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Theofanidis Dimitrios, Fountouki Antigoni

Saturday, September 1, 2018

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Pages: 155-163

DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2552022


Introduction: Many authors tempt to balance the recognition of shortcomings and study limitations with the risk of having their paper rejected. Yet, before any attempt to run a study, a researcher needs to recognise the meaning and operational definitions of the terms ‘limitations’ and ‘delimitations’ in biomedical research. Aim: to define, review and elaborate how limitations and delimitations are currently acknowledged in the nursing and biomedical literature and their implications in health care studies. Methods: A critical literature review was undertaken, focusing on papers debating the core essence of research limitations and associated concepts. Initial searches yielded >300 papers of which only 25 were appropriate for this paper’s needs. Results: It is evident that any research attempt inevitably carries limitations and delimitations regarding its underlying theories, study design, replication potential, shortcomings in data collection and questionnaire design, insufficient subgroups or data for robust statistical analysis, narrow time span for data collection, lack of consideration for seasonal differences and missing data, causal relationships, measurement errors, study setting, population or sample, ethical parameters, data collection/analysis, result interpretations and corresponding conclusions. Delimitations require challenging the assumptions of the researchers and openly exposing shortcomings that might have been better tackled. Some authors cite study limitations solely because it is required by journal policy. Under these circumstances, the weakest limitation may be put forward in an attempt to ‘safeguard’ the study’s chance of being published. Researchers need to be aware of the wide range of limitations and delimitations and address them early in the research process Conclusions: Constructive rethinking and restructuring of the global nursing and biomedical research agenda is necessary to upgrade the profession and reassure the public. Thus, authors should openly and extensively report their research limitations, delimitations and assumptions in order to improve the quality of their findings and the interpretation of the evidence presented. On the contrary, when any of these key elements are neglected, overlooked or hushed, the study kudos is jeopardised.

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