ARTICLE 19: The Scope of a Thesis or Dissertation

Written by Dr. Hannes Nel


Hello, my name is Hannes Nel and I will discuss The Scope for a thesis or dissertation in this video.

Failure to limit the research problem/research question or hypothesis from the start can lead to you collecting a mass of information, much of which you will not be able to use.

Research design is typically a funnel-shaped process.

Although you should limit the scope of your research project, you should still collect a good amount of data.

Consequently, your initial scope will be broad. You will need to narrow this down as you progress with your research.

You need to eliminate irrelevant data while paying more attention to valid and valuable data.

Also, make sure that you collect relevant data.

To collect relevant data, you will need to use the most effective and efficient data collection methods and ask the right questions.

The scope of your research will also be influenced by how widely shared across the population for your research the knowledge, beliefs, behavior, interests and other data relevant to your research are.

The more data is shared in the population for your research, the more likely it is that people will respond the same to your questions.

Responses to more specific and personal issues, for example, unique events, individual experiences, or personal opinions will probably be more varied.

Although the scope for research in natural science will be focused on the purpose of your research, you will mostly also have a population, and a sample, upon which you will test your hypothesis.

Also, in natural science, the need for generalization will be much more pronounced than in the case of many social research projects.

The research scope is often determined by time constraints and the resources that you have available.

The more time and funds you have at your disposal, the more sophisticated data collection tools can you use.

And in natural science projects, you will probably need to do experiments as well.

The more time and funds you have available for research, the more and better quality data can you collect.

This does not mean that lots of time and resources are a precondition for doing quality research, especially for study purposes.

Creative researchers mostly manage to find the data that they need even with limited time and resources at their disposal.

Do not be too ambitious and select a topic that is too broad for university research purposes.

Students often choose a too broad scope for their research because they are concerned that they will not be able to write an “acceptable” number of pages.

After some initial reading, most students find that they have too much to write, and they do not want to lose any of the data that took them so much time and effort to collect.

That is why time spent on deciding on a realistic scope before your start doing research can make your work much easier and more efficient.

You will probably need to reduce the number of pages of your thesis or dissertation. Do not do this randomly. You must maintain the flow of your evidence and arguments.


You should collect a good amount of relevant data.

Start by collecting too much data rather than too little.

Refine the data that you collected for relevance and quality.

The availability of time and resources will largely determine how wide the scope for your research can be and how much data you will be able to collect.

Keep the scope of your research manageable, regardless of how much time and resources you have.

Planning your research well in advance will save you time and money.

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