be very little prior research on your topic. For example, if you chose to explore the role of Bitcoin as the currency of the future, you may not find tons of scientific papers addressing the research problem as Bitcoins are only a new phenomenon.

It is important that you learn to identify research limitations examples at each step. Whatever field you choose, feel free to add the shortcoming of your work. This is mainly because you do not have many years of experience writing scientific papers or completing complex work. Therefore, the depth and scope of your discussions may be compromised at different levels compared to academics with a lot of expertise. Include specific points from limitations of research. Use them as suggestions for the future.

Have you ever faced a challenge of writing the limitations of research study in your paper? How did you overcome it? What ways did you follow? Were they beneficial? Let us know in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Setting limitations in our study helps to clarify the outcomes drawn from our research and enhance understanding of the subject. Moreover, it shows that the author has investigated all the weaknesses in the study.

Scope is the range and limitations of a research project which are set to define the boundaries of a project. Limitations are the impacts on the overall study due to the constraints on the research design.

Limitation in research is an impact of a constraint on the research design in the overall study. They are the flaws or weaknesses in the study, which may influence the outcome of the research.

1. Limitations in research can be written as follows: Formulate your goals and objectives 2. Analyze the chosen data collection method and the sample sizes 3. Identify your limitations of research and explain their importance 4. Provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices 5. Write how you are suggesting that it is possible to overcome them in the future

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Research Method

Home » Limitations in Research – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Limitations in Research – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

Limitations in Research

Limitations in Research

Limitations in research refer to the factors that may affect the results, conclusions , and generalizability of a study. These limitations can arise from various sources, such as the design of the study, the sampling methods used, the measurement tools employed, and the limitations of the data analysis techniques.

Types of Limitations in Research

Types of Limitations in Research are as follows:

Sample Size Limitations

This refers to the size of the group of people or subjects that are being studied. If the sample size is too small, then the results may not be representative of the population being studied. This can lead to a lack of generalizability of the results.

Time Limitations

Time limitations can be a constraint on the research process . This could mean that the study is unable to be conducted for a long enough period of time to observe the long-term effects of an intervention, or to collect enough data to draw accurate conclusions.

Selection Bias

This refers to a type of bias that can occur when the selection of participants in a study is not random. This can lead to a biased sample that is not representative of the population being studied.

Confounding Variables

Confounding variables are factors that can influence the outcome of a study, but are not being measured or controlled for. These can lead to inaccurate conclusions or a lack of clarity in the results.

Measurement Error

This refers to inaccuracies in the measurement of variables, such as using a faulty instrument or scale. This can lead to inaccurate results or a lack of validity in the study.

Ethical Limitations

Ethical limitations refer to the ethical constraints placed on research studies. For example, certain studies may not be allowed to be conducted due to ethical concerns, such as studies that involve harm to participants.

Examples of Limitations in Research

Some Examples of Limitations in Research are as follows:

Research Title: “The Effectiveness of Machine Learning Algorithms in Predicting Customer Behavior”

Limitations:

  • The study only considered a limited number of machine learning algorithms and did not explore the effectiveness of other algorithms.
  • The study used a specific dataset, which may not be representative of all customer behaviors or demographics.
  • The study did not consider the potential ethical implications of using machine learning algorithms in predicting customer behavior.

Research Title: “The Impact of Online Learning on Student Performance in Computer Science Courses”

  • The study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have affected the results due to the unique circumstances of remote learning.
  • The study only included students from a single university, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to other institutions.
  • The study did not consider the impact of individual differences, such as prior knowledge or motivation, on student performance in online learning environments.

Research Title: “The Effect of Gamification on User Engagement in Mobile Health Applications”

  • The study only tested a specific gamification strategy and did not explore the effectiveness of other gamification techniques.
  • The study relied on self-reported measures of user engagement, which may be subject to social desirability bias or measurement errors.
  • The study only included a specific demographic group (e.g., young adults) and may not be generalizable to other populations with different preferences or needs.

How to Write Limitations in Research

When writing about the limitations of a research study, it is important to be honest and clear about the potential weaknesses of your work. Here are some tips for writing about limitations in research:

  • Identify the limitations: Start by identifying the potential limitations of your research. These may include sample size, selection bias, measurement error, or other issues that could affect the validity and reliability of your findings.
  • Be honest and objective: When describing the limitations of your research, be honest and objective. Do not try to minimize or downplay the limitations, but also do not exaggerate them. Be clear and concise in your description of the limitations.
  • Provide context: It is important to provide context for the limitations of your research. For example, if your sample size was small, explain why this was the case and how it may have affected your results. Providing context can help readers understand the limitations in a broader context.
  • Discuss implications : Discuss the implications of the limitations for your research findings. For example, if there was a selection bias in your sample, explain how this may have affected the generalizability of your findings. This can help readers understand the limitations in terms of their impact on the overall validity of your research.
  • Provide suggestions for future research : Finally, provide suggestions for future research that can address the limitations of your study. This can help readers understand how your research fits into the broader field and can provide a roadmap for future studies.

Purpose of Limitations in Research

There are several purposes of limitations in research. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • To acknowledge the boundaries of the study : Limitations help to define the scope of the research project and set realistic expectations for the findings. They can help to clarify what the study is not intended to address.
  • To identify potential sources of bias: Limitations can help researchers identify potential sources of bias in their research design, data collection, or analysis. This can help to improve the validity and reliability of the findings.
  • To provide opportunities for future research: Limitations can highlight areas for future research and suggest avenues for further exploration. This can help to advance knowledge in a particular field.
  • To demonstrate transparency and accountability: By acknowledging the limitations of their research, researchers can demonstrate transparency and accountability to their readers, peers, and funders. This can help to build trust and credibility in the research community.
  • To encourage critical thinking: Limitations can encourage readers to critically evaluate the study’s findings and consider alternative explanations or interpretations. This can help to promote a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the topic under investigation.

When to Write Limitations in Research

Limitations should be included in research when they help to provide a more complete understanding of the study’s results and implications. A limitation is any factor that could potentially impact the accuracy, reliability, or generalizability of the study’s findings.

It is important to identify and discuss limitations in research because doing so helps to ensure that the results are interpreted appropriately and that any conclusions drawn are supported by the available evidence. Limitations can also suggest areas for future research, highlight potential biases or confounding factors that may have affected the results, and provide context for the study’s findings.

Generally, limitations should be discussed in the conclusion section of a research paper or thesis, although they may also be mentioned in other sections, such as the introduction or methods. The specific limitations that are discussed will depend on the nature of the study, the research question being investigated, and the data that was collected.

Examples of limitations that might be discussed in research include sample size limitations, data collection methods, the validity and reliability of measures used, and potential biases or confounding factors that could have affected the results. It is important to note that limitations should not be used as a justification for poor research design or methodology, but rather as a way to enhance the understanding and interpretation of the study’s findings.

Importance of Limitations in Research

Here are some reasons why limitations are important in research:

  • Enhances the credibility of research: Limitations highlight the potential weaknesses and threats to validity, which helps readers to understand the scope and boundaries of the study. This improves the credibility of research by acknowledging its limitations and providing a clear picture of what can and cannot be concluded from the study.
  • Facilitates replication: By highlighting the limitations, researchers can provide detailed information about the study’s methodology, data collection, and analysis. This information helps other researchers to replicate the study and test the validity of the findings, which enhances the reliability of research.
  • Guides future research : Limitations provide insights into areas for future research by identifying gaps or areas that require further investigation. This can help researchers to design more comprehensive and effective studies that build on existing knowledge.
  • Provides a balanced view: Limitations help to provide a balanced view of the research by highlighting both strengths and weaknesses. This ensures that readers have a clear understanding of the study’s limitations and can make informed decisions about the generalizability and applicability of the findings.

Advantages of Limitations in Research

Here are some potential advantages of limitations in research:

  • Focus : Limitations can help researchers focus their study on a specific area or population, which can make the research more relevant and useful.
  • Realism : Limitations can make a study more realistic by reflecting the practical constraints and challenges of conducting research in the real world.
  • Innovation : Limitations can spur researchers to be more innovative and creative in their research design and methodology, as they search for ways to work around the limitations.
  • Rigor : Limitations can actually increase the rigor and credibility of a study, as researchers are forced to carefully consider the potential sources of bias and error, and address them to the best of their abilities.
  • Generalizability : Limitations can actually improve the generalizability of a study by ensuring that it is not overly focused on a specific sample or situation, and that the results can be applied more broadly.

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CPS Online Graduate Studies Research Paper (UNH Manchester Library): Limitations of the Study

  • Overview of the Research Process for Capstone Projects
  • Types of Research Design
  • Selecting a Research Problem
  • The Title of Your Research Paper
  • Before You Begin Writing
  • 7 Parts of the Research Paper
  • Background Information
  • Quanitative and Qualitative Methods
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quanitative Methods
  • Resources to Help You With the Literature Review
  • Non-Textual Elements

Limitations of the Study

  • Format of Capstone Research Projects at GSC
  • Editing and Proofreading Your Paper
  • Acknowledgements
  • UNH Scholar's Repository

The limitations of the study are those characteristics of design or methodology that impacted or influenced the interpretation of the findings from your research. They are the constraints on generalizability, applications to practice, and/or utility of findings that are the result of the ways in which you initially chose to design the study and/or the method used to establish internal and external validity.

Price, James H. and Judy Murnan. “Research Limitations and the Necessity of Reporting Them.” American Journal of Health Education 35 (2004): 66-67.

Always acknowledge a study's limitations. It is far better that you identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor and be graded down because you appear to have ignored them.

Keep in mind that acknowledgement of a study's limitations is an opportunity to make suggestions for further research. If you do connect your study's limitations to suggestions for further research, be sure to explain the ways in which these unanswered questions may become more focused because of your study.

Acknowledgement of a study's limitations also provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate that you have thought critically about the research problem, understood the relevant literature published about it, and correctly assessed the methods chosen for studying the problem. A key objective of the research process is not only discovering new knowledge but to also confront assumptions and explore what we don't know.

Claiming limitations is a subjective process because you must evaluate the impact of those limitations . Don't just list key weaknesses and the magnitude of a study's limitations. To do so diminishes the validity of your research because it leaves the reader wondering whether, or in what ways, limitation(s) in your study may have impacted the results and conclusions. Limitations require a critical, overall appraisal and interpretation of their impact. You should answer the question: do these problems with errors, methods, validity, etc. eventually matter and, if so, to what extent?

Price, James H. and Judy Murnan. “Research Limitations and the Necessity of Reporting Them.” American Journal of Health Education 35 (2004): 66-67; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation . Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook. Laerd.com.

Descriptions of Possible Limitations

All studies have limitations . However, it is important that you restrict your discussion to limitations related to the research problem under investigation. For example, if a meta-analysis of existing literature is not a stated purpose of your research, it should not be discussed as a limitation. Do not apologize for not addressing issues that you did not promise to investigate in the introduction of your paper.

Here are examples of limitations related to methodology and the research process you may need to describe and to discuss how they possibly impacted your results. Descriptions of limitations should be stated in the past tense because they were discovered after you completed your research.

Possible Methodological Limitations

  • Sample size -- the number of the units of analysis you use in your study is dictated by the type of research problem you are investigating. Note that, if your sample size is too small, it will be difficult to find significant relationships from the data, as statistical tests normally require a larger sample size to ensure a representative distribution of the population and to be considered representative of groups of people to whom results will be generalized or transferred. Note that sample size is less relevant in qualitative research.
  • Lack of available and/or reliable data -- a lack of data or of reliable data will likely require you to limit the scope of your analysis, the size of your sample, or it can be a significant obstacle in finding a trend and a meaningful relationship. You need to not only describe these limitations but to offer reasons why you believe data is missing or is unreliable. However, don’t just throw up your hands in frustration; use this as an opportunity to describe the need for future research.
  • Lack of prior research studies on the topic -- citing prior research studies forms the basis of your literature review and helps lay a foundation for understanding the research problem you are investigating. Depending on the currency or scope of your research topic, there may be little, if any, prior research on your topic. Before assuming this to be true, though, consult with a librarian. In cases when a librarian has confirmed that there is no prior research, you may be required to develop an entirely new research typology [for example, using an exploratory rather than an explanatory research design]. Note again that discovering a limitation can serve as an important opportunity to identify new gaps in the literature and to describe the need for further research.
  • Measure used to collect the data -- sometimes it is the case that, after completing your interpretation of the findings, you discover that the way in which you gathered data inhibited your ability to conduct a thorough analysis of the results. For example, you regret not including a specific question in a survey that, in retrospect, could have helped address a particular issue that emerged later in the study. Acknowledge the deficiency by stating a need for future researchers to revise the specific method for gathering data.
  • Self-reported data -- whether you are relying on pre-existing data or you are conducting a qualitative research study and gathering the data yourself, self-reported data is limited by the fact that it rarely can be independently verified. In other words, you have to take what people say, whether in interviews, focus groups, or on questionnaires, at face value. However, self-reported data can contain several potential sources of bias that you should be alert to and note as limitations. These biases become apparent if they are incongruent with data from other sources. These are: (1) selective memory [remembering or not remembering experiences or events that occurred at some point in the past]; (2) telescoping [recalling events that occurred at one time as if they occurred at another time]; (3) attribution [the act of attributing positive events and outcomes to one's own agency but attributing negative events and outcomes to external forces]; and, (4) exaggeration [the act of representing outcomes or embellishing events as more significant than is actually suggested from other data].

Possible Limitations of the Researcher

  • Access -- if your study depends on having access to people, organizations, or documents and, for whatever reason, access is denied or limited in some way, the reasons for this need to be described.
  • Longitudinal effects -- unlike your professor, who can literally devote years [even a lifetime] to studying a single topic, the time available to investigate a research problem and to measure change or stability over time is pretty much constrained by the due date of your assignment. Be sure to choose a research problem that does not require an excessive amount of time to complete the literature review, apply the methodology, and gather and interpret the results. If you're unsure whether you can complete your research within the confines of the assignment's due date, talk to your professor.
  • Cultural and other type of bias -- we all have biases, whether we are conscience of them or not. Bias is when a person, place, or thing is viewed or shown in a consistently inaccurate way. Bias is usually negative, though one can have a positive bias as well, especially if that bias reflects your reliance on research that only support for your hypothesis. When proof-reading your paper, be especially critical in reviewing how you have stated a problem, selected the data to be studied, what may have been omitted, the manner in which you have ordered events, people, or places, how you have chosen to represent a person, place, or thing, to name a phenomenon, or to use possible words with a positive or negative connotation.

NOTE:   If you detect bias in prior research, it must be acknowledged and you should explain what measures were taken to avoid perpetuating that bias.

  • Fluency in a language -- if your research focuses on measuring the perceived value of after-school tutoring among Mexican-American ESL [English as a Second Language] students, for example, and you are not fluent in Spanish, you are limited in being able to read and interpret Spanish language research studies on the topic. This deficiency should be acknowledged.

Aguinis, Hermam and Jeffrey R. Edwards. “Methodological Wishes for the Next Decade and How to Make Wishes Come True.” Journal of Management Studies 51 (January 2014): 143-174; Brutus, Stéphane et al. "Self-Reported Limitations and Future Directions in Scholarly Reports: Analysis and Recommendations." Journal of Management 39 (January 2013): 48-75; Senunyeme, Emmanuel K. Business Research Methods . Powerpoint Presentation. Regent University of Science and Technology; ter Riet, Gerben et al. “All That Glitters Isn't Gold: A Survey on Acknowledgment of Limitations in Biomedical Studies.” PLOS One 8 (November 2013): 1-6.

Structure and Writing Style

Information about the limitations of your study are generally placed either at the beginning of the discussion section of your paper so the reader knows and understands the limitations before reading the rest of your analysis of the findings, or, the limitations are outlined at the conclusion of the discussion section as an acknowledgement of the need for further study. Statements about a study's limitations should not be buried in the body [middle] of the discussion section unless a limitation is specific to something covered in that part of the paper. If this is the case, though, the limitation should be reiterated at the conclusion of the section. If you determine that your study is seriously flawed due to important limitations, such as, an inability to acquire critical data, consider reframing it as an exploratory study intended to lay the groundwork for a more complete research study in the future. Be sure, though, to specifically explain the ways that these flaws can be successfully overcome in a new study. But, do not use this as an excuse for not developing a thorough research paper! Review the tab in this guide for developing a research topic. If serious limitations exist, it generally indicates a likelihood that your research problem is too narrowly defined or that the issue or event under study is too recent and, thus, very little research has been written about it. If serious limitations do emerge, consult with your professor about possible ways to overcome them or how to revise your study. When discussing the limitations of your research, be sure to: Describe each limitation in detailed but concise terms; Explain why each limitation exists; Provide the reasons why each limitation could not be overcome using the method(s) chosen to acquire or gather the data [cite to other studies that had similar problems when possible]; Assess the impact of each limitation in relation to the overall findings and conclusions of your study; and, If appropriate, describe how these limitations could point to the need for further research. Remember that the method you chose may be the source of a significant limitation that has emerged during your interpretation of the results [for example, you didn't interview a group of people that you later wish you had]. If this is the case, don't panic. Acknowledge it, and explain how applying a different or more robust methodology might address the research problem more effectively in a future study. A underlying goal of scholarly research is not only to show what works, but to demonstrate what doesn't work or what needs further clarification. Aguinis, Hermam and Jeffrey R. Edwards. “Methodological Wishes for the Next Decade and How to Make Wishes Come True.” Journal of Management Studies 51 (January 2014): 143-174; Brutus, Stéphane et al. "Self-Reported Limitations and Future Directions in Scholarly Reports: Analysis and Recommendations." Journal of Management 39 (January 2013): 48-75; Ioannidis, John P.A. "Limitations are not Properly Acknowledged in the Scientific Literature." Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 60 (2007): 324-329; Pasek, Josh. Writing the Empirical Social Science Research Paper: A Guide for the Perplexed. January 24, 2012. Academia.edu; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation. Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook. Laerd.com; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.

Information about the limitations of your study are generally placed either at the beginning of the discussion section of your paper so the reader knows and understands the limitations before reading the rest of your analysis of the findings, or, the limitations are outlined at the conclusion of the discussion section as an acknowledgement of the need for further study. Statements about a study's limitations should not be buried in the body [middle] of the discussion section unless a limitation is specific to something covered in that part of the paper. If this is the case, though, the limitation should be reiterated at the conclusion of the section.

If you determine that your study is seriously flawed due to important limitations , such as, an inability to acquire critical data, consider reframing it as an exploratory study intended to lay the groundwork for a more complete research study in the future. Be sure, though, to specifically explain the ways that these flaws can be successfully overcome in a new study.

But, do not use this as an excuse for not developing a thorough research paper! Review the tab in this guide for developing a research topic . If serious limitations exist, it generally indicates a likelihood that your research problem is too narrowly defined or that the issue or event under study is too recent and, thus, very little research has been written about it. If serious limitations do emerge, consult with your professor about possible ways to overcome them or how to revise your study.

When discussing the limitations of your research, be sure to:

  • Describe each limitation in detailed but concise terms;
  • Explain why each limitation exists;
  • Provide the reasons why each limitation could not be overcome using the method(s) chosen to acquire or gather the data [cite to other studies that had similar problems when possible];
  • Assess the impact of each limitation in relation to the overall findings and conclusions of your study; and,
  • If appropriate, describe how these limitations could point to the need for further research.

Remember that the method you chose may be the source of a significant limitation that has emerged during your interpretation of the results [for example, you didn't interview a group of people that you later wish you had]. If this is the case, don't panic. Acknowledge it, and explain how applying a different or more robust methodology might address the research problem more effectively in a future study. A underlying goal of scholarly research is not only to show what works, but to demonstrate what doesn't work or what needs further clarification.

Aguinis, Hermam and Jeffrey R. Edwards. “Methodological Wishes for the Next Decade and How to Make Wishes Come True.” Journal of Management Studies 51 (January 2014): 143-174; Brutus, Stéphane et al. "Self-Reported Limitations and Future Directions in Scholarly Reports: Analysis and Recommendations." Journal of Management 39 (January 2013): 48-75; Ioannidis, John P.A. "Limitations are not Properly Acknowledged in the Scientific Literature." Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 60 (2007): 324-329; Pasek, Josh. Writing the Empirical Social Science Research Paper: A Guide for the Perplexed . January 24, 2012. Academia.edu; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation . Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook. Laerd.com; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion . The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.

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Frequently asked questions

How do i determine scope of research.

Scope of research is determined at the beginning of your research process , prior to the data collection stage. Sometimes called “scope of study,” your scope delineates what will and will not be covered in your project. It helps you focus your work and your time, ensuring that you’ll be able to achieve your goals and outcomes.

Defining a scope can be very useful in any research project, from a research proposal to a thesis or dissertation . A scope is needed for all types of research: quantitative , qualitative , and mixed methods .

To define your scope of research, consider the following:

  • Budget constraints or any specifics of grant funding
  • Your proposed timeline and duration
  • Specifics about your population of study, your proposed sample size , and the research methodology you’ll pursue
  • Any inclusion and exclusion criteria
  • Any anticipated control , extraneous , or confounding variables that could bias your research if not accounted for properly.

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  • Study Background & Introduction

Q: Can you give an example of the scope of a study?

I am working on my research project and want to write the scope of study on online personal banking.

Asked on 02 Nov, 2019

The scope of a study explains the extent to which the research area will be explored in the study and specifies the parameters within which the study will be operating. Thus, the scope of a study will define the purpose of the study, the population size and characteristics, geographical location, the time period within which the study will be conducted, the theories that the study will focus on, etc. 

As a researcher, you have to be careful when you define your scope or area of focus. Remember that if you broaden the scope too much, you might not be able to do justice to the work or it might take a very long time to complete. Consider the feasibility of your work before you write down the scope. Again, if the scope is too narrow, the findings might not be generalizable.

For example, your study is about online personal banking, but it will not be possible for you to cover all banks and all individuals who use the online banking system. Therefore, you can maybe specify that your study will cover 100 people of one particular area and examine their use of the online banking system. 

This post has another example that you will find helpful:  What is the meaning of scope and delimitations of a study?

Related reading:

  • How do I present the scope of my study?
  • Can I write to the editor to inquire if my article's topic matches the journal's scope?

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Answered by Editage Insights on 07 Nov, 2019

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  1. Scope and Limitations-Sample

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  2. 😀 Scope and limitation sample in thesis. Sample Scope and Delimitation

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  1. How to write the Scope and Limitations of the Study

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  5. WHAT IS THE LIMITATION OF YOUR STUDY?

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write Limitations of the Study (with examples)

    Common types of limitations and their ramifications include: Theoretical: limits the scope, depth, or applicability of a study. Methodological: limits the quality, quantity, or diversity of the data. Empirical: limits the representativeness, validity, or reliability of the data. Analytical: limits the accuracy, completeness, or significance of ...

  2. Scope of the Research

    Scope of research refers to the range of topics, areas, and subjects that a research project intends to cover. It is the extent and limitations of the study, defining what is included and excluded in the research. The scope of a research project depends on various factors, such as the research questions, objectives, methodology, and available ...

  3. 21 Research Limitations Examples (2024)

    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 bolster the integrity of the study.

  4. How to Write the Scope of the Study

    How to Write the Scope of the Study. Take home message. The scope of the study is defined at the start of the research project before data collection begins. It is used by researchers to set the boundaries and limitations within which the study will be performed. In this post you will learn exactly what the scope of the study means, why it is ...

  5. Scope and Delimitations

    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.

  6. Research Limitations: Simple Explainer With Examples

    Research limitations are one of those things that students tend to avoid digging into, and understandably so. No one likes to critique their own study and point out weaknesses. Nevertheless, being able to understand the limitations of your study - and, just as importantly, the implications thereof - a is a critically important skill. In this post, we'll unpack some of the most common ...

  7. Limitations of the Study

    Sample Size Limitations in Qualitative Research. Sample sizes are typically smaller in qualitative research because, as the study goes on, acquiring more data does not necessarily lead to more information. This is because one occurrence of a piece of data, or a code, is all that is necessary to ensure that it becomes part of the analysis framework.

  8. Scope and Delimitations in Research

    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 ...

  9. PDF How to discuss your study's limitations effectively

    s are not the last thing reviewers read in the paper.Start this "limitations" paragraph with a simple topic. sentence tha. signals what you're about to discu. s. For example:"Our study had some limitations."Then, provide a concise sentence or two identifying each limitation and explaining how the limitation may have affected the ...

  10. Understanding Limitations in Research

    Here's an example of a limitation explained in a research paper about the different options and emerging solutions for delaying memory decline. These statements appeared in the first two sentences of the discussion section: "Approaches like stem cell transplantation and vaccination in AD [Alzheimer's disease] work on a cellular or molecular level in the laboratory.

  11. How To Write Scope and Delimitation of a Research Paper (With Examples

    The "Scope and Delimitation" section states the concepts and variables your study covered. It tells readers which things you have included and excluded in your analysis. This portion tells two things: 1. The study's "Delimitation" - the "boundaries" of your study's scope. It sets apart the things included in your analysis from ...

  12. Delimitations in Research

    Delimitations refer to the specific boundaries or limitations that are set in a research study in order to narrow its scope and focus. Delimitations may be related to a variety of factors, including the population being studied, the geographical location, the time period, the research design, and the methods or tools being used to collect data.

  13. Stating the Obvious: Writing Assumptions, Limitations, and

    Limitations of a dissertation are potential weaknesses in your study that are mostly out of your control, given limited funding, choice of research design, statistical model constraints, or other factors. In addition, a limitation is a restriction on your study that cannot be reasonably dismissed and can affect your design and results.

  14. Scope of Research

    The scope of your project sets clear parameters for your research. A scope statement will give basic information about the depth and breadth of the project. It tells your reader exactly what you want to find out, how you will conduct your study, the reports and deliverables that will be part of the outcome of the study, and the responsibilities ...

  15. Decoding the Scope and Delimitations of the Study in Research

    The scope of a research paper explains the context and framework for the study, outlines the extent, variables, or dimensions that will be investigated, and provides details of the parameters within which the study is conducted. Delimitations in research, on the other hand, refer to the limitations imposed on the study.

  16. Scope and Delimitations in Research

    Example 1. 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 ...

  17. Limitations of a Research Study

    3. Identify your limitations of research and explain their importance. 4. Provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices. 5. Write how you are suggesting that it is possible to overcome them in the future. Limitations can help structure the research study better.

  18. Limitations in Research

    Generally, limitations should be discussed in the conclusion section of a research paper or thesis, although they may also be mentioned in other sections, such as the introduction or methods. The specific limitations that are discussed will depend on the nature of the study, the research question being investigated, and the data that was collected.

  19. (PDF) Scope and Limitation of Study in Social Research

    [email protected]. Introduction. Social research is an endeavour that, most times, gives researchers the needed freedom. and independence to inquire in to issues they observe to be problematic or ...

  20. Limitations of the Study

    Information about the limitations of your study are generally placed either at the beginning of the discussion section of your paper so the reader knows and understands the limitations before reading the rest of your analysis of the findings, or, the limitations are outlined at the conclusion of the discussion section as an acknowledgement of the need for further study.

  21. Q: What is the meaning of scope and delimitations of a study?

    Answer: Scope and delimitations are two elements of a research paper or thesis. The scope of a study explains the extent to which the research area will be explored in the work and specifies the parameters within which the study will be operating. For example, let's say a researcher wants to study the impact of mobile phones on behavior ...

  22. How do I determine scope of research?

    To define your scope of research, consider the following: Budget constraints or any specifics of grant funding. Your proposed timeline and duration. Specifics about your population of study, your proposed sample size, and the research methodology you'll pursue. Any inclusion and exclusion criteria. Any anticipated control, extraneous, or ...

  23. Q: Can you give an example of the scope of a study?

    1 Answer to this question. Answer: The scope of a study explains the extent to which the research area will be explored in the study and specifies the parameters within which the study will be operating. Thus, the scope of a study will define the purpose of the study, the population size and characteristics, geographical location, the time ...