Tips for Post Graduate Writing: Scope and Limitations of your Study

Tips for Post Graduate Writing: Scope and Limitations of your Study

Hello and welcome back!  My name is Dr. Cheryl Lentz, owner of The Refractive Thinker® Press. Today our focus for Tips for Post Graduate Writing is on the scope and limitations as offered in Chapter 1 and reviewed again in Chapter 5 in the Graduate Thesis format and for most Doctoral Dissertations.

The scope and limitations are very important to the nature of your study.  As your study begins with your problem statement and purpose statement—outlining the reason and direction for your study, your study must also indicate its limitations.  In addition to what your study intends to accomplish, a discussion of what your study intends not to accomplish is of importance and value as well.  What are the boundaries that perhaps the design of your study may not allow?

These could include:

(1) Sampling.  Is your sampling a non-probability or purposeful sampling for example? Why?  

  • Perhaps it was not cost effective to survey all members of the organization?
  • Perhaps it was not time efficient to survey all members of the organization?

(2) Perhaps there is a limitation in the scope and validity of your survey instrument?

(3) Perhaps there are limitations to your choice of methodology?

  • Example: For the Delphi Technique, the literature review as offered by my dissertation found four primary limitations to the use of the standard Delphi Technique as offered by authors Nekolaichuk, Fainsinger, and Lawlor (2005).
  • As a result of these limitations, great care was taken with the ability to generalize the resultant findings when discussed in Chapter 5

Remember, there is often confusion by what is meant by delimitations (those characteristics and details about your study that may limit the scope or define your specific boundaries) of your particular study and limitations (those elements that may limit what you can say about the results).  Just by defining your problem statement in any particular way, you are potentially limiting the scope, boundaries, or parameters for your study.  There are many approaches you could consider.  By taking your particular approach, you are committing to a particular scope of action and path that you will be traveling.  You will need to clearly define what you intend to study as well as what you do not. Be very specific in both areas for your reader to clearly understand your intents on both levels.  

Limitations by contrast are what elements will affect the ability for your study to generalize the results.  What conclusions will you be able to draw from your study within your specific boundaries?  Let’s consider your sample population for example.  Is your sample large enough?  Remember that Creswell (2002) indicated that “approximately 30 participants for a correlational study that relates variables (p. 168) would be acceptable as an appropriate sample size.  Anything less and this could potentially limit the validity of your study to expand much beyond its initial population sample. 

Remember our goal is what our study can add to the general body of knowledge at its conclusion.  What will we be able to offer about our study as a result of our various choices with regard to the consideration of your study’s problem statement, purpose statement, methodology, sample size, and population?  Please be sure to spend some time in thought with regard to these areas.


Creswell, J. (2002). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluation quantitative and qualitative research.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Nekolaichuk, C., Fainsinger, R., & Lawlor, P. (2005, October). A validation study of a pain classification system for advanced cancer patients using content experts: The Edmonton Classification System for cancer pain. Palliative Medicine, 19(6), 466-476.

Let me once again invite you to find at least three sample studies from your respective university that mirrors your study for you to closely follow its logic, format, and overall organization, presentation, subheading titles, and perhaps design.  The sample studies will offer delimitations and limitations for your study to consider further.

For more tips on effective post graduate writing, to include both videos and transcripts, please visit my blog at

Thank you for joining me.  Again my name is Dr. Cheryl Lentz. I have enjoyed our time together and I hope you find these suggestions for crafting an effective doctoral dissertation or graduate thesis within this video helpful. Much continued success and luck to you as your academic and professional journeys continue.  

With respect,


Dr. Cheryl Lentz
Chief Refractive Thinker®
The Refractive Thinker® Press, where discriminating scholars publish.  

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February 18th, 2011 by admin

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