Purpose of theStudy 2-3 pages Limitationsof the Study 1-2 pages Purpose of The Study What and why youwish to pursue this topic. A. “The purposestatement should provide a specific and accurate synopsis of the overallpurpose of the study” (Locke, Spirduso, & Silverman, 1987, p. 5). If thepurpose is not clear to the writer, it cannot be clear to the reader. B. Briefly defineand delimit the specific area of the research. You will revisit this in greaterdetail in a later section. C. Foreshadow thehypotheses to be tested or the questions to be raised, as well as thesignificance of the study. These will require specific elaboration insubsequent sections. D. Key points tokeep in mind when preparing a purpose statement. 1. Try toincorporate a sentence that begins with “The purpose of this study is . ..”This will clarify your own mind as to the purpose and it will inform thereader directly and explicitly. 2. Clearlyidentify and define the central concepts or ideas of the study. Some committeeChairs prefer a separate section to this end. When defining terms, make ajudicious choice between using descriptive or operational definitions. 3. Identify thespecific method of inquiry to be used. 4. Identify theunit of analysis in the study. Limitations of The Study All studieshave limitations. However, it isimportant that you restrict your discussion to limitations related to theresearch problem under investigation. For example, if a meta-analysis ofexisting literature is not a stated purpose of your research, it should not bediscussed as a limitation. Do not apologize for not addressing issues thatyou did not promise to investigate in your paper. Here are examplesof limitations you may need to describe and to discuss how they possiblyimpacted your findings. Descriptions of limitations should be stated in thepast tense. Possible MethodologicalLimitations Sample size — the number of the units of analysis you use in yourstudy is dictated by the type of research problem you are investigating. Notethat, if your sample size is too small, it will be difficult to findsignificant relationships.fromthe data, as statistical tests normally require a larger sample size to ensurea representative distribution of the population and to be consideredrepresentative of groups of people to whom results will be generalized ortransferred. Lackof available and/or reliable data — a lack of data or of reliable data will likely require youto limit the scope of your analysis, the size of your sample, or it can be asignificant obstacle in finding a trend and a meaningful relationship. You needto not only describe these limitations but to offer reasons why you believedata is missing or is unreliable. However, do not just throw up your hands infrustration; use this as an opportunity to describe the need for futureresearch. Lackof prior research studies on the topic — citing prior research studies forms the basis of yourliterature review and helps lay a foundation for understanding the researchproblem you are investigating. Depending on the currency or scope of yourresearch topic, there may be little, if any, prior research on your topic. Before assuming this to be true, consultwith a librarian! In cases when alibrarian has confirmed that there is a lack of prior research, you may berequired to develop an entirely new research typology [for example, using anexploratory rather than an explanatory research design]. Note that thislimitation can serve as an important opportunity to describe the need forfurther research. Measure usedto collect the data — sometimes itis the case that, after completing your interpretation of the findings, youdiscover that the way in which you gathered data inhibited your ability toconduct a thorough analysis of the results. For example, you regret notincluding a specific question in a survey that, in retrospect, could havehelped address a particular issue that emerged later in the study. Acknowledgethe deficiency by stating a need in future research to revise the specificmethod for gathering data. Self-reporteddata — whether you are relying onpre-existing self-reported data or you are conducting a qualitative researchstudy and gathering the data yourself, self-reported data is limited by thefact that it rarely can be independently verified. In other words, you have totake what people say, whether in interviews, focus groups, or onquestionnaires, at face value. However, self-reported data contains severalpotential sources of bias that should be noted as limitations: (1) selectivememory (remembering or not remembering experiences or events that occurred atsome point in the past); (2) telescoping [recalling events that occurred at onetime as if they occurred at another time]; (3) attribution [the act ofattributing positive events and outcomes to one’s own agency but attributingnegative events and outcomes to external forces]; and, (4) exaggeration [theact of representing outcomes or embellishing events as more significant than isactually suggested from other data]. Possible Limitations of theResearcher Access — if your study depends on having access to people,organizations, or documents and, for whatever reason, access is denied orotherwise limited, the reasons for this needs to be described. Longitudinaleffects — unlike your professor, whocan literally devote years [even a lifetime] to studying a single researchproblem, the time available to investigate a research problem and to measurechange or stability within a sample is constrained by the due date of yourassignment. Be sure to choose a topic that does not require an excessive amountof time to complete the literature review, apply the methodology, and gatherand interpret the results. If you are unsure, talk to your professor. Cultural andother type of bias — we all havebiases, whether we are conscience of them or not. Bias occurs when a person,place, or thing is viewed or shown in a consistently inaccurate way. It isusually negative, though one can have a positive bias as well. Whenproofreading your paper, be especially critical in reviewing how you havestated a problem, selected the data to be studied, what may have been omitted,and the manner in which you have ordered events. Consider how you have chosento represent a person, place or thing, to name a phenomenon, or to use possiblewords with a positive or negative connotation. Note that if you detect bias inprior research, it must be acknowledged and you should explain what measureswere taken to avoid perpetuating bias.
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