1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study

More often than not, students of research and even researchers are confused over the difference between scope and delimitation. In this guide, the terms are used to mean one and the same thing. By definition, delimitation is any factor within the researcher’s control that may affect external validity. External validity is the extent to which the findings of a study can be applied to individuals and settings beyond those that were studied (Gall et al., 1996, p. 473 – 478).

Example 1

The study covered only one private boy’s secondary schools in Embu municipality. Students and teachers in this school were considered. Only a few parents, mainly those living around the school participated in the study. 

Example 2

The sample population selected for this study was limited to students enrolled in Faculty of Education courses for the 2007 May/August in-service session at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa; thus, the ability to generalize to the entire population of the Catholic University and beyond its borders is severely limited. The sample however is similar in nature to the population that attends in-service sessions in various other universities in Kenya and can thus be generalized.


The scope of the study covers the following two central aspects:

Knowledge: Every study covers a given area of knowledge. The objectives / research questions are used to direct the knowledge scope of the study. No single study covers all areas of knowledge; similarly, no single study that does not open new areas of quest.

Geographical: Every study is delimited in terms of geographical coverage. In the given examples, the studies were conducted in a given geographical area.

Time: A research study is also delimited in terms of time. Time constraint may influence the outcome of a study if not well managed. Read more…

By  Anthony M. Wanjohi