Continuing with the previous example, for instance, let’s suppose that the problem you are most interested in addressing is the fact that we know relatively little about elementary school teachers’ experiences of implementing a new curriculum.
occur in all types of research and are, for the most part, outside the researcher’s control (given practical constraints, such as time, funding, and access to populations of interest).
They are threats to the study’s internal or external validity.
Perhaps you’ll narrow your focus even more to elementary school teachers in a particular school district who have been teaching for a particular length of time. These are choices you will need to make, both for practical reasons (i.e., the population you have access to) and for the questions you are trying to answer. It just means that, for the purposes of your project and your research questions, you’re interested in the experience of the teachers, so you’re excluding anyone who does not meet those criteria.
Of course, for this particular example, this does not mean that it wouldn’t be interesting to also know what principals think about the new curriculum. Having delimitations to your population of interest also means that you won’t be able to answer any questions about the experiences of those other populations; this is ok because those populations are .
You might think that would be a very interesting question, but it will have to wait for another study.
In narrowing the focus of your research questions, you limit your ability to answer other questions, and again, that’s ok.
By choosing to focus your research on a particular problem or question, you are necessarily choosing not to examine other problems or questions.
Remember: You can’t answer all possible questions with one project.
If the identified problem is our lack of knowledge about teachers’ experiences, and your research questions focus on better understanding these experiences, that means that you are choosing to focus on other problems or questions, even those that may seem closely related.
For instance, you are not asking how effective the new curriculum is in improving student test scores or graduation rates.