Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Limitations or Delimitations?

Re: [QualitativeForum] Re: how do you explain limitations in qual research?

This is what I found on limitations/delimitatiosn from Univ of south dakota's dissertation guide. I found it useful. essentially limitation is matters not within researcher's control and delimitation are boundaries the researcher set himself..

What?
Delimitations are restrictions/bounds that researchers impose prior to the inception of the study to narrow the scope of a study. For example, the study might be delimited to South Dakota postsecondary institutions or to survey female students. Limitations are conditions that restrict the scope of the study or may affect the outcome and cannot be controlled by the researcher. An example of a limitation is that a school district might only allow the researcher to collect data during a certain time of the school year, or that selected participants might not answer truthfully or at all.

Why?
Delimitations and limitations are discussed to analyze possible threats to the study's validity and to acknowledge existing flaws to the research design.

Quality Indicators:
Clear concise descriptions that indicate how the delimitations and limitations affect generalization of the study's findings.

Common errors:
Confuse delimitations with limitations and don't reflect upon their effect on the study's generalizability.

Guiding questions:
In focusing the study, how is the generalizability of findings decreased? What design factors might other researchers question as affecting the scope of the study's generalizability?

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ayahlong_azm wrote:
Regarding the issue of limitation, let me comment on the usage of the term 'limitations' itself. Dr Osman, reader of Mat Sani Hassan's
proposal presentation on May 31st, 2005 disagreed with the use of the
term 'limitations' as it shows weaknesses. The more appropriate term
is 'delimitations'.

My Webster tells that the term 'limitations' means stg that limits whereas to
mark the boundaries of. With that background i concur with this view.

'Limitatiosn' in our thesis should focus on methodological limitations
rather than non-methodological ones, according to Dr KI. I'm not
pretty aware of quali and quant differences but the very nature of
these two worlds clearly show how the knowledge can be known, what's
the term, epistemology, yes, the nature of knowledge, how knowledge is
constructed. Quanti uses etic perspective (researcher's perspective)
whereas quali is 'emic', informant's point of view.

I'm a bit upset if somebody writes that not being able to generalise
as a limitation, it is rather a delimitation and thats the very
nature of qual research, inquiring things at depth as opposed to
quanti.

azamri

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Re: [QualitativeForum] Re: how do you explain limitations in qual research?

Azamri, I completely agree with you. There is no need to apologize for qualitative research and why limitation is not an appropriate term, per se. It is a matter of explanation and perspective. Limitation as a word connotes something that has weakness. Well, in fact, all research has limitations -- I got news for you. The question is not whether there are limitations but what are the nature of those limitations, i.e., what is the actual scope and breadth of the reserach. For quali its different than for quanti and that merely needs to be stated and in what way. In my opinion, it's more a matter of educating people about quali (again) rather than apologizing for it. Quali is about depth (understanding), quanti is about breadth (generalizing). Limitations can, therefore, be discussed in terms of what the research set out to accomplish (its boundaries/scope) and in what ways it fell short of achieving them (and the reasons why). Remember, all research has limitations as there is no such thing as a perfect study.

- Lateef

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Azamri's (ayahlong) response:

Thank you. May I request the full citation of the article. I appreciate the usefulness of the article and it forces me to revisit my earlier position.

Therefore, taking South Dakota's definition of limitation, what would be the matters not within researcher's control that affect validity of qualy studes? I would say the truthfulness of the selected participants and infuence from non-related events. For example, in selecting participants, the researcher is recommended to include a man. During the interview, the man is not truthful, possibly he talks just to show off how knowledagble he is, a tendency described by Ary et al as 'social desirability bias'. Or a participant is truthful but events he experiences could determine his willingness or to what extent he could articculate his experiences. For example, he is supposed to talk about corruption, but if he is being accused by the media as one of theose involved, this affects the data.

However i dont see this as confined to quali research alone. The problem is the same as ecological validity. Due to space limitation, i cannot explain all but please refer to Ary 324, also look for Pygmalion, Hawthorne and Henry's effects.

The related problem can be seen in terms of sampling limitations in quali research. Please refer Patton p. 563 for further discussion on situational, temporal and selectivity limitations.

For quanti, Trochim classifies validity into two: internal and external. Internal validity concerns with face, criterion, construct and content validity, much of those are on the developed instrument. External validity is related to Population , ecological and operation.

It is much comfortable to discuss limitations without restricting to South Dakota's definition. If you mean limitations as weaknesses, disregard of whether within researcher's control or not, i can offer two: the sheer numbers of phenomenon to be observed (unless you are clrear and selective), and the absence of a systematic mechanism to analyse data.

Just bear in mind, the notion of validity is different in quali paradigm as Merriam said "the notion of V & R need to be grounded in the worldview of quali research". Some scholars say that quali findings are not to be generalized but rather to be tranferred. According to Blake,"to generalise is to be an idiot. to particularise is the lone description of merit. General knowledge are those that the idiot posses" (quoted in Patton 2002 p. 582). This is just an illustration, it does not mean that i agree with Blake.

azamri

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