Importance of writing the Scope and Delimitations of your study
A different level of detail is required for different sections of a research paper or different chapters of a thesis. For example, the Materials and Methods section of a research paper or thesis would describe what was done and how it was done in substantial detail. However, in addition to providing detailed information where relevant, it is important to state the broader parameters and boundaries of the research. This forms the scope and delimitations of a study and helps to contextualise the research for the reader so they can better anticipate the extent of the details to come.
The scope of the study is given in broad terms and identifies any of the following elements:
|Area or region||
You could think of delimitations as EITHER of the following:
- Stating what was not done
- A more detailed and variant exposition of the scope, which is expressed in terms of exclusion rather than inclusion – i.e. a description of what is not included or considered or studied within the given piece of research
Some examples of delimitations are:
|Type of Study||Example of Delimitation|
|Questionnaire survey||Incomplete or illegible forms were discarded.|
|Interview||Participants who had been residents in the chosen area for less than one year were excluded.|
|Experiment||Samples with impurities amounting to more than 0.1% by weight were not analysed.|
Importance of stating scope and delimitations
- Clarifying the scope and delimitations of a study is helpful for interpreting the results because the results are influenced by the scope and materials (delimitations). For instance, agricultural field experiments conducted under irrigated conditions can give very different results from the experiments conducted without irrigation.
- Scope and delimitations also help to make the study more replicable by specifying what was excluded. For example, in the example mentioned earlier for delimitations, the results can be very different if samples with greater impurities are not discarded.
- In the field of medicine, the gender bias is becoming increasingly evident, which is why it is becoming important to state – even when a sample of subjects was selected at random – the proportion of men and women in the sample.
Writing the scope and delimitations in the paper
Delimitations vs. limitations
Finally, note that delimitations of a study are different from its limitations: the latter can be thought of as shortcomings, typically mentioned to address in anticipation any objections from the reviewers of a manuscript. (Learn more about limitations here: How to write the Limitations of your research)
The above explanation and examples should convince you of the need to include scope and delimitations while writing a research paper, a thesis or even a research proposal. Do not hesitate to include them because if you do not point them out, somebody else will!
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