The research report: Scope, assumptions, limitations and delimitations


AS graduation date approaches, there would likely be baccalaureate seniors feverishly writing their research reports to meet the deadlines of their respective defense schedules. Anxiety grips them; their supplicating gestures hound research mentors, who themselves may have very little time of their own. Consider that there’s need for extra teaching loads to provide enough not only for the table but for other family needs as well. As is usual in developing economies, the proportion of earners and non-earners in a Filipino family that typically is an extended one, is usually skewed to the left. One earner may likely need to provide for several family members who are all dependent on the earner for all their needs.

Student-wise, there is the dilly-dallying, the procrastination or inability to prioritize what should be done that sets a stressful phase in student life. But there’s the social media to supply the fun, meanwhile. Note, too, the crowded curricula which, invoking a school’s academic freedom, inserts non-government prescribed courses that could eat up much of student time. Provided these are not repetitive and extraneous to the program objectives or goals, these courses such as religious studies in sectarian schools would round up student development. Busy mentors, procrastinating students, crowded curricula — shall we wonder why at times we come across research papers that obviously show the student missed a lesson on what should be the content of a section in a chapter of a research report?

Let’s share experience with a section in the preliminary pages of a research report of Chapter One – introduction to the research problem. Chapter One begins with a paragraph or two on the researcher’s general field of interest, or that of a particular group (for example — mathematics teachers, student organizations, curricula, etc), stressing the unresolved issues in the research focus, ending with the gaps the research intends to fill in, or what to accomplish.

The scope
Given these gaps, the research report introduces the research problem by presenting “the conflicting findings,” “the unresolved issues,” “the social concerns, or educational, national, or international issues,” Given these, the report states the problem and the research questions, stating exactly the purpose of the study, the relevance of the research and a description of its scope, its limitations and delimitations. “The scope is the extent of the study and contains measurements, which in a qualitative study would include the number of participants, the geographical location, and other pertinent numerical data. Between the scope and limitations are also explained the assumptions used in the study.”<>

What could the assumptions be in a research study? Assumptions being “self-evident truths are an anchor to the rest of the decisions a researcher makes.” An example is the respondents of a study. Researchers would normally assume that participants are highly qualified to respond to the research questionnaire. For example, college deans would be highly qualified participants who will answer truthfully and accurately interview questions on the challenges of internationalization based on their personal experience. They will respond honestly and to the best of their individual abilities. However, sensitive questions such as sex habits of adolescents may reap reserved responses, especially our Filipino youngsters. This could be a limitation of the study. <Design/stating-the-obvious-writing-assumptions- limitations-and-ddelimitationsPage-2>. A research report has to justify the assumptions made and not merely to state them. If the findings of a research can be true only to a certain population through a sample, where the peculiarity of the setting could likely influence the responses, then the research results cannot be applicable to a wider population which is in a different setting. < Page-2>.

These refer to “influences that the researcher could not control.” Hence, they are “the shortcomings, conditions or influences that placed restrictions on the researcher’s methodology and conclusions” and as such, should be reported. Thoroughness is a must in reporting limitations and these would include how the limitations influenced the analysis of results. The kind of instruments used, “the sample, time constraints” can render findings not applicable to the larger population. “This is especially true when the definition of the population is broad (ex: elderly women).” limitations. html>

These are choices that “describe the boundaries” set for the study during the research design, “imposed deliberately by the researcher.” In a social sciences study, delimitations would be the specific entity (school, hospital, community, etc.), where a study took place; in a scientific study, the number of repetitions. The assumptions, limitations and delimitations section of the research report explains the things that researcher did not do (and why the researcher chose not to do them), “the literature not reviewed, theories not adopted (and why not).” It is quite seldom, though, that I have come across theoretical limitations. The research report should also explain “the population studied (why) and the methodological procedures used or not used (and why). “Delimitations on variables, the target population, etc. are set so that research goals do not become impossibly huge to manage. The report should state the things that a reader might reasonably expect the researcher to do and chose not to do and why. <>

In sum, the limitations and delimitations section of a research describes situations and circumstances that may have affected or restricted the methods and analysis of the research data.

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for five and a half years concurrent to her 10 years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.


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