Assumptions, Limitations and Delimitations PDF

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Assumptions, Limitations and Delimitations
By Dr. Marilyn Simon
Excerpted from Simon, M. K. (2011). Dissertation and scholarly research: Recipes for
success (2011 Ed.). Seattle, WA, Dissertation Success, LLC.
Find this and many other dissertation guides and resources at

It can be humbling and empowering at the same time to realize you are critically
restricted in many ways when conducting scholarly research. These deficiencies include
the availability of resources and even your own reasoning processes and human failings.
The empowerment comes from recognizing your own shortcomings and the shortcomings
of the choices you make, and then adjusting the best way possible. There is often some
confusion regarding what are considered assumptions, limitations, and delimitations in
conducting research. As a public service, this will now be clarified
Assumptionsin your study are things that are somewhat out of your control, but if they
disappear your study would become irrelevant. For example, if you are doing a study on
the middle school music curriculum, there is an underlying assumption that music will
continue to be important in the middle school program. If you are conducting a survey,
you need to assume that people will answer truthfully. If you are choosing a sample, you
need to assume that this sample is representative of the population you wish to make
inferences to. Leedy and Ormrod (2010) posited, “Assumptions are so basic that, without
them, the research problem itself could not exist” (p. 62).
Youcannotjust state that these are the assumptions you are making. Instead, you must
justifythat each assumption is “probably” true, otherwise the study cannot progress. To
assume, for example, that participants will answer honestly, you can explain how
anonymity and confidentiality will be preserved and that the participants are volunteers
who may withdraw from the study at any time and with no ramifications. To assure the
reader that a survey will get to the heart of the research problem and enable the researcher
to answer the research questions, a pilot study is often performed. To assure the reader
that music education will continue, you can explain how music education has been
jeopardized in the past, but has managed to survive. There are also paradigmatic
assumptions to consider (see
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