Writing Limitations of Research Study — 4 Reasons Why It Is Important!
It is not unusual for researchers to come across the term limitations of research during their academic paper writing. More often this is interpreted as something terrible. However, when it comes to research study, limitations can help structure the research study better. Therefore, do not underestimate significance of limitations of research study.
Allow us to take you through the context of how to evaluate the limits of your research and conclude an impactful relevance to your results.
Table of Contents
What Are the Limitations of a Research Study?
Every research has its limit and these limitations arise due to restrictions in methodology or research design. This could impact your entire research or the research paper you wish to publish. Unfortunately, most researchers choose not to discuss their limitations of research fearing it will affect the value of their article in the eyes of readers.
However, it is very important to discuss your study limitations and show it to your target audience (other researchers, journal editors, peer reviewers etc.). It is very important that you provide an explanation of how your research limitations may affect the conclusions and opinions drawn from your research. Moreover, when as an author you state the limitations of research, it shows that you have investigated all the weaknesses of your study and have a deep understanding of the subject. Being honest could impress your readers and mark your study as a sincere effort in research.
Why and Where Should You Include the Research Limitations?
The main goal of your research is to address your research objectives. Conduct experiments, get results and explain those results, and finally justify your research question . It is best to mention the limitations of research in the discussion paragraph of your research article.
At the very beginning of this paragraph, immediately after highlighting the strengths of the research methodology, you should write down your limitations. You can discuss specific points from your research limitations as suggestions for further research in the conclusion of your thesis.
1. Common Limitations of the Researchers
Limitations that are related to the researcher must be mentioned. This will help you gain transparency with your readers. Furthermore, you could provide suggestions on decreasing these limitations in you and your future studies.
2. Limited Access to Information
Your work may involve some institutions and individuals in research, and sometimes you may have problems accessing these institutions. Therefore, you need to redesign and rewrite your work. You must explain your readers the reason for limited access.
3. Limited Time
All researchers are bound by their deadlines when it comes to completing their studies. Sometimes, time constraints can affect your research negatively. However, the best practice is to acknowledge it and mention a requirement for future study to solve the research problem in a better way.
4. Conflict over Biased Views and Personal Issues
Biased views can affect the research. In fact, researchers end up choosing only those results and data that support their main argument, keeping aside the other loose ends of the research.
Types of Limitations of Research
Before beginning your research study, know that there are certain limitations to what you are testing or possible research results. There are different types that researchers may encounter, and they all have unique characteristics, such as:
1. Research Design Limitations
Certain restrictions on your research or available procedures may affect your final results or research outputs. You may have formulated research goals and objectives too broadly. However, this can help you understand how you can narrow down the formulation of research goals and objectives, thereby increasing the focus of your study.
2. Impact Limitations
Even if your research has excellent statistics and a strong design, it can suffer from the influence of the following factors:
- Presence of increasing findings as researched
- Being population specific
- A strong regional focus.
3. Data or statistical limitations
In some cases, it is impossible to collect sufficient data for research or very difficult to get access to the data. This could lead to incomplete conclusion to your study. Moreover, this insufficiency in data could be the outcome of your study design. The unclear, shabby research outline could produce more problems in interpreting your findings.
How to Correctly Structure Your Research Limitations?
There are strict guidelines for narrowing down research questions, wherein you could justify and explain potential weaknesses of your academic paper. You could go through these basic steps to get a well-structured clarity of research limitations:
- Declare that you wish to identify your limitations of research and explain their importance,
- Provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices.
- Write how you are suggesting that it is possible to overcome them in the future.
In this section, your readers will see that you are aware of the potential weaknesses in your business, understand them and offer effective solutions, and it will positively strengthen your article as you clarify all limitations of research to your target audience.
Know that you cannot be perfect and there is no individual without flaws. You could use the limitations of research as a great opportunity to take on a new challenge and improve the future of research. In a typical academic paper, research limitations may relate to:
1. Formulating your goals and objectives
If you formulate goals and objectives too broadly, your work will have some shortcomings. In this case, specify effective methods or ways to narrow down the formula of goals and aim to increase your level of study focus.
2. Application of your data collection methods in research
If you do not have experience in primary data collection, there is a risk that there will be flaws in the implementation of your methods. It is necessary to accept this, and learn and educate yourself to understand data collection methods.
3. Sample sizes
This depends on the nature of problem you choose. Sample size is of a greater importance in quantitative studies as opposed to qualitative ones. If your sample size is too small, statistical tests cannot identify significant relationships or connections within a given data set.
You could point out that other researchers should base the same study on a larger sample size to get more accurate results.
4. The absence of previous studies in the field you have chosen
Writing a literature review is an important step in any scientific study because it helps researchers determine the scope of current work in the chosen field. It is a major foundation for any researcher who must use them to achieve a set of specific goals or objectives.
However, if you are focused on the most current and evolving research problem or a very narrow research problem, there may be very little prior research on your topic. For example, if you chose to explore the role of Bitcoin as the currency of the future, you may not find tons of scientific papers addressing the research problem as Bitcoins are only a new phenomenon.
It is important that you learn to identify research limitations examples at each step. Whatever field you choose, feel free to add the shortcoming of your work. This is mainly because you do not have many years of experience writing scientific papers or completing complex work. Therefore, the depth and scope of your discussions may be compromised at different levels compared to academics with a lot of expertise. Include specific points from limitations of research. Use them as suggestions for the future.
Have you ever faced a challenge of writing the limitations of research study in your paper? How did you overcome it? What ways did you follow? Were they beneficial? Let us know in the comments below!
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How to Present the Limitations of the Study Examples
What are the limitations of a study?
The limitations of a study are its flaws or shortcomings. Study limitations can exist due to constraints on research design, methodology, materials, etc., and these factors may impact the findings of your study. However, researchers are often reluctant to discuss the limitations of their study in their papers, feeling that bringing up limitations may undermine its research value in the eyes of readers and reviewers.
In spite of the impact it might have (and perhaps because of it) you should clearly acknowledge any limitations in your research paper in order to show readers—whether journal editors, other researchers, or the general public—that you are aware of these limitations and to explain how they affect the conclusions that can be drawn from the research.
In this article, we provide some guidelines for writing about research limitations, show examples of some frequently seen study limitations, and recommend techniques for presenting this information. And after you have finished drafting and have received manuscript editing for your work, you still might want to follow this up with academic editing before submitting your work to your target journal.
Why do I need to include limitations of research in my paper?
Although limitations address the potential weaknesses of a study, writing about them toward the end of your paper actually strengthens your study by identifying any problems before other researchers or reviewers find them.
Furthermore, pointing out study limitations shows that you’ve considered the impact of research weakness thoroughly and have an in-depth understanding of your research topic. Since all studies face limitations, being honest and detailing these limitations will impress researchers and reviewers more than ignoring them.
Where should I put the limitations of the study in my paper?
Some limitations might be evident to researchers before the start of the study, while others might become clear while you are conducting the research. Whether these limitations are anticipated or not, and whether they are due to research design or to methodology, they should be clearly identified and discussed in the discussion section —the final section of your paper. Most journals now require you to include a discussion of potential limitations of your work, and many journals now ask you to place this “limitations section” at the very end of your article.
Some journals ask you to also discuss the strengths of your work in this section, and some allow you to freely choose where to include that information in your discussion section—make sure to always check the author instructions of your target journal before you finalize a manuscript and submit it for peer review .
Limitations of the Study Examples
There are several reasons why limitations of research might exist. The two main categories of limitations are those that result from the methodology and those that result from issues with the researcher(s).
Common Methodological Limitations of Studies
Limitations of research due to methodological problems can be addressed by clearly and directly identifying the potential problem and suggesting ways in which this could have been addressed—and SHOULD be addressed in future studies. The following are some major potential methodological issues that can impact the conclusions researchers can draw from the research.
Issues with research samples and selection
Sampling errors occur when a probability sampling method is used to select a sample, but that sample does not reflect the general population or appropriate population concerned. This results in limitations of your study known as “sample bias” or “selection bias.”
For example, if you conducted a survey to obtain your research results, your samples (participants) were asked to respond to the survey questions. However, you might have had limited ability to gain access to the appropriate type or geographic scope of participants. In this case, the people who responded to your survey questions may not truly be a random sample.
Insufficient sample size for statistical measurements
When conducting a study, it is important to have a sufficient sample size in order to draw valid conclusions. The larger the sample, the more precise your results will be. If your sample size is too small, it will be difficult to identify significant relationships in the data.
Normally, statistical tests require a larger sample size to ensure that the sample is considered representative of a population and that the statistical result can be generalized to a larger population. It is a good idea to understand how to choose an appropriate sample size before you conduct your research by using scientific calculation tools—in fact, many journals now require such estimation to be included in every manuscript that is sent out for review.
Lack of previous research studies on the topic
Citing and referencing prior research studies constitutes the basis of the literature review for your thesis or study, and these prior studies provide the theoretical foundations for the research question you are investigating. However, depending on the scope of your research topic, prior research studies that are relevant to your thesis might be limited.
When there is very little or no prior research on a specific topic, you may need to develop an entirely new research typology. In this case, discovering a limitation can be considered an important opportunity to identify literature gaps and to present the need for further development in the area of study.
Methods/instruments/techniques used to collect the data
After you complete your analysis of the research findings (in the discussion section), you might realize that the manner in which you have collected the data or the ways in which you have measured variables has limited your ability to conduct a thorough analysis of the results.
For example, you might realize that you should have addressed your survey questions from another viable perspective, or that you were not able to include an important question in the survey. In these cases, you should acknowledge the deficiency or deficiencies by stating a need for future researchers to revise their specific methods for collecting data that includes these missing elements.
Common Limitations of the Researcher(s)
Study limitations that arise from situations relating to the researcher or researchers (whether the direct fault of the individuals or not) should also be addressed and dealt with, and remedies to decrease these limitations—both hypothetically in your study, and practically in future studies—should be proposed.
Limited access to data
If your research involved surveying certain people or organizations, you might have faced the problem of having limited access to these respondents. Due to this limited access, you might need to redesign or restructure your research in a different way. In this case, explain the reasons for limited access and be sure that your finding is still reliable and valid despite this limitation.
Just as students have deadlines to turn in their class papers, academic researchers might also have to meet deadlines for submitting a manuscript to a journal or face other time constraints related to their research (e.g., participants are only available during a certain period; funding runs out; collaborators move to a new institution). The time available to study a research problem and to measure change over time might be constrained by such practical issues. If time constraints negatively impacted your study in any way, acknowledge this impact by mentioning a need for a future study (e.g., a longitudinal study) to answer this research problem.
Conflicts arising from cultural bias and other personal issues
Researchers might hold biased views due to their cultural backgrounds or perspectives of certain phenomena, and this can affect a study’s legitimacy. Also, it is possible that researchers will have biases toward data and results that only support their hypotheses or arguments. In order to avoid these problems, the author(s) of a study should examine whether the way the research problem was stated and the data-gathering process was carried out appropriately.
Steps for Organizing Your Study Limitations Section
When you discuss the limitations of your study, don’t simply list and describe your limitations—explain how these limitations have influenced your research findings. There might be multiple limitations in your study, but you only need to point out and explain those that directly relate to and impact how you address your research questions.
We suggest that you divide your limitations section into three steps: (1) identify the study limitations; (2) explain how they impact your study in detail; and (3) propose a direction for future studies and present alternatives. By following this sequence when discussing your study’s limitations, you will be able to clearly demonstrate your study’s weakness without undermining the quality and integrity of your research.
Step 1. Identify the limitation(s) of the study
- This part should comprise around 10%-20% of your discussion of study limitations.
The first step is to identify the particular limitation(s) that affected your study. There are many possible limitations of research that can affect your study, but you don’t need to write a long review of all possible study limitations. A 200-500 word critique is an appropriate length for a research limitations section. In the beginning of this section, identify what limitations your study has faced and how important these limitations are.
You only need to identify limitations that had the greatest potential impact on: (1) the quality of your findings, and (2) your ability to answer your research question.
Step 2. Explain these study limitations in detail
- This part should comprise around 60-70% of your discussion of limitations.
After identifying your research limitations, it’s time to explain the nature of the limitations and how they potentially impacted your study. For example, when you conduct quantitative research, a lack of probability sampling is an important issue that you should mention. On the other hand, when you conduct qualitative research, the inability to generalize the research findings could be an issue that deserves mention.
Explain the role these limitations played on the results and implications of the research and justify the choice you made in using this “limiting” methodology or other action in your research. Also, make sure that these limitations didn’t undermine the quality of your dissertation .
Step 3. Propose a direction for future studies and present alternatives (optional)
- This part should comprise around 10-20% of your discussion of limitations.
After acknowledging the limitations of the research, you need to discuss some possible ways to overcome these limitations in future studies. One way to do this is to present alternative methodologies and ways to avoid issues with, or “fill in the gaps of” the limitations of this study you have presented. Discuss both the pros and cons of these alternatives and clearly explain why researchers should choose these approaches.
Make sure you are current on approaches used by prior studies and the impacts they have had on their findings. Cite review articles or scientific bodies that have recommended these approaches and why. This might be evidence in support of the approach you chose, or it might be the reason you consider your choices to be included as limitations. This process can act as a justification for your approach and a defense of your decision to take it while acknowledging the feasibility of other approaches.
P hrases and Tips for Introducing Your Study Limitations in the Discussion Section
The following phrases are frequently used to introduce the limitations of the study:
- “There may be some possible limitations in this study.”
- “The findings of this study have to be seen in light of some limitations.”
- “The first is the…The second limitation concerns the…”
- “The empirical results reported herein should be considered in the light of some limitations.”
- “This research, however, is subject to several limitations.”
- “The primary limitation to the generalization of these results is…”
- “Nonetheless, these results must be interpreted with caution and a number of limitations should be borne in mind.”
- “As with the majority of studies, the design of the current study is subject to limitations.”
- “There are two major limitations in this study that could be addressed in future research. First, the study focused on …. Second ….”
For more articles on research writing and the journal submissions and publication process, visit Wordvice’s Academic Resources page.
And be sure to receive professional English editing and proofreading services , including paper editing services , for your journal manuscript before submitting it to journal editors.
Proofreading & Editing Guide
Writing the Results Section for a Research Paper
How to Write a Literature Review
Research Writing Tips: How to Draft a Powerful Discussion Section
How to Captivate Journal Readers with a Strong Introduction
Tips That Will Make Your Abstract a Success!
APA In-Text Citation Guide for Research Writing
- Diving Deeper into Limitations and Delimitations (PhD student)
- Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Limitations of the Study (USC Library)
- Research Limitations (Research Methodology)
- Sample Size Calculation (US National Library of Medicine)
- How to Present Limitations and Alternatives (UMASS)
Pearson-Stuttard, J., Kypridemos, C., Collins, B., Mozaffarian, D., Huang, Y., Bandosz, P.,…Micha, R. (2018). Estimating the health and economic effects of the proposed US Food and Drug Administration voluntary sodium reformulation: Microsimulation cost-effectiveness analysis. PLOS. https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002551
Xu, W.L, Pedersen, N.L., Keller, L., Kalpouzos, G., Wang, H.X., Graff, C,. Fratiglioni, L. (2015). HHEX_23 AA Genotype Exacerbates Effect of Diabetes on Dementia and Alzheimer Disease: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study. PLOS. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001853
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The limitations of the study are those characteristics of design or methodology that impacted or influenced the interpretation of the findings from your research. Study limitations are the constraints placed on the ability to generalize from the results, to further describe applications to practice, and/or related to the utility of findings that are the result of the ways in which you initially chose to design the study or the method used to establish internal and external validity or the result of unanticipated challenges that emerged during the study.
Price, James H. and Judy Murnan. “Research Limitations and the Necessity of Reporting Them.” American Journal of Health Education 35 (2004): 66-67; Theofanidis, Dimitrios and Antigoni Fountouki. "Limitations and Delimitations in the Research Process." Perioperative Nursing 7 (September-December 2018): 155-163. .
Always acknowledge a study's limitations. It is far better that you identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor and have your grade lowered because you appeared to have ignored them.
Keep in mind that acknowledgment of a study's limitations is an opportunity to make suggestions for further research. If you do connect your study's limitations to suggestions for further research, be sure to explain the ways in which these unanswered questions may become more focused because of your study.
Acknowledgment of a study's limitations also provides you with opportunities to demonstrate that you have thought critically about the research problem, understood the relevant literature published about it, and correctly assessed the methods chosen for studying the problem. A key objective of the research process is not only discovering new knowledge but also to confront assumptions and explore what we don't know.
Claiming limitations is a subjective process because you must evaluate the impact of those limitations . Don't just list key weaknesses and the magnitude of a study's limitations. To do so diminishes the validity of your research because it leaves the reader wondering whether, or in what ways, limitation(s) in your study may have impacted the results and conclusions. Limitations require a critical, overall appraisal and interpretation of their impact. You should answer the question: do these problems with errors, methods, validity, etc. eventually matter and, if so, to what extent?
Price, James H. and Judy Murnan. “Research Limitations and the Necessity of Reporting Them.” American Journal of Health Education 35 (2004): 66-67; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation. Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook. Laerd.com.
Descriptions of Possible Limitations
All studies have limitations . However, it is important that you restrict your discussion to limitations related to the research problem under investigation. For example, if a meta-analysis of existing literature is not a stated purpose of your research, it should not be discussed as a limitation. Do not apologize for not addressing issues that you did not promise to investigate in the introduction of your paper.
Here are examples of limitations related to methodology and the research process you may need to describe and discuss how they possibly impacted your results. Note that descriptions of limitations should be stated in the past tense because they were discovered after you completed your research.
Possible Methodological Limitations
- Sample size -- the number of the units of analysis you use in your study is dictated by the type of research problem you are investigating. Note that, if your sample size is too small, it will be difficult to find significant relationships from the data, as statistical tests normally require a larger sample size to ensure a representative distribution of the population and to be considered representative of groups of people to whom results will be generalized or transferred. Note that sample size is generally less relevant in qualitative research if explained in the context of the research problem.
- Lack of available and/or reliable data -- a lack of data or of reliable data will likely require you to limit the scope of your analysis, the size of your sample, or it can be a significant obstacle in finding a trend and a meaningful relationship. You need to not only describe these limitations but provide cogent reasons why you believe data is missing or is unreliable. However, don’t just throw up your hands in frustration; use this as an opportunity to describe a need for future research based on designing a different method for gathering data.
- Lack of prior research studies on the topic -- citing prior research studies forms the basis of your literature review and helps lay a foundation for understanding the research problem you are investigating. Depending on the currency or scope of your research topic, there may be little, if any, prior research on your topic. Before assuming this to be true, though, consult with a librarian! In cases when a librarian has confirmed that there is little or no prior research, you may be required to develop an entirely new research typology [for example, using an exploratory rather than an explanatory research design ]. Note again that discovering a limitation can serve as an important opportunity to identify new gaps in the literature and to describe the need for further research.
- Measure used to collect the data -- sometimes it is the case that, after completing your interpretation of the findings, you discover that the way in which you gathered data inhibited your ability to conduct a thorough analysis of the results. For example, you regret not including a specific question in a survey that, in retrospect, could have helped address a particular issue that emerged later in the study. Acknowledge the deficiency by stating a need for future researchers to revise the specific method for gathering data.
- Self-reported data -- whether you are relying on pre-existing data or you are conducting a qualitative research study and gathering the data yourself, self-reported data is limited by the fact that it rarely can be independently verified. In other words, you have to the accuracy of what people say, whether in interviews, focus groups, or on questionnaires, at face value. However, self-reported data can contain several potential sources of bias that you should be alert to and note as limitations. These biases become apparent if they are incongruent with data from other sources. These are: (1) selective memory [remembering or not remembering experiences or events that occurred at some point in the past]; (2) telescoping [recalling events that occurred at one time as if they occurred at another time]; (3) attribution [the act of attributing positive events and outcomes to one's own agency, but attributing negative events and outcomes to external forces]; and, (4) exaggeration [the act of representing outcomes or embellishing events as more significant than is actually suggested from other data].
Possible Limitations of the Researcher
- Access -- if your study depends on having access to people, organizations, data, or documents and, for whatever reason, access is denied or limited in some way, the reasons for this needs to be described. Also, include an explanation why being denied or limited access did not prevent you from following through on your study.
- Longitudinal effects -- unlike your professor, who can literally devote years [even a lifetime] to studying a single topic, the time available to investigate a research problem and to measure change or stability over time is constrained by the due date of your assignment. Be sure to choose a research problem that does not require an excessive amount of time to complete the literature review, apply the methodology, and gather and interpret the results. If you're unsure whether you can complete your research within the confines of the assignment's due date, talk to your professor.
- Cultural and other type of bias -- we all have biases, whether we are conscience of them or not. Bias is when a person, place, event, or thing is viewed or shown in a consistently inaccurate way. Bias is usually negative, though one can have a positive bias as well, especially if that bias reflects your reliance on research that only support your hypothesis. When proof-reading your paper, be especially critical in reviewing how you have stated a problem, selected the data to be studied, what may have been omitted, the manner in which you have ordered events, people, or places, how you have chosen to represent a person, place, or thing, to name a phenomenon, or to use possible words with a positive or negative connotation. NOTE: If you detect bias in prior research, it must be acknowledged and you should explain what measures were taken to avoid perpetuating that bias. For example, if a previous study only used boys to examine how music education supports effective math skills, describe how your research expands the study to include girls.
- Fluency in a language -- if your research focuses , for example, on measuring the perceived value of after-school tutoring among Mexican-American ESL [English as a Second Language] students and you are not fluent in Spanish, you are limited in being able to read and interpret Spanish language research studies on the topic or to speak with these students in their primary language. This deficiency should be acknowledged.
Aguinis, Hermam and Jeffrey R. Edwards. “Methodological Wishes for the Next Decade and How to Make Wishes Come True.” Journal of Management Studies 51 (January 2014): 143-174; Brutus, Stéphane et al. "Self-Reported Limitations and Future Directions in Scholarly Reports: Analysis and Recommendations." Journal of Management 39 (January 2013): 48-75; Senunyeme, Emmanuel K. Business Research Methods. Powerpoint Presentation. Regent University of Science and Technology; ter Riet, Gerben et al. “All That Glitters Isn't Gold: A Survey on Acknowledgment of Limitations in Biomedical Studies.” PLOS One 8 (November 2013): 1-6.
Structure and Writing Style
Information about the limitations of your study are generally placed either at the beginning of the discussion section of your paper so the reader knows and understands the limitations before reading the rest of your analysis of the findings, or, the limitations are outlined at the conclusion of the discussion section as an acknowledgement of the need for further study. Statements about a study's limitations should not be buried in the body [middle] of the discussion section unless a limitation is specific to something covered in that part of the paper. If this is the case, though, the limitation should be reiterated at the conclusion of the section.
If you determine that your study is seriously flawed due to important limitations , such as, an inability to acquire critical data, consider reframing it as an exploratory study intended to lay the groundwork for a more complete research study in the future. Be sure, though, to specifically explain the ways that these flaws can be successfully overcome in a new study.
But, do not use this as an excuse for not developing a thorough research paper! Review the tab in this guide for developing a research topic . If serious limitations exist, it generally indicates a likelihood that your research problem is too narrowly defined or that the issue or event under study is too recent and, thus, very little research has been written about it. If serious limitations do emerge, consult with your professor about possible ways to overcome them or how to revise your study.
When discussing the limitations of your research, be sure to:
- Describe each limitation in detailed but concise terms;
- Explain why each limitation exists;
- Provide the reasons why each limitation could not be overcome using the method(s) chosen to acquire or gather the data [cite to other studies that had similar problems when possible];
- Assess the impact of each limitation in relation to the overall findings and conclusions of your study; and,
- If appropriate, describe how these limitations could point to the need for further research.
Remember that the method you chose may be the source of a significant limitation that has emerged during your interpretation of the results [for example, you didn't interview a group of people that you later wish you had]. If this is the case, don't panic. Acknowledge it, and explain how applying a different or more robust methodology might address the research problem more effectively in a future study. A underlying goal of scholarly research is not only to show what works, but to demonstrate what doesn't work or what needs further clarification.
Aguinis, Hermam and Jeffrey R. Edwards. “Methodological Wishes for the Next Decade and How to Make Wishes Come True.” Journal of Management Studies 51 (January 2014): 143-174; Brutus, Stéphane et al. "Self-Reported Limitations and Future Directions in Scholarly Reports: Analysis and Recommendations." Journal of Management 39 (January 2013): 48-75; Ioannidis, John P.A. "Limitations are not Properly Acknowledged in the Scientific Literature." Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 60 (2007): 324-329; Pasek, Josh. Writing the Empirical Social Science Research Paper: A Guide for the Perplexed. January 24, 2012. Academia.edu; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation. Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook. Laerd.com; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University.
Don't Inflate the Importance of Your Findings!
After all the hard work and long hours devoted to writing your research paper, it is easy to get carried away with attributing unwarranted importance to what you’ve done. We all want our academic work to be viewed as excellent and worthy of a good grade, but it is important that you understand and openly acknowledge the limitations of your study. Inflating the importance of your study's findings could be perceived by your readers as an attempt hide its flaws or encourage a biased interpretation of the results. A small measure of humility goes a long way!
Another Writing Tip
Negative Results are Not a Limitation!
Negative evidence refers to findings that unexpectedly challenge rather than support your hypothesis. If you didn't get the results you anticipated, it may mean your hypothesis was incorrect and needs to be reformulated. Or, perhaps you have stumbled onto something unexpected that warrants further study. Moreover, the absence of an effect may be very telling in many situations, particularly in experimental research designs. In any case, your results may very well be of importance to others even though they did not support your hypothesis. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that results contrary to what you expected is a limitation to your study. If you carried out the research well, they are simply your results and only require additional interpretation.
Lewis, George H. and Jonathan F. Lewis. “The Dog in the Night-Time: Negative Evidence in Social Research.” The British Journal of Sociology 31 (December 1980): 544-558.
Yet Another Writing Tip
Sample Size Limitations in Qualitative Research
Sample sizes are typically smaller in qualitative research because, as the study goes on, acquiring more data does not necessarily lead to more information. This is because one occurrence of a piece of data, or a code, is all that is necessary to ensure that it becomes part of the analysis framework. However, it remains true that sample sizes that are too small cannot adequately support claims of having achieved valid conclusions and sample sizes that are too large do not permit the deep, naturalistic, and inductive analysis that defines qualitative inquiry. Determining adequate sample size in qualitative research is ultimately a matter of judgment and experience in evaluating the quality of the information collected against the uses to which it will be applied and the particular research method and purposeful sampling strategy employed. If the sample size is found to be a limitation, it may reflect your judgment about the methodological technique chosen [e.g., single life history study versus focus group interviews] rather than the number of respondents used.
Boddy, Clive Roland. "Sample Size for Qualitative Research." Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal 19 (2016): 426-432; Huberman, A. Michael and Matthew B. Miles. "Data Management and Analysis Methods." In Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), pp. 428-444; Blaikie, Norman. "Confounding Issues Related to Determining Sample Size in Qualitative Research." International Journal of Social Research Methodology 21 (2018): 635-641; Oppong, Steward Harrison. "The Problem of Sampling in qualitative Research." Asian Journal of Management Sciences and Education 2 (2013): 202-210.
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Limitations Of the Study Example and Tips For Students
We are all subject to imperfections. This means that while we may excel at something, it’ll always have some flaws. On that note, every study, no matter how proficient the writer may be, has study limitations. Therefore, while you want your academic work to be viewed as exemplary and worthy of premium grades, it’s also essential that you accept it’ll always be subject to the limitations of a study. The sooner you do, the better your work will be, and the better your professor will view you. To put it simply, a little humility goes a long way not only in life but also in research. Described herein is all you need to know about limitations to a study.
What are Limitations in a Study?
Why should you include limitations of a study in your paper, examples of limitations of study in research proposal.
Study limitations refer to those characteristics or constraints that hinder or influence the interpretation of the writer’s findings from research. To put it simply, a limitation is any shortcoming that impacts a study and its outcomes. They are a normal part of any study, observational, or cross-sectional study. In most cases, they are often a result of flawed methodology, insufficient academic resources, or a lack of previous research studies on the topic. These limitations are usually part of the discussion section of the survey, just before the conclusion.
Before we even head over to the examples of study limitations in various papers, take time to see why it’s essential you first understand why you should acknowledge your study limitations below
- They Acknowledge Your Study’s Flaws before Anyone Does. As noted, every study is subject to limitations of the study. Therefore, regardless of how experienced a writer you may be, your work will always have flaws. So it’s wiser to openly acknowledge them rather than wait for your professor to point them out, and give you a lower grade because you appear ignorant.
- They are Proof You’ve Done Enough Research. Limitations of a research study also prove to the reader that you did serious research on the subject. They also show you took time to think critically of the subject questions, understood what was needed, and correctly assessed the various methods available for solving the problem. As a result, they have a reason to believe you did your best with the available findings, hence resulting in greater grades even on a subject with limited research.
- Study Limitations Create Room for Further Research. Study limitations also create room for you to propose further research on a particular topic in the future. This, in turn, keeps the reader tuned for any developments that may come up in the future.
Now that you know study limitations are normal and help make your grade stronger, what are the various limitations of a research study that you should mention? Here are a few to study limitation examples to get you started.
- Language Barrier: Some studies will require you to use a different language other than your native one. In such instances, you might need to use a translator or translation app. Even so, you might not get accurate information or some data might get lost during the translation. An example of this is when you study the effectiveness of a certain model of study on students who are learning English. In such a case, you might deal with language-related issues. If so, make sure you have highlighted it in your discussion. Explain how the language barrier affected the finding.
- Culture Bias: Another factor that can impact your research is cultural bias. Unfortunately, most people are not conscious when it comes to cultural bias. Though you might get positive cultural bias, in most cases, this is a negative issue. So, you should be alert when proofreading your work so that you can take notes of bias. It could be in the samples you offer or any other detail in your research. If the sources you are using for your report have any form of bias, acknowledge it and explain the effort you used to avoid it.
- Timing Study: At times, your resort might need you to investigate a certain phenomenon long after it took place. In such situations, you might be late in your data collection. If so, you might not have the right respondents, and that will affect your study’s outcome. Thus, the timing of your study might represent a strong limitation. Highlight this fact when presenting your research and discuss ways that your study’s poor timing might have influenced the outcome.
- Financial Resource: Some studies might need you to buy certain tools to help. In some incidents, you might have to hire people to assist you with the data collection process. Some studies will need you to buy specific statistical software or reward those who participate in products and giveaways. If you do not have enough financial resources, you will not carry out your research as required. Since such limitations will impact the results of your study, include them in your report. Discuss how lack of financial resources has impacted your outcome.
- Limited Access to Data: Limited access to data is one of the most common limitations of research studies, and one you will face more regularly. For instance, if your subject topic involves researching specific government organizations, then you may lack access to vital information. Also, you may have no respondents. This often limits the scope of your analysis, leaving you no option but to restructure your study based on the findings. In such a case, you must state this as the limitation of the study. But don’t just list it as “limited data access.” Make sure you explain the reasons for limited data access, so the reader doesn’t question the validity of your research.
- Sample Size: This is one of the most common limitations of a cross-sectional study. It often comes about because the nature of the problem dictates the sample size. For instance, if your study seeks to explain the perception of teenage consumers towards a particular product, but you only conduct your study with 50 respondents, your results will be inaccurate. This is because the number of teenagers in a country like the US is incredibly high; hence, the opinion of only 50 respondents doesn’t adequately represent the opinion of the rest. Therefore, if this is your limitation, be sure to state your study is based on a smaller sample size and that you could have generated many accurate results on a larger one.
- Lack of Previous Research on the Subject: In other cases, you might have unlimited access to data, but if there is no research done on the subject matter, then this will also impact the interpretation of your findings. For instance, if the research subject is whether a cryptocurrency will replace fiat currencies as a future currency, then you may not find enough studies on the subject. But if you chose to explore the impact of crypto on the finance industry, then you’ll find tons of information. On that note, if you’re researching a particular subject and find that there it lacks prior research studies, ensure you acknowledge this study limitation and propose further research.
- Data Collection Methodology: Very often, the method used to collect data usually affects the results of the study. For instance, your professor might have assigned you the topic ” is the impact of mobile phones on teenagers negative or positive?” Now, there are various to find out. If you choose only to interview teenagers for answers, there is a high chance of your results being flawed as they will only provide the positives. The data collection method is common among limitations of case-control and observational studies. Contact professional writers to learn more about it.
- Equipment: The type of equipment used to carry out a study can also hinder the findings. This is usually a regular limitation of observational studies. For example, if you’re surveying the effectiveness of smartphones, it’s important to note there is a vast array in the market. Therefore, you may use a high-quality one means your results will be positive, but low-quality ones mean your findings will render smartphones ineffective. That said, you have to consider such a limitation during your research, and if it’s unavoidable, ensure you not only list it but also explain it in your discussion.
As you’ve seen, the limitations of a research study are normal and are quite many. The above are just a few examples. So next time you’re doing research and lack access to data, make sure you include this fact in your work. Honest is a virtue, and admitting as well as explaining why your findings may be flawed will impress your readers.
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- The role of limitations in research: why they are important
- How to Organize Limitations of a Research Study
What are the Limitations of a Study (Research)?
Why and where to include limitations in my research paper, common limitations of the researchers.
- Limited Access to Information
Conflicts on biased views and personal issues, different types, 1. research design limitations, 2. impact limitations, 3. data or statistical limitations, how to structure your research limitations correctly, how to set your research limitations, formulation of your objectives and aims, implementation of your data collection methods, what are sample sizes, lacking previous studies in the same field, scope of discussions, concluding thoughts.
When completing a study or any other important work, there are different details that you should include to present its comprehensive and clear description. Sometimes you might even need to hire a thesis writer to help you with the whole writing process. Don’t underrate the section with limitations in research . It plays a big role in the entire process. Some students find it difficult to write this part, while others are reluctant to include it in their academic papers. Don’t underestimate the significance of limitations in research to provide readers with an accurate context of your work and enough data to evaluate the impact and relevance of your results. What is the best way to go about them? Keep reading to find out more.
Every research has its limitations. These limitations can appear due to constraints on methodology or research design. Needless to say, this may impact your whole study or research paper. Most researchers prefer to not discuss their study limitations because they think it may decrease the value of their paper in the eyes of the audience.
Remember that it’s quite important to show your study limitations to your audience (other researchers, editors of journals, and public readers). You need to notice that you know about these limitations and about the impact they may have. It’s important to give an explanation of how your research limitations can affect the conclusions and thoughts drawn from your research.
In this guide, you can read useful tips on how to write limitations on your future research. Read great techniques on making a proper limitations section and see examples to make sure you have got an idea of writing your qualitative research limitations. You need to understand that even if limitations show the weaknesses of your future research, including them in your study can make your paper strengthen because you show all the problems before your readers will discover them by themselves.
Apart from this, when the author points out the study limitations, it means that you have researched all the weak sides of your study and you understand the topic deeply. Needless to say, all the studies have their limitations even if you know how to make research design properly. When you’re honest with your readers, it can impress people much better than ignoring limitations at all.
Every research has certain limitations, and it’s completely normal, but you need to minimize their range of scope in the process. Provide your acknowledgment of them in the conclusion. Identify and understand potential shortcomings in your work.
When discussing limitations in research, explain how they impact your findings because creating their short list or description isn’t enough. Your research may have many limitations. Your basic goal is to discuss the ones that relate to the research questions that you choose for a specific academic assignment.
Limitations of your qualitative research can become clear to your readers even before they start to read your study. Sometimes, people can see the limitations only when they have viewed the whole document. You have to present your study limitations clearly in the Discussion section of a researh paper . This is the final part of your work where it’s logical to place the limitations section. You should write the limitations at the very beginning of this paragraph, just after you have highlighted the strong sides of the research methodology. When you discuss the limitations before the findings are analyzed, it will help to see how to qualify and apply these findings in future research.
Limitations related to the researcher must also be written and shown to readers. You have to provide suggestions on decreasing these limitations in both your and future studies.
Limited Access to Information
Your study may involve some organizations and people in the research, and sometimes you may get problems with access to these organizations. Due to this, you need to redesign and rewrite your study. You need to explain the cause of limited access to your readers.
Needless to say, all the researchers have their deadlines when they need to complete their studies. Sometimes, time constraints can affect your research negatively. If this happened, you need to acknowledge it and mention a need for future research to solve the main problem.
Some researchers can have biased views because of their cultural background or personal views. Needless to say, it can affect the research. Apart from this, researchers with biased views can choose only those results and data that support their main arguments. If you want to avoid this problem, pay your attention to the problem statement and proper data gathering.
Before you start your study or work, keep in mind that there are specific limitations to what you test or possible research results. What are their types? There are different types that students may encounter and they all have unique features, including:
- Research design limitations,
- Impact limitations,
- Data or statistical limitations.
Specific constraints on your population research or available procedures may affect the final outcomes or results that you obtain.
Even if your research has excellent stats and a strong design, it may suffer from the impact of such factors as:
- The field is conductive to incremental findings,
- Being too population-specific.
- A strong regional focus.
In some cases, it’s impossible to collect enough data or enrollment is very difficult, and all that under-powers your research results. They may stem from your study design. They produce more issues in interpreting your findings.
There are strict rules to structure this section of your academic paper where you need to justify and explain its potential weaknesses. Take these basic steps to end up with a well-structured section:
- Announce to identify your research limitations and explain their importance,
- Reflect to provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices,
- Look forward to suggest how it’s possible to overcome them in the future.
They walk your readers through this section. You need them to make it clear to your target audience that you recognize potential weaknesses in your work, understand them, and can point effective solutions.
No one is perfect. It means that your work isn’t beyond possible flaws, but you need to use them as a great opportunity to overcome new challenges and improve your knowledge. In a typical academic paper, research limitations can relate to these points:
- Formulation of your objectives and aims,
- Implementation of your data collection methods,
- Sample sizes,
- Lack of previous studies in your chosen area,
- The scope of discussions.
Learn to determine them in each one.
Your work has certain shortcomings if you formulate objectives and aims in a very broad manner. What to do in this case? Specify effective methods or ways to narrow your formulation of objectives and aims to increase the level of your study focus.
If you don’t have a lot of experience in collecting primary data, there’s a certain risk that the implementation of your methods has flaws. It’s necessary to acknowledge that.
They depend on the nature of your chosen problem and their significance is bigger in quantitative studies, unlike the qualitative ones. If your sample size is very small, statistical tests will fail to identify important relationships or connections within a particular data set. How to solve this problem? State that other researchers need to base the same study on a larger sample size to end up with more accurate results. To find more information on how to identify a resesrch problem , check our guide.
Writing a literature review is a key step in any scientific work because it helps students determine the scope of existing studies in the chosen area. Why should you use the literature review findings? They are a basic foundation for any researcher who must use them to achieve a set of specific objectives or aims. What if there are no previous works? You may face this challenge if you choose an evolving or current problem for your study or if it’s very narrow.
Feel free to include this point as a shortcoming of your work, no matter what your chosen area is. Why? The main reason is that you don’t have long years of experience in writing scientific papers or completing complex studies. That’s why the depth and scope of your discussions can be compromised in different levels compared to scholars with a lot of expertise. Include certain points from limitations in research. Use them as suggestions for the future.
Any research suffers from specific limitations that range from common flaws to serious problems in design or methodology dissertation has. The ability to set these shortcomings plays a huge role in writing a successful academic paper and earning good grades. What if you lack it? Turn to our professional thesis writers and get their expert consultation on thesis or research paper.
What comes first, the research design or research problem selection? Read on this guide from our dissertation writing service if you are struggling to answer this question. Any research paper is based on the hypothesis, datum, and methodology. These things though are not written down in the instruct...
The methodology is an important part of your dissertation. It describes a broad philosophical underpinning to your chosen research methods, either quantitative or qualitative, to explain to readers your approach better. Make sure that you’re clear about an academic basis for your choice of research ...
Students have to complete different writing assignments, and some of them are utterly complex. Every assignment has the central idea or problem, which is supposed to be discussed and analyzed during the entire work. It’s called a thesis statement. The main objective of the statement is to explain to...
Writing Limitations of Research Study — 4 Reasons Why It Is Important! 1. Common Limitations of the Researchers. Limitations that are related to the researcher must be mentioned. This will help you gain transparency with ... 2. Limited Access to Information. 3. Limited Time. 4. Conflict over Biased ...
You only need to identify limitations that had the greatest potential impact on: (1) the quality of your findings, and (2) your ability to answer your research question. Step 1: Identify and describe the limitation. Here, the model’s estimates are based on potentially biased observational studies. Step 2. Explain these study limitations in detail
Here are examples of limitations related to methodology and the research process you may need to describe and discuss how they possibly impacted your results. Note that descriptions of limitations should be stated in the past tense because they were discovered after you completed your research. Possible Methodological Limitations
Examples of Limitations of Study in Research Proposal Language Barrier: Some studies will require you to use a different language other than your native one. In such... Culture Bias: Another factor that can impact your research is cultural bias. Unfortunately, most people are not... Timing Study: At ...
Common Limitations of the Researchers Limited Access to Information. Your study may involve some organizations and people in the research, and sometimes you... Time Limits. Needless to say, all the researchers have their deadlines when they need to complete their studies. Conflicts on Biased Views ...