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“That’s beyond the scope of this paper”

A quaint little study on the phrase “that’s beyond the scope…” in academic literature.

A person looks through a telescope at a starry sky, unaware of their immediate surroundings.
Does this summary have limitations? See for yourself.

This article gives you answers to all the questions you never knew you had about “that’s beyond the scope…” in academic literature.

Why it matters

Scientific articles aren’t exactly works of art: not only do many articles follow the , most also include the same lexical bundles (stock phrases such as “in order to”, “as a result of”, and the article’s titular phrase “beyond the scope”).

Such phrases are an important part of academic writing. It is therefore also important that students understand how to use these phrases.

How the study was conducted

The author searched for the phrase beyond the scope in fifteen hundred journal articles from fifteen journals across five areas of study: biology, business management, composition or rhetoric, (non-software) engineering, and sociology.

What discoveries were made

“Beyond the scope” appears 125 times in total and can be found in each of the fifteen journals. The appearance of the phrase isn’t really correlated with anything. Most notably, the phrase does not appear more often in short articles, where one might expect that authors are more likely to limit their scope. The phrase does appear in one particular journal, but it’s possible that this is simply an outlier.

The phrase beyond the scope is typically followed by certain words, which are called collocates.

CollocateNumber of instances
BiologyBusiness mgmtEngineeringSociologyComp/RhetTotal
of this paper1024131149
of this article06413730
of this study0432110
of this research012216
of the present work012115
of the present investigation031004
of this project200013
of our theory030003
of this analysis110002
of this essay000022
other collocates3411211

“Of this paper” is the most popular collocate in biology, business management, and engineering journals, while “of this article” is more likely to be found in sociology and composition/rhetoric journals. .

The phrase is typically used in introduction, discussion and conclusion sections, which all try to “sell” the research in some way.

Authors seem to use “beyond this scope” in these sections for four different reasons.

Firstly, it can be used to establish a territory and occupy a niche. More simply put, it tells readers what the study is about and what will and will not be discussed. Authors do this by describing how their specific study fits within a larger research subject. This is usually done at the start of an article (in the introduction), but occasionally also happens near the end (in the conclusion).

The phrase appears particularly often in engineering papers, because research in those fields needs to take into account large numbers of scenarios and variables, which cannot all be covered within a single article.

Secondly, “beyond this scope” helps authors introduce and limit reviews of previous research. For instance, they introduce previous research by others that addresses what is beyond the scope of their own research, or use the phrase to justify why they limit the depth of their own literature review.

Thirdly, the phrase is used to recommend further research, either as a continuation of the authors’ own research or as an expansion of their research (in different settings or with different subjects). This is usually done with words like “deserve” and “promising” to underscore the merits of their own as well as future studies.

Finally, authors use “beyond the scope” to acknowledge limitations of their research method or findings. What’s possibly interesting here is that when authors admit limitations to their research, it is often directly followed by language that attempts to mitigate that effect (However…).

Summary

The phrase “beyond the scope” tells readers…

  1. what the study is and isn’t about

  2. what the authors (did not) include in their review of existing literature

  3. what kind of follow-up studies are needed

  4. what the limitations are of a study