Perhaps you’ll narrow your focus even more to elementary school teachers in a particular school district who have been teaching for a particular length of time. These are choices you will need to make, both for practical reasons (i.e., the population you have access to) and for the questions you are trying to answer. It just means that, for the purposes of your project and your research questions, you’re interested in the experience of the teachers, so you’re excluding anyone who does not meet those criteria.Of course, for this particular example, this does not mean that it wouldn’t be interesting to also know what principals think about the new curriculum. Having delimitations to your population of interest also means that you won’t be able to answer any questions about the experiences of those other populations; this is ok because those populations are .
Perhaps you’ll narrow your focus even more to elementary school teachers in a particular school district who have been teaching for a particular length of time. These are choices you will need to make, both for practical reasons (i.e., the population you have access to) and for the questions you are trying to answer. It just means that, for the purposes of your project and your research questions, you’re interested in the experience of the teachers, so you’re excluding anyone who does not meet those criteria.
For example, you won’t be able to infer causality from a correlational study or generalize to an entire population from a case study.
Likewise, while an experimental study allows you to draw causal conclusions, it may require a level of experimental control that looks very different from the real world (thus lowering external validity).
Limitations may include things such as participant drop-out, a sample that isn’t entirely representative of the desired population, violations to the assumptions of parametric analysis (e.g., normality, homogeneity of variance), the limits of self-report, or the absence of reliability and validity data for some of your survey measures.
Some limitations are inherent to your research design itself.
In conducting either a quantitative or a qualitative study, you will have to define your population of interest.
Defining this population of interest means that you will need to articulate the boundaries of that population (i.e., who is included). For example, if you’re interested in understanding the experiences of elementary school teachers who have been implementing a new curriculum into their classrooms, you probably won’t be interviewing or sending a survey to any of the following people: non-teachers, high-school teachers, college professors, principals, parents of elementary school children, or the children themselves.Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge them upfront and make note of how they restrict the conclusions you’ll be able to draw from your study.Frequently, limitations can get in the way of our ability to generalize our findings to the larger populations or to draw causal conclusions, so be sure to consider these issues when you’re thinking about the potential limitations of your study. If you try to do so, your project is bound to get huge and unwieldy, and it will become a lot more difficult to interpret your results or come to meaningful conclusions with so many moving parts.Here, we will dive a bit deeper into the differences between limitations and delimitations and provide some helpful tips for addressing them in your research project—whether you are working on a quantitative or qualitative study. Defining Boundaries These concepts are easy to get confused because both limitations and delimitations restrict (or limit) the questions you’ll be able to answer with your study, most notably in terms of generalizability.However, the biggest difference between limitations and delimitations is the degree of control you have over them—that is, how much they are based in conscious, intentional choices you made in designing your study.If you’re wondering what the difference between these two terms is, don’t worry—you’re not alone!In a previous article , we covered what goes into the limitations, delimitations, and assumptions sections of your thesis or dissertation.While this may seem obvious, it’s worth acknowledging.There may be other related problems or questions that are equally worthy of study, but you must choose which one(s) you are and which ones you are not looking into with your project.(i.e., as you’re designing the study) about where you’re going to draw the boundaries of your project. Like limitations, delimitations are a part of every research project, and this is not a bad thing. You have to draw the line somewhere, and the delimitations are where you choose to draw these lines.One of the clearest examples of a delimitation that applies to almost every research project is participant exclusion criteria.