In research studies, the scope is the depth of exploration that a person plans for a topic. Delimitations are control factors that the researcher chooses to narrow the scope of the study.

What is scope?

Scope and delimitation are two elements of a research paper. The scope identifies what topic the researcher intends to cover. The scope names the information or subject matter that the individual plans to evaluate. For instance, a person might choose to study the impact of deforestation on species loss in the Amazon. However, it is not possible for the researcher to cover every aspect of the chosen subject. In this case, the scope might be narrowed down to a select group of species or an evaluation of population decline over a certain period of time. Delimitations define what factors the researcher consciously controls for and why they have been eliminated from the study.

The Role of Delimitations

Delimitations are parameters that the researcher makes to narrow his or her scope of research. Delimitations are a conscious choice to control for certain factors in the study. Since the study cannot address all relevant elements, delimitations narrow the scope and purpose to focus on certain aspects. Common delimitations are population or sample size, the setting in which the study takes place, and the design or setup of the study, along with an explanation for its structure. An individual might also choose to use some research tools and methodologies to collect data but not others. The researcher might impose delimitations for practical reasons, such as lack of time or financial resources to carry out a more thorough investigation. For each delimiting factor, the researcher discusses why he or she made those exclusions and explains how they might affect the outcome of the research. Delimitations should be stated clearly so that the audience understands why certain elements were excluded from the study. The researcher might state up front, for example, which species he or she has chosen to study and not study, and provide reasons for that selection.


Limitations are similar to delimitations, but they are unplanned factors that narrow the scope that the researcher did not see, and therefore account for, beforehand. In this case, the researcher might discover that a species he or she chose to study was also affected by a devastating disease at the same time that habitat destruction took place, which might also explain population loss.

Summarizing the Research

When structuring the paper, the researcher should note any delimitations in the introduction section, at the beginning of the discussion section, and again briefly in the conclusion. For each one, the researcher should clearly state why the study included and excluded certain delimitation factors. Researchers can also expand on the results of their study to say how, with those delimitations, the study's results translate to the broader population. The researcher can also include a discussion of how external validity is affected by the delimitations. If possible, he or she can then discuss future plans for undertaking a future study that includes some previous delimitations for greater validity.