How to Write Limitations of the Study (with examples)

This blog emphasizes the importance of recognizing and effectively writing about limitations in research. It discusses the types of limitations, their significance, and provides guidelines for writing about them, highlighting their role in advancing scholarly research.

Updated on August 24, 2023

a group of researchers writing their limitation of their study

No matter how well thought out, every research endeavor encounters challenges. There is simply no way to predict all possible variances throughout the process.

These uncharted boundaries and abrupt constraints are known as limitations in research . Identifying and acknowledging limitations is crucial for conducting rigorous studies. Limitations provide context and shed light on gaps in the prevailing inquiry and literature.

This article explores the importance of recognizing limitations and discusses how to write them effectively. By interpreting limitations in research and considering prevalent examples, we aim to reframe the perception from shameful mistakes to respectable revelations.

What are limitations in research?

In the clearest terms, research limitations are the practical or theoretical shortcomings of a study that are often outside of the researcher’s control . While these weaknesses limit the generalizability of a study’s conclusions, they also present a foundation for future research.

Sometimes limitations arise from tangible circumstances like time and funding constraints, or equipment and participant availability. Other times the rationale is more obscure and buried within the research design. Common types of limitations and their ramifications include:

  • Theoretical: limits the scope, depth, or applicability of a study.
  • Methodological: limits the quality, quantity, or diversity of the data.
  • Empirical: limits the representativeness, validity, or reliability of the data.
  • Analytical: limits the accuracy, completeness, or significance of the findings.
  • Ethical: limits the access, consent, or confidentiality of the data.

Regardless of how, when, or why they arise, limitations are a natural part of the research process and should never be ignored . Like all other aspects, they are vital in their own purpose.

Why is identifying limitations important?

Whether to seek acceptance or avoid struggle, humans often instinctively hide flaws and mistakes. Merging this thought process into research by attempting to hide limitations, however, is a bad idea. It has the potential to negate the validity of outcomes and damage the reputation of scholars.

By identifying and addressing limitations throughout a project, researchers strengthen their arguments and curtail the chance of peer censure based on overlooked mistakes. Pointing out these flaws shows an understanding of variable limits and a scrupulous research process.

Showing awareness of and taking responsibility for a project’s boundaries and challenges validates the integrity and transparency of a researcher. It further demonstrates the researchers understand the applicable literature and have thoroughly evaluated their chosen research methods.

Presenting limitations also benefits the readers by providing context for research findings. It guides them to interpret the project’s conclusions only within the scope of very specific conditions. By allowing for an appropriate generalization of the findings that is accurately confined by research boundaries and is not too broad, limitations boost a study’s credibility .

Limitations are true assets to the research process. They highlight opportunities for future research. When researchers identify the limitations of their particular approach to a study question, they enable precise transferability and improve chances for reproducibility. 

Simply stating a project’s limitations is not adequate for spurring further research, though. To spark the interest of other researchers, these acknowledgements must come with thorough explanations regarding how the limitations affected the current study and how they can potentially be overcome with amended methods.

How to write limitations

Typically, the information about a study’s limitations is situated either at the beginning of the discussion section to provide context for readers or at the conclusion of the discussion section to acknowledge the need for further research. However, it varies depending upon the target journal or publication guidelines. 

Don’t hide your limitations

It is also important to not bury a limitation in the body of the paper unless it has a unique connection to a topic in that section. If so, it needs to be reiterated with the other limitations or at the conclusion of the discussion section. Wherever it is included in the manuscript, ensure that the limitations section is prominently positioned and clearly introduced.

While maintaining transparency by disclosing limitations means taking a comprehensive approach, it is not necessary to discuss everything that could have potentially gone wrong during the research study. If there is no commitment to investigation in the introduction, it is unnecessary to consider the issue a limitation to the research. Wholly consider the term ‘limitations’ and ask, “Did it significantly change or limit the possible outcomes?” Then, qualify the occurrence as either a limitation to include in the current manuscript or as an idea to note for other projects. 

Writing limitations

Once the limitations are concretely identified and it is decided where they will be included in the paper, researchers are ready for the writing task. Including only what is pertinent, keeping explanations detailed but concise, and employing the following guidelines is key for crafting valuable limitations:

1) Identify and describe the limitations : Clearly introduce the limitation by classifying its form and specifying its origin. For example:

  • An unintentional bias encountered during data collection
  • An intentional use of unplanned post-hoc data analysis

2) Explain the implications : Describe how the limitation potentially influences the study’s findings and how the validity and generalizability are subsequently impacted. Provide examples and evidence to support claims of the limitations’ effects without making excuses or exaggerating their impact. Overall, be transparent and objective in presenting the limitations, without undermining the significance of the research. 

3) Provide alternative approaches for future studies : Offer specific suggestions for potential improvements or avenues for further investigation. Demonstrate a proactive approach by encouraging future research that addresses the identified gaps and, therefore, expands the knowledge base.

Whether presenting limitations as an individual section within the manuscript or as a subtopic in the discussion area, authors should use clear headings and straightforward language to facilitate readability. There is no need to complicate limitations with jargon, computations, or complex datasets.

Examples of common limitations

Limitations are generally grouped into two categories , methodology and research process .

Methodology limitations

Methodology may include limitations due to:

  • Sample size
  • Lack of available or reliable data
  • Lack of prior research studies on the topic
  • Measure used to collect the data
  • Self-reported data

methodology limitation example

The researcher is addressing how the large sample size requires a reassessment of the measures used to collect and analyze the data.

Research process limitations

Limitations during the research process may arise from:

  • Access to information
  • Longitudinal effects
  • Cultural and other biases
  • Language fluency
  • Time constraints

research process limitations example

The author is pointing out that the model’s estimates are based on potentially biased observational studies.

Final thoughts

Successfully proving theories and touting great achievements are only two very narrow goals of scholarly research. The true passion and greatest efforts of researchers comes more in the form of confronting assumptions and exploring the obscure.

In many ways, recognizing and sharing the limitations of a research study both allows for and encourages this type of discovery that continuously pushes research forward. By using limitations to provide a transparent account of the project's boundaries and to contextualize the findings, researchers pave the way for even more robust and impactful research in the future.

Charla Viera, MS

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How to Present the Limitations of the Study Examples

dissertation limitation examples

What are the limitations of a study?

The limitations of a study are the elements of methodology or study design that impact the interpretation of your research results. The limitations essentially detail any flaws or shortcomings in your study. 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.

limitations of the study examples, brick wall with blue sky

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.

Time constraints

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.

limitations of a study example

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 .

methodological limitations example

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.

Wordvice Resources

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

Additional Resources

  • Diving Deeper into Limitations and Delimitations (PhD student)
  • Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Limitations of the Study (USC Library)
  • Research Limitations (Research Methodology)
  • How to Present Limitations and Alternatives (UMASS)

Article References

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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How to structure the Research Limitations section of your dissertation

There is no "one best way" to structure the Research Limitations section of your dissertation. However, we recommend a structure based on three moves : the announcing , reflecting and forward looking move. The announcing move immediately allows you to identify the limitations of your dissertation and explain how important each of these limitations is. The reflecting move provides greater depth, helping to explain the nature of the limitations and justify the choices that you made during the research process. Finally, the forward looking move enables you to suggest how such limitations could be overcome in future. The collective aim of these three moves is to help you walk the reader through your Research Limitations section in a succinct and structured way. This will make it clear to the reader that you recognise the limitations of your own research, that you understand why such factors are limitations, and can point to ways of combating these limitations if future research was carried out. This article explains what should be included in each of these three moves :

  • THE ANNOUNCING MOVE: Identifying limitations and explaining how important they are
  • THE REFLECTING MOVE: Explaining the nature of the limitations and justifying the choices you made
  • THE FORWARD LOOKING MOVE: Suggesting how such limitations could be overcome in future

THE ANNOUNCING MOVE Identifying limitations, and explaining how important they are

There are many possible limitations that your research may have faced. However, is not necessary for you to discuss all of these limitations in your Research Limitations section. After all, you are not writing a 2000 word critical review of the limitations of your dissertation, just a 200-500 word critique that is only one section long (i.e., the Research Limitations section within your Conclusions chapter). Therefore, in this first announcing move , we would recommend that you identify only those limitations that had the greatest potential impact on: (a) the quality of your findings; and (b) your ability to effectively answer your research questions and/or hypotheses.

We use the word potential impact because we often do not know the degree to which different factors limited our findings or our ability to effectively answer our research questions and/or hypotheses. For example, we know that when adopting a quantitative research design, a failure to use a probability sampling technique significantly limits our ability to make broader generalisations from our results (i.e., our ability to make statistical inferences from our sample to the population being studied). However, the degree to which this reduces the quality of our findings is a matter of debate. Also, whilst the lack of a probability sampling technique when using a quantitative research design is a very obvious example of a research limitation, other limitations are far less clear. Therefore, the key point is to focus on those limitations that you feel had the greatest impact on your findings, as well as your ability to effectively answer your research questions and/or hypotheses.

Overall, the announcing move should be around 10-20% of the total word count of the Research Limitations section.

THE REFLECTING MOVE Explaining the nature of the limitations and justifying the choices you made

Having identified the most important limitations to your dissertation in the announcing move , the reflecting move focuses on explaining the nature of these limitations and justifying the choices that you made during the research process. This part should be around 60-70% of the total word count of the Research Limitations section.

It is important to remember at this stage that all research suffers from limitations, whether it is performed by undergraduate and master's level dissertation students, or seasoned academics. Acknowledging such limitations should not be viewed as a weakness, highlighting to the person marking your work the reasons why you should receive a lower grade. Instead, the reader is more likely to accept that you recognise the limitations of your own research if you write a high quality reflecting move . This is because explaining the limitations of your research and justifying the choices you made during the dissertation process demonstrates the command that you had over your research.

We talk about explaining the nature of the limitations in your dissertation because such limitations are highly research specific. Let's take the example of potential limitations to your sampling strategy. Whilst you may have a number of potential limitations in sampling strategy, let's focus on the lack of probability sampling ; that is, of all the different types of sampling technique that you could have used [see Types of probability sampling and Types of non-probability sampling ], you choose not to use a probability sampling technique (e.g., simple random sampling , systematic random sampling , stratified random sampling ). As mentioned, if you used a quantitative research design in your dissertation, the lack of probability sampling is an important, obvious limitation to your research. This is because it prevents you from making generalisations about the population you are studying (e.g. Facebook usage at a single university of 20,000 students) from the data you have collected (e.g., a survey of 400 students at the same university). Since an important component of quantitative research is such generalisation, this is a clear limitation. However, the lack of a probability sampling technique is not viewed as a limitation if you used a qualitative research design. In qualitative research designs, a non-probability sampling technique is typically selected over a probability sampling technique.

And this is just part of the puzzle?

Even if you used a quantitative research design, but failed to employ a probability sampling technique, there are still many perfectly justifiable reasons why you could have made such a choice. For example, it may have been impossible (or near on impossible) to get a list of the population you were studying (e.g., a list of all the 20,000 students at the single university you were interested in). Since probability sampling is only possible when we have such a list, the lack of such a list or inability to attain such a list is a perfectly justifiable reason for not using a probability sampling technique; even if such a technique is the ideal.

As such, the purpose of all the guides we have written on research limitations is to help you: (a) explain the nature of the limitations in your dissertation; and (b) justify the choices you made.

In helping you to justifying the choices that you made, these articles explain not only when something is, in theory , an obvious limitation, but how, in practice , such a limitation was not necessarily so damaging to the quality of your dissertation. This should significantly strengthen the quality of your Research Limitations section.

THE FORWARD LOOKING MOVE Suggesting how such limitations could be overcome in future

Finally, the forward looking move builds on the reflecting move by suggesting how the limitations you have discuss could be overcome through future research. Whilst a lot could be written in this part of the Research Limitations section, we would recommend that it is only around 10-20% of the total word count for this section.

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21 Research Limitations Examples

research limitations examples and definition, explained below

Research limitations refer to the potential weaknesses inherent in a study. All studies have limitations of some sort, meaning declaring limitations doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing, so long as your declaration of limitations is well thought-out and explained.

Rarely is a study perfect. Researchers have to make trade-offs when developing their studies, which are often based upon practical considerations such as time and monetary constraints, weighing the breadth of participants against the depth of insight, and choosing one methodology or another.

In research, studies can have limitations such as limited scope, researcher subjectivity, and lack of available research tools.

Acknowledging the limitations of your study should be seen as a strength. It demonstrates your willingness for transparency, humility, and submission to the scientific method and can bolster the integrity of the study. It can also inform future research direction.

Typically, scholars will explore the limitations of their study in either their methodology section, their conclusion section, or both.

Research Limitations Examples

Qualitative and quantitative research offer different perspectives and methods in exploring phenomena, each with its own strengths and limitations. So, I’ve split the limitations examples sections into qualitative and quantitative below.

Qualitative Research Limitations

Qualitative research seeks to understand phenomena in-depth and in context. It focuses on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions.

It’s often used to explore new or complex issues, and it provides rich, detailed insights into participants’ experiences, behaviors, and attitudes. However, these strengths also create certain limitations, as explained below.

1. Subjectivity

Qualitative research often requires the researcher to interpret subjective data. One researcher may examine a text and identify different themes or concepts as more dominant than others.

Close qualitative readings of texts are necessarily subjective – and while this may be a limitation, qualitative researchers argue this is the best way to deeply understand everything in context.

Suggested Solution and Response: To minimize subjectivity bias, you could consider cross-checking your own readings of themes and data against other scholars’ readings and interpretations. This may involve giving the raw data to a supervisor or colleague and asking them to code the data separately, then coming together to compare and contrast results.

2. Researcher Bias

The concept of researcher bias is related to, but slightly different from, subjectivity.

Researcher bias refers to the perspectives and opinions you bring with you when doing your research.

For example, a researcher who is explicitly of a certain philosophical or political persuasion may bring that persuasion to bear when interpreting data.

In many scholarly traditions, we will attempt to minimize researcher bias through the utilization of clear procedures that are set out in advance or through the use of statistical analysis tools.

However, in other traditions, such as in postmodern feminist research , declaration of bias is expected, and acknowledgment of bias is seen as a positive because, in those traditions, it is believed that bias cannot be eliminated from research, so instead, it is a matter of integrity to present it upfront.

Suggested Solution and Response: Acknowledge the potential for researcher bias and, depending on your theoretical framework , accept this, or identify procedures you have taken to seek a closer approximation to objectivity in your coding and analysis.

3. Generalizability

If you’re struggling to find a limitation to discuss in your own qualitative research study, then this one is for you: all qualitative research, of all persuasions and perspectives, cannot be generalized.

This is a core feature that sets qualitative data and quantitative data apart.

The point of qualitative data is to select case studies and similarly small corpora and dig deep through in-depth analysis and thick description of data.

Often, this will also mean that you have a non-randomized sample size.

While this is a positive – you’re going to get some really deep, contextualized, interesting insights – it also means that the findings may not be generalizable to a larger population that may not be representative of the small group of people in your study.

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that take a quantitative approach to the question.

4. The Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne effect refers to the phenomenon where research participants change their ‘observed behavior’ when they’re aware that they are being observed.

This effect was first identified by Elton Mayo who conducted studies of the effects of various factors ton workers’ productivity. He noticed that no matter what he did – turning up the lights, turning down the lights, etc. – there was an increase in worker outputs compared to prior to the study taking place.

Mayo realized that the mere act of observing the workers made them work harder – his observation was what was changing behavior.

So, if you’re looking for a potential limitation to name for your observational research study , highlight the possible impact of the Hawthorne effect (and how you could reduce your footprint or visibility in order to decrease its likelihood).

Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight ways you have attempted to reduce your footprint while in the field, and guarantee anonymity to your research participants.

5. Replicability

Quantitative research has a great benefit in that the studies are replicable – a researcher can get a similar sample size, duplicate the variables, and re-test a study. But you can’t do that in qualitative research.

Qualitative research relies heavily on context – a specific case study or specific variables that make a certain instance worthy of analysis. As a result, it’s often difficult to re-enter the same setting with the same variables and repeat the study.

Furthermore, the individual researcher’s interpretation is more influential in qualitative research, meaning even if a new researcher enters an environment and makes observations, their observations may be different because subjectivity comes into play much more. This doesn’t make the research bad necessarily (great insights can be made in qualitative research), but it certainly does demonstrate a weakness of qualitative research.

6. Limited Scope

“Limited scope” is perhaps one of the most common limitations listed by researchers – and while this is often a catch-all way of saying, “well, I’m not studying that in this study”, it’s also a valid point.

No study can explore everything related to a topic. At some point, we have to make decisions about what’s included in the study and what is excluded from the study.

So, you could say that a limitation of your study is that it doesn’t look at an extra variable or concept that’s certainly worthy of study but will have to be explored in your next project because this project has a clearly and narrowly defined goal.

Suggested Solution and Response: Be clear about what’s in and out of the study when writing your research question.

7. Time Constraints

This is also a catch-all claim you can make about your research project: that you would have included more people in the study, looked at more variables, and so on. But you’ve got to submit this thing by the end of next semester! You’ve got time constraints.

And time constraints are a recognized reality in all research.

But this means you’ll need to explain how time has limited your decisions. As with “limited scope”, this may mean that you had to study a smaller group of subjects, limit the amount of time you spent in the field, and so forth.

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will build on your current work, possibly as a PhD project.

8. Resource Intensiveness

Qualitative research can be expensive due to the cost of transcription, the involvement of trained researchers, and potential travel for interviews or observations.

So, resource intensiveness is similar to the time constraints concept. If you don’t have the funds, you have to make decisions about which tools to use, which statistical software to employ, and how many research assistants you can dedicate to the study.

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will gain more funding on the back of this ‘ exploratory study ‘.

9. Coding Difficulties

Data analysis in qualitative research often involves coding, which can be subjective and complex, especially when dealing with ambiguous or contradicting data.

After naming this as a limitation in your research, it’s important to explain how you’ve attempted to address this. Some ways to ‘limit the limitation’ include:

  • Triangulation: Have 2 other researchers code the data as well and cross-check your results with theirs to identify outliers that may need to be re-examined, debated with the other researchers, or removed altogether.
  • Procedure: Use a clear coding procedure to demonstrate reliability in your coding process. I personally use the thematic network analysis method outlined in this academic article by Attride-Stirling (2001).

Suggested Solution and Response: Triangulate your coding findings with colleagues, and follow a thematic network analysis procedure.

10. Risk of Non-Responsiveness

There is always a risk in research that research participants will be unwilling or uncomfortable sharing their genuine thoughts and feelings in the study.

This is particularly true when you’re conducting research on sensitive topics, politicized topics, or topics where the participant is expressing vulnerability .

This is similar to the Hawthorne effect (aka participant bias), where participants change their behaviors in your presence; but it goes a step further, where participants actively hide their true thoughts and feelings from you.

Suggested Solution and Response: One way to manage this is to try to include a wider group of people with the expectation that there will be non-responsiveness from some participants.

11. Risk of Attrition

Attrition refers to the process of losing research participants throughout the study.

This occurs most commonly in longitudinal studies , where a researcher must return to conduct their analysis over spaced periods of time, often over a period of years.

Things happen to people over time – they move overseas, their life experiences change, they get sick, change their minds, and even die. The more time that passes, the greater the risk of attrition.

Suggested Solution and Response: One way to manage this is to try to include a wider group of people with the expectation that there will be attrition over time.

12. Difficulty in Maintaining Confidentiality and Anonymity

Given the detailed nature of qualitative data , ensuring participant anonymity can be challenging.

If you have a sensitive topic in a specific case study, even anonymizing research participants sometimes isn’t enough. People might be able to induce who you’re talking about.

Sometimes, this will mean you have to exclude some interesting data that you collected from your final report. Confidentiality and anonymity come before your findings in research ethics – and this is a necessary limiting factor.

Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight the efforts you have taken to anonymize data, and accept that confidentiality and accountability place extremely important constraints on academic research.

13. Difficulty in Finding Research Participants

A study that looks at a very specific phenomenon or even a specific set of cases within a phenomenon means that the pool of potential research participants can be very low.

Compile on top of this the fact that many people you approach may choose not to participate, and you could end up with a very small corpus of subjects to explore. This may limit your ability to make complete findings, even in a quantitative sense.

You may need to therefore limit your research question and objectives to something more realistic.

Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight that this is going to limit the study’s generalizability significantly.

14. Ethical Limitations

Ethical limitations refer to the things you cannot do based on ethical concerns identified either by yourself or your institution’s ethics review board.

This might include threats to the physical or psychological well-being of your research subjects, the potential of releasing data that could harm a person’s reputation, and so on.

Furthermore, even if your study follows all expected standards of ethics, you still, as an ethical researcher, need to allow a research participant to pull out at any point in time, after which you cannot use their data, which demonstrates an overlap between ethical constraints and participant attrition.

Suggested Solution and Response: Highlight that these ethical limitations are inevitable but important to sustain the integrity of the research.

For more on Qualitative Research, Explore my Qualitative Research Guide

Quantitative Research Limitations

Quantitative research focuses on quantifiable data and statistical, mathematical, or computational techniques. It’s often used to test hypotheses, assess relationships and causality, and generalize findings across larger populations.

Quantitative research is widely respected for its ability to provide reliable, measurable, and generalizable data (if done well!). Its structured methodology has strengths over qualitative research, such as the fact it allows for replication of the study, which underpins the validity of the research.

However, this approach is not without it limitations, explained below.

1. Over-Simplification

Quantitative research is powerful because it allows you to measure and analyze data in a systematic and standardized way. However, one of its limitations is that it can sometimes simplify complex phenomena or situations.

In other words, it might miss the subtleties or nuances of the research subject.

For example, if you’re studying why people choose a particular diet, a quantitative study might identify factors like age, income, or health status. But it might miss other aspects, such as cultural influences or personal beliefs, that can also significantly impact dietary choices.

When writing about this limitation, you can say that your quantitative approach, while providing precise measurements and comparisons, may not capture the full complexity of your subjects of study.

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest a follow-up case study using the same research participants in order to gain additional context and depth.

2. Lack of Context

Another potential issue with quantitative research is that it often focuses on numbers and statistics at the expense of context or qualitative information.

Let’s say you’re studying the effect of classroom size on student performance. You might find that students in smaller classes generally perform better. However, this doesn’t take into account other variables, like teaching style , student motivation, or family support.

When describing this limitation, you might say, “Although our research provides important insights into the relationship between class size and student performance, it does not incorporate the impact of other potentially influential variables. Future research could benefit from a mixed-methods approach that combines quantitative analysis with qualitative insights.”

3. Applicability to Real-World Settings

Oftentimes, experimental research takes place in controlled environments to limit the influence of outside factors.

This control is great for isolation and understanding the specific phenomenon but can limit the applicability or “external validity” of the research to real-world settings.

For example, if you conduct a lab experiment to see how sleep deprivation impacts cognitive performance, the sterile, controlled lab environment might not reflect real-world conditions where people are dealing with multiple stressors.

Therefore, when explaining the limitations of your quantitative study in your methodology section, you could state:

“While our findings provide valuable information about [topic], the controlled conditions of the experiment may not accurately represent real-world scenarios where extraneous variables will exist. As such, the direct applicability of our results to broader contexts may be limited.”

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will engage in real-world observational research, such as ethnographic research.

4. Limited Flexibility

Once a quantitative study is underway, it can be challenging to make changes to it. This is because, unlike in grounded research, you’re putting in place your study in advance, and you can’t make changes part-way through.

Your study design, data collection methods, and analysis techniques need to be decided upon before you start collecting data.

For example, if you are conducting a survey on the impact of social media on teenage mental health, and halfway through, you realize that you should have included a question about their screen time, it’s generally too late to add it.

When discussing this limitation, you could write something like, “The structured nature of our quantitative approach allows for consistent data collection and analysis but also limits our flexibility to adapt and modify the research process in response to emerging insights and ideas.”

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will use mixed-methods or qualitative research methods to gain additional depth of insight.

5. Risk of Survey Error

Surveys are a common tool in quantitative research, but they carry risks of error.

There can be measurement errors (if a question is misunderstood), coverage errors (if some groups aren’t adequately represented), non-response errors (if certain people don’t respond), and sampling errors (if your sample isn’t representative of the population).

For instance, if you’re surveying college students about their study habits , but only daytime students respond because you conduct the survey during the day, your results will be skewed.

In discussing this limitation, you might say, “Despite our best efforts to develop a comprehensive survey, there remains a risk of survey error, including measurement, coverage, non-response, and sampling errors. These could potentially impact the reliability and generalizability of our findings.”

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will use other survey tools to compare and contrast results.

6. Limited Ability to Probe Answers

With quantitative research, you typically can’t ask follow-up questions or delve deeper into participants’ responses like you could in a qualitative interview.

For instance, imagine you are surveying 500 students about study habits in a questionnaire. A respondent might indicate that they study for two hours each night. You might want to follow up by asking them to elaborate on what those study sessions involve or how effective they feel their habits are.

However, quantitative research generally disallows this in the way a qualitative semi-structured interview could.

When discussing this limitation, you might write, “Given the structured nature of our survey, our ability to probe deeper into individual responses is limited. This means we may not fully understand the context or reasoning behind the responses, potentially limiting the depth of our findings.”

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that engage in mixed-method or qualitative methodologies to address the issue from another angle.

7. Reliance on Instruments for Data Collection

In quantitative research, the collection of data heavily relies on instruments like questionnaires, surveys, or machines.

The limitation here is that the data you get is only as good as the instrument you’re using. If the instrument isn’t designed or calibrated well, your data can be flawed.

For instance, if you’re using a questionnaire to study customer satisfaction and the questions are vague, confusing, or biased, the responses may not accurately reflect the customers’ true feelings.

When discussing this limitation, you could say, “Our study depends on the use of questionnaires for data collection. Although we have put significant effort into designing and testing the instrument, it’s possible that inaccuracies or misunderstandings could potentially affect the validity of the data collected.”

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will use different instruments but examine the same variables to triangulate results.

8. Time and Resource Constraints (Specific to Quantitative Research)

Quantitative research can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, especially when dealing with large samples.

It often involves systematic sampling, rigorous design, and sometimes complex statistical analysis.

If resources and time are limited, it can restrict the scale of your research, the techniques you can employ, or the extent of your data analysis.

For example, you may want to conduct a nationwide survey on public opinion about a certain policy. However, due to limited resources, you might only be able to survey people in one city.

When writing about this limitation, you could say, “Given the scope of our research and the resources available, we are limited to conducting our survey within one city, which may not fully represent the nationwide public opinion. Hence, the generalizability of the results may be limited.”

Suggested Solution and Response: Suggest future studies that will have more funding or longer timeframes.

How to Discuss Your Research Limitations

1. in your research proposal and methodology section.

In the research proposal, which will become the methodology section of your dissertation, I would recommend taking the four following steps, in order:

  • Be Explicit about your Scope – If you limit the scope of your study in your research question, aims, and objectives, then you can set yourself up well later in the methodology to say that certain questions are “outside the scope of the study.” For example, you may identify the fact that the study doesn’t address a certain variable, but you can follow up by stating that the research question is specifically focused on the variable that you are examining, so this limitation would need to be looked at in future studies.
  • Acknowledge the Limitation – Acknowledging the limitations of your study demonstrates reflexivity and humility and can make your research more reliable and valid. It also pre-empts questions the people grading your paper may have, so instead of them down-grading you for your limitations; they will congratulate you on explaining the limitations and how you have addressed them!
  • Explain your Decisions – You may have chosen your approach (despite its limitations) for a very specific reason. This might be because your approach remains, on balance, the best one to answer your research question. Or, it might be because of time and monetary constraints that are outside of your control.
  • Highlight the Strengths of your Approach – Conclude your limitations section by strongly demonstrating that, despite limitations, you’ve worked hard to minimize the effects of the limitations and that you have chosen your specific approach and methodology because it’s also got some terrific strengths. Name the strengths.

Overall, you’ll want to acknowledge your own limitations but also explain that the limitations don’t detract from the value of your study as it stands.

2. In the Conclusion Section or Chapter

In the conclusion of your study, it is generally expected that you return to a discussion of the study’s limitations. Here, I recommend the following steps:

  • Acknowledge issues faced – After completing your study, you will be increasingly aware of issues you may have faced that, if you re-did the study, you may have addressed earlier in order to avoid those issues. Acknowledge these issues as limitations, and frame them as recommendations for subsequent studies.
  • Suggest further research – Scholarly research aims to fill gaps in the current literature and knowledge. Having established your expertise through your study, suggest lines of inquiry for future researchers. You could state that your study had certain limitations, and “future studies” can address those limitations.
  • Suggest a mixed methods approach – Qualitative and quantitative research each have pros and cons. So, note those ‘cons’ of your approach, then say the next study should approach the topic using the opposite methodology or could approach it using a mixed-methods approach that could achieve the benefits of quantitative studies with the nuanced insights of associated qualitative insights as part of an in-study case-study.

Overall, be clear about both your limitations and how those limitations can inform future studies.

In sum, each type of research method has its own strengths and limitations. Qualitative research excels in exploring depth, context, and complexity, while quantitative research excels in examining breadth, generalizability, and quantifiable measures. Despite their individual limitations, each method contributes unique and valuable insights, and researchers often use them together to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon being studied.

Attride-Stirling, J. (2001). Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative research , 1 (3), 385-405. ( Source )

Atkinson, P., Delamont, S., Cernat, A., Sakshaug, J., & Williams, R. A. (2021).  SAGE research methods foundations . London: Sage Publications.

Clark, T., Foster, L., Bryman, A., & Sloan, L. (2021).  Bryman’s social research methods . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Köhler, T., Smith, A., & Bhakoo, V. (2022). Templates in qualitative research methods: Origins, limitations, and new directions.  Organizational Research Methods ,  25 (2), 183-210. ( Source )

Lenger, A. (2019). The rejection of qualitative research methods in economics.  Journal of Economic Issues ,  53 (4), 946-965. ( Source )

Taherdoost, H. (2022). What are different research approaches? Comprehensive review of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method research, their applications, types, and limitations.  Journal of Management Science & Engineering Research ,  5 (1), 53-63. ( Source )

Walliman, N. (2021).  Research methods: The basics . New York: Routledge.

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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Limitations of a Study: The Complete Guide

limitations of a study

Research limitations make most studies imperfect. At its core, the research aims to investigate a specific question or questions about a topic. However, some things can hinder your ability to investigate the question or questions extensively. While this can make achieving your goals challenging, it enables you to point areas that require further studies.

That’s why you should demonstrate how future studies can provide answers to your unanswered questions if you encounter study limitations that affect your findings. Presenting the limitations of a study properly shows the readers that you understand your research problem.

After presenting your research findings, your assessment committee wants to see that you did your work professionally. And presenting limitations in a study shows that you carefully thought about your study problem and performed a review of the available literature while analyzing your preferred methods.

What Are Limitations in Research?

Well, limitations mean anything that might affect the generalizability or reliability of the outcomes of an experiment or a study. And this can relate to research design, like your approach or methods. It can also be something to do with how you carried out your research, like running out of resources or time before completing the study.

Either way, students should include their limitations when writing up their studies. In most cases, researchers include limitations in their analysis and discussions. But different schools can provide varying guidelines on how to include limitations in a research paper. Therefore, seek advice from your educator or check your writing style guide to know where to include the limitations of a study when writing a dissertation.

Common Study Limitations

Each study can have unique limitations. However, most students encounter common study limitations when writing academic papers. Here are some of the most common limitations you’re likely to encounter when writing your academic papers.

Sample profile or size: Most researchers encounter sampling as a limitation for their studies. That’s because they have difficulties finding the right sample with the necessary characteristics and size parameters. And this hinders the generalizability of their study results. Also, different sampling techniques are prone to bias and errors. And this can influence the study outcomes. In some cases, researchers have difficulties selecting their samples and opt to pick their participants selectively. Some researchers can even include irrelevant subjects in their general pool to hit their preferred sample size. Availability of previous research or information: Theoretical concepts or previous knowledge form the basis of studies on specific topics. And this provides a sound foundation on which a researcher can develop a research problem for their investigation and a design. However, a topic can be relatively specific or very progressive. In that case, the lack of or inadequate knowledge and previous studies can limit the analysis scope. And this can cause inaccuracies in the arguments or present a significant error margin in several methodologies and research aspects. Methodology errors: Modern research complexity can cause potential methodology limitations. In most cases, these research limitations relate to how the researchers collect and analyze data. That’s because these aspects can influence the outcomes of a study. Researchers use different techniques to gather data. While these techniques may suit a study design, they can present limitations in terms of inappropriate detail levels, distractions, and privacy. Bias: Bias is a potential limitation whose effects can influence the outcome of every study. However, a researcher can avoid this limitation by eliminating prejudiced or emotional attitudes towards their topic and conflict of interest. Researchers should also establish an oversight level by referring to peer-review procedures or an ethics committee. Bias is an inherent trait for human beings. Even the most objective people exhibit a bias to some extent. Nevertheless, a researcher should remain objective while trying to control potential inaccuracies or bias during the research process.

A researcher may not have control over the limitation of study. However, the limitation can be the condition, influence, or shortcoming that places restrictions on their conclusions or methodology. Therefore, researchers should mention all limitations that can influence their results.

Limitations of the Study Example

The purpose of most studies is to confirm or establish facts, reaffirm a previous study’s outcomes, solve current or new issues, develop a new theory, or support theorems. Research should also enable experts to develop knowledge on specific subjects. And people research different subjects, depending on their interests. However, researchers experience limitations of quantitative research and qualitative research. Here are the most common limitations in research.

Lack or inadequate interactions: Researchers might lack adequate interactions with government institutions and businesses. Consequently, they do not tap a substantial data amount. Researchers should arrange interaction programs with other establishments. That way, they can identify issues that warrant investigation and the necessary data for conducting research, as well as, the benefits of their studies. Overlapping studies can lead fritter resources away or duplicate the findings. Appropriate revision and compilation at regular intervals can solve this problem. Costly publishing: After researching a topic, a researcher should find ways to publish their findings. However, international journals cost a lot of money to publish a study. And this can discourage a researcher from publishing their work. For instance, a study involving females only or carried out in a specific town can have limitations like sample size, gender, and location. What’s more, the entire study could be limited to the researcher’s perception. Lack of or inadequate training: The research process doesn’t have a systematic methodology. Many researchers do not understand the research method when carrying out their work. Consequently, most researchers experience methodological limitations. Essentially, most researchers replicate the methodologies of similar studies. Even some research guides don’t explain the methodologies accurately. And this can limit the outcome of some studies. Lack of code of conduct: Researchers don’t have a code of conduct. And this causes inter-university and inter-departmental rivalries. Library functioning and management are not adequate in most places. Consequently, some researchers spend a lot of energy and time tracing the necessary books, reports, and journals for their studies. Such energy and time can be spent tracing relevant materials. Lack of confidence: The lack of confidence is among the most common limitations of research studies because company managers think that a researcher can misuse the data they disclose to them. Consequently, they don’t want to reveal their business information. And this can affect studies, yet data from researchers can help the same institutions. Therefore, organizations and researchers should implement confidence-building strategies to encourage companies to share data, knowing that researchers will use it productively.

Why Write the Limitations of a Study?

When writing a research paper or a thesis, some people think including study limitations is counterintuitive. That’s particularly the case for researchers that experienced something wrong. However, mentioning the limitations of your study is imperative for the following reasons.

  • It tells the readers that you understand that no study lacks some limitations, and you took the time to analyze your work critically.
  • It provides opportunities for further studies.
  • It enables you to discuss the impacts of the limitations on your analysis and how future studies can address the challenges you encountered if granted a chance to do the study again.
  • It presents your study as a transparent undertaking, making the results useful and credible for other people.

Most professors spot problems with the students’ work even if they don’t mention them. Consequently, embracing the limitations of your study and including them in your analysis is the best approach. Leaving out the limitations of research or vital aspects of a study can be detrimental to the entire study field. That’s because it can establish a potentially fallacious and incomplete depiction of the study.

In the academic world, players expect researchers to include the limitations of their works. And this includes a section that demonstrates a holistic and comprehensive understanding of a topic and research process by the author. Discussing limitations is a learning process for assessing the magnitude while critically evaluating the extenuating effect of the stated limitations.

Stating the limitations of a study also improves the validity and quality of future studies. And this includes limitations whose basis is the transparency principle in scientific research, whose purpose is to promote further progress while maintaining mutual integrity in similar studies.

How to Write Study Limitations

When writing your research limitations, do it in a way that demonstrates your understanding of the core concepts of confounding, analytical self-criticism, and bias. Highlighting every limitation might not be necessary. However, include every limitation with a direct impact on your research problem or study results.

Present your thought process as a researcher and explain the pros and cons of your decisions. Also, explain circumstances that may have led to a research limitation. Here’s how you should structure your limitations.

  • Identification and description of the limitation: Use professional terminology to identify and describe the limitation. Also, include all necessary accompanying definitions. The limitation explanation should be precise and brief to ensure that the audience can easily understand the issue. Additionally, make sure that your audience can follow your thought pattern.
  • Outline the possible impact or influence of the limitation: Explain to your readers how the limitation may have affected or influenced your study. And this comprises elements like the impact’s magnitude, occurrence likelihood, and the general direction the specific limitation could have driven your findings. Researchers generally accept that a limitation can have a more profound influence on a study than others. Therefore, highlight the effect or influence of a limitation to help readers decide on the issues to consider while examining your topic. And this is vital because a limitation whose value bias is null is less dangerous.
  • Discuss alternative approaches to limitations: You can also discuss alternative ways to approach the limitations of your research question. However, the researcher should support the methodology or approach they selected in their study. Also, a research paper should explain why the study context warranted the methodology or approach, regardless of the limitation’s nature. Some researchers even provide persuasive evidence while discussing alternative decisions to some extent. And this shows thought transparency while reassuring readers that the researcher chose the best approach, despite the possible laminations.
  • Description of the techniques for minimizing risks: Any limitation in research comes with some risks. Therefore, a researcher should describe possible techniques for minimizing the potential risk from the stated limitations. Such techniques can include a reference of previous studies and suggestions for improving data analysis and research design.

Don’t forget that acknowledging your study limitations provides a chance to suggest the direction for further studies. Therefore, connect the limitations of your study to the suggestions you make for further research. Also, explain how your study can make the unanswered questions more focused.

Also, acknowledging the limitation of the study enables you to demonstrate to the professor that you have critically thought about your research problem and understood the importance of the already-published literature. What’s more, it shows that you’ve carefully assessed the methods for studying your study problem. In research, a key objective is to discover new knowledge while confronting assumptions as you explore what others might not know.

Writing limitations should be a subjective process. That’s because you must analyze the impacts of the limitations and include them in your paper. In this section, don’t include the key weaknesses only. Instead, highlight the magnitude of the limitations of your research. And doing this requires you to demonstrate your study’s validity. Show the readers how the limitations have impacted your study outcomes and conclusions. Thus, writing the limitations section of your paper requires an overall, critical interpretation and appraisal of the impact. Essentially, this section should tell the readers why the problems with methods, errors, validity, and other limitations matter and to what extent.

Practical Tips for Writing Research Limitations

When writing a research paper, include information about your study’s limitations at the beginning of the discussion section. That way, your readers can understand your study limitations before delving into the deeper analysis. In some cases, authors bring out limitations when concluding their research discussion and highlighting the essence of further study on the subject. Here are practical tips to help you write the limitations of your study more effectively.

  • Check some examples of limitations in research first: To understand the best way to include or present the limitations of your study, check how other authors do it. The internet is awash with good sample papers with a section for limitations. Checking such samples can help you write a limitations section for your academic paper.
  • Include essential limitations only: Don’t come up with a list of limitations in your research paper. That’s because doing so can discredit the entire research project. Instead, highlight up to 3 limitations whose influence on your work was the highest. Also, explain how each of the limitations affected your work and research findings.
  • Be brief and direct to the point: Identify the limitation, what caused it, and its impact on your research. Don’t expound on the limitation beyond this because the limitation section should be a small part of your paper.
  • Be sincere: Don’t make up some lies or disguise your research limitations. That’s because doing so could prove you aren’t prepared. Therefore, be true and sincere with the audience. As you might see in good examples of study limitations, this section tells the audience what could be different or better.
  • Explain what caused the limitations of your study: Your audience should have an easy time identifying the reason for the limitations. Therefore, make sure that you have explained everything correctly. Telling the readers about a limiting factor without explaining it can give them the impression that you’re outside your research project.
  • Make suggestions for further studies: An ideal way for reversing points that other researchers can explore is to suggest future research paths. Your study could have failed in certain aspects. Maybe you didn’t achieve your expected results. However, it can prompt other researchers to take different directions in their future studies. Also, explain how other researchers can overcome the limitations you encountered in your study. You can even demonstrate why additional studies on the topic or subject are essential.
  • Don’t confuse negative results with limitations: If your study brings out negative results, don’t confuse them for limitations. What negative outcomes mean is that you should support your hypothesis instead of opposing it. Perhaps, you can check sample limitations to understand what qualifies as a limitation. However, you can reformulate your hypothesis if you get negative results. Even when you stumble onto something you didn’t expect, don’t highlight it as a limitation.

Final Thoughts

When working on the limitations section of a research paper, be precise and clear. If writing this section becomes challenging, follow the tips shared in this article or seek assistance. That way, you can impress your educator by highlighting the limitations of your study properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Richard Ginger is a dissertation writer and freelance columnist with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the writing industry. He handles every project he works on with precision while keeping attention to details and ensuring that every work he does is unique.

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Diving Deeper into Limitations and Delimitations

Diving Deeper into Limitations and Delimitations

If you are working on a thesis, dissertation, or other formal research project, chances are your advisor or committee will ask you to address the delimitations of your study. When faced with this request, many students respond with a puzzled look and then go on to address what are actually the study’s limitations.

In a previous article , we covered what goes into the limitations, delimitations, and assumptions sections of your thesis or dissertation. Here, we will dive a bit deeper into the differences between limitations and delimitations and provide some helpful tips for addressing them in your research project—whether you are working on a quantitative or qualitative study.

Acknowledging Weaknesses vs. Defining Boundaries

These concepts are easy to get confused because both limitations and delimitations restrict (or limit) the questions you’ll be able to answer with your study, most notably in terms of generalizability.

However, the biggest difference between limitations and delimitations is the degree of control you have over them—that is, how much they are based in conscious, intentional choices you made in designing your study.

Limitations 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.

Limitations may include things such as participant drop-out, a sample that isn’t entirely representative of the desired population, violations to the assumptions of parametric analysis (e.g., normality, homogeneity of variance), the limits of self-report, or the absence of reliability and validity data for some of your survey measures.

Limitations can get in the way of your being able to answer certain questions or draw certain types of inferences from your findings. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge them upfront and make note of how they restrict the conclusions you’ll be able to draw from your study. Frequently, limitations can get in the way of our ability to generalize our findings to the larger populations or to draw causal conclusions, so be sure to consider these issues when you’re thinking about the potential limitations of your study.

Delimitations are also factors that can restrict the questions you can answer or the inferences you can draw from your findings. However, they are based on intentional choices you make a priori (i.e., as you’re designing the study) about where you’re going to draw the boundaries of your project. In other words, they define the project’s scope.

Like limitations, delimitations are a part of every research project, and this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s very important! You can’t study everything at once. If you try to do so, your project is bound to get huge and unwieldy, and it will become a lot more difficult to interpret your results or come to meaningful conclusions with so many moving parts. You have to draw the line somewhere, and the delimitations are where you choose to draw these lines.

One of the clearest examples of a delimitation that applies to almost every research project is participant exclusion criteria. In conducting either a quantitative or a qualitative study, you will have to define your population of interest. Defining this population of interest means that you will need to articulate the boundaries of that population (i.e., who is not included). Those boundaries are delimitations.

For example, if you’re interested in understanding the experiences of elementary school teachers who have been implementing a new curriculum into their classrooms, you probably won’t be interviewing or sending a survey to any of the following people: non-teachers, high-school teachers, college professors, principals, parents of elementary school children, or the children themselves. Furthermore, you probably won’t be talking to elementary school teachers who have not yet had the experience of implementing the curriculum in question. You would probably only choose to gather data from elementary school teachers who have had this experience because that is who you’re interested in for the purposes of your study. 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. The possibilities can go on. 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.

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. Or parents. Or elementary school children. 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. 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 outside of the scope of your project . As interesting as their experiences might be, you can save these questions for another study. That is the part of the beauty of research: there will always be more studies to do, more questions to ask. You don’t have to (and can’t) do it all in one project.

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. Perhaps you believe that knowing more about teachers’ experiences could inform their training or help administrators know more about how to support their teachers. 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 not 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. 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. These other questions may be interesting and important, but, again, they are beyond the scope of your project .

Common Examples of Limitations

While each study will have its own unique set of limitations, some limitations are more common in quantitative research, and others are more common in qualitative research.

In quantitative research, common limitations include the following:

– Participant dropout

– Small sample size, low power

– Non-representative sample

– Violations of statistical assumptions

– Non-experimental design, lack of manipulation of variables, lack of controls

– Potential confounding variables

– Measures with low (or unknown) reliability or validity

– Limits of an instrument to measure the construct of interest

– Data collection methods (e.g., self-report)

– Anything else that might limit the study’s internal or external validity

In qualitative research, common limitations include the following:

– Lack of generalizability of findings (not the goal of qualitative research, but still worth mentioning as a limitation)

– Inability to draw causal conclusions (again, not the goal of qualitative research, but still worth mentioning)

– Researcher bias/subjectivity (especially if there is only one coder)

– Limitations in participants’ ability/willingness to share or describe their experiences

– Any factors that might limit the rigor of data collection or analysis procedures

Common Examples of Delimitations

As noted above, the two most common sources of delimitations in both quantitative and qualitative research include the following:

– Inclusion/exclusion criteria (or how you define your population of interest)

– Research questions or problems you’ve chosen to examine

Several other common sources of delimitations include the following:

– Theoretical framework or perspective adopted

– Methodological framework or paradigm chosen (e.g., quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-methods)

– In quantitative research, the variables you’ve chosen to measure or manipulate (as opposed to others)

Whether you’re conducting a quantitative or qualitative study, you will (hopefully!) have chosen your research design because it is well suited to the questions you’re hoping to answer. Because these questions define the boundaries or scope of your project and thus point to its delimitations, your research design itself will also be related to these delimitations.

Questions to Ask Yourself

As you are considering the limitations and delimitations of your project, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few different questions.

Questions to help point out your study’s limitations :

1. If I had an unlimited budget, unlimited amounts of time, access to all possible populations, and the ability to manipulate as many variables as I wanted, how would I design my study differently to be better able to answer the questions I want to answer? (The ways in which your study falls short of this will point to its limitations.)

2. Are there design issues that get in the way of my being able to draw causal conclusions?

3. Are there sampling issues that get in the way of my being able to generalize my findings?

4. Are there issues related to the measures I’m using or the methods I’m using to collect data? Do I have concerns about participants telling the truth or being able to provide accurate responses to my questions?

5. Are there any other factors that might limit my study’s internal or external validity?

Questions that help point out your study’s delimitations :

1. What are my exclusion criteria? Who did I not include in my study, and why did I make this choice?

2. What questions did I choose not to address in my study? (Of course, the possibilities are endless here, but consider related questions that you chose not to address.)

3. In what ways did I narrow the scope of my study in order to hone in on a particular issue or question?

4. What other methodologies did I not use that might have allowed me to answer slightly different questions about the same topic?

How to Write About Limitations and Delimitations

Remember, having limitations and delimitations is not a bad thing. They’re present in even the most rigorous research. The important thing is to be aware of them and to acknowledge how they may impact your findings or the conclusions you can draw.

In fact, writing about them and acknowledging them gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you can think critically about these aspects of your study and how they impact your findings, even if they were out of your control.

Keep in mind that your study’s limitations will likely point to important directions for future research. Therefore, when you’re getting ready to write about your recommendations for future research in your discussion, remember to refer back to your limitations section!

As you write about your delimitations in particular, remember that they are not weaknesses, and you don’t have to apologize for them. Good, strong research projects have clear boundaries. Also, keep in mind that you are the researcher and you can choose whatever delimitations you want for your study. You’re in control of the delimitations. You just have to be prepared—both in your discussion section and in your dissertation defense itself—to justify the choices you make and acknowledge how these choices impact your findings.

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  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Limitations of the Study
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Applying Critical Thinking
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

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. .

Importance of...

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 or didn't realize they existed.

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.

Writing Tip

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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Writing Limitations of Research Study — 4 Reasons Why It Is Important!

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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.

peer review

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!

Frequently Asked Questions

Setting limitations in our study helps to clarify the outcomes drawn from our research and enhance understanding of the subject. Moreover, it shows that the author has investigated all the weaknesses in the study.

Scope is the range and limitations of a research project which are set to define the boundaries of a project. Limitations are the impacts on the overall study due to the constraints on the research design.

Limitation in research is an impact of a constraint on the research design in the overall study. They are the flaws or weaknesses in the study, which may influence the outcome of the research.

1. Limitations in research can be written as follows: Formulate your goals and objectives 2. Analyze the chosen data collection method and the sample sizes 3. Identify your limitations of research and explain their importance 4. Provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices 5. Write how you are suggesting that it is possible to overcome them in the future

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Organizing Academic Research Papers: Limitations of the Study

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
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  • Paragraph Development
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  • Theoretical Framework
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  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tertiary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Dealing with Nervousness
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  • Multiple Book Review Essay
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  • Acknowledgements

The limitations of the study are those characteristics of design or methodology that impacted or influenced the application or interpretation of the results of your study. They are the constraints on generalizability and utility of findings that are the result of the ways in which you chose to design the study and/or the method used to establish internal and external validity.

Importance of...

Always acknowledge a study's limitations. It is far better for you to identify and acknowledge your study’s limitations than to have them pointed out by your professor and be graded down because you appear to have ignored them.

Keep in mind that acknowledgement 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.

Acknowledgement of a study's limitations also provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate to your professor 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 limitiations 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 findings 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?

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 your paper.

Here are examples of limitations you may need to describe and to discuss how they possibly impacted your findings. Descriptions of limitations should be stated in the past tense.

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.
  • 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 to offer 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 the need for future research.
  • 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, consult with a librarian! In cases when a librarian has confirmed that there is a lack of 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 that this limitation can serve as an important opportunity 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 in future research to revise the specific method for gathering data.
  • Self-reported data -- whether you are relying on pre-existing self-reported 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 take what people say, whether in interviews, focus groups, or on questionnaires, at face value. However, self-reported data contain several potential sources of bias that should be noted as limitations: (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, or documents and, for whatever reason, access is denied or otherwise limited, the reasons for this need to be described.
  • Longitudinal effects -- unlike your professor, who can literally devote years [even a lifetime] to studying a single research problem, the time available to investigate a research problem and to measure change or stability within a sample is constrained by the due date of your assignment. Be sure to choose a topic 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, 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, or thing is viewed or shown in a consistently inaccurate way. It is usually negative, though one can have a positive bias as well. 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 and 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 that if you detect bias in prior research, it must be acknowledged and you should explain what measures were taken to avoid perpetuating bias.
  • Fluency in a language -- if your research focuses on measuring the perceived value of after-school tutoring among Mexican-American ESL [English as a Second Language] students, for example, and you are not fluent in Spanish, you are limited in being able to read and interpret Spanish language research studies on the topic. This deficiency should be acknowledged.

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.

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 a pilot 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 later studies.

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 reframe 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 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 ask a particular question in a survey 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 any future study. A underlying goal of scholarly research is not only to prove what works, but to demonstrate what doesn't work or what needs further clarification.

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.

Writing Tip

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 limitiations of your study. Inflating of the importance of your study's findings in an attempt hide its flaws is a big turn off to your readers. A 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 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.

Yet Another Writing Tip

A Note about 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 judgement about the methodological technique chosen [e.g., single life history study versus focus group interviews] rather than the number of respondents used.

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.

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Scope and Delimitations – Explained & Example

DiscoverPhDs

  • By DiscoverPhDs
  • October 2, 2020

Scope and Delimitation

What Is Scope and Delimitation in Research?

The scope and delimitations of a thesis, dissertation or research paper define the topic and boundaries of the research problem to be investigated.

The scope details how in-depth your study is to explore the research question and the parameters in which it will operate in relation to the population and timeframe.

The delimitations of a study are the factors and variables not to be included in the investigation. In other words, they are the boundaries the researcher sets in terms of study duration, population size and type of participants, etc.

Difference Between Delimitations and Limitations

Delimitations refer to the boundaries of the research study, based on the researcher’s decision of what to include and what to exclude. They narrow your study to make it more manageable and relevant to what you are trying to prove.

Limitations relate to the validity and reliability of the study. They are characteristics of the research design or methodology that are out of your control but influence your research findings. Because of this, they determine the internal and external validity of your study and are considered potential weaknesses.

In other words, limitations are what the researcher cannot do (elements outside of their control) and delimitations are what the researcher will not do (elements outside of the boundaries they have set). Both are important because they help to put the research findings into context, and although they explain how the study is limited, they increase the credibility and validity of a research project.

Guidelines on How to Write a Scope

A good scope statement will answer the following six questions:

Delimitation Scope for Thesis Statement

  • Why – the general aims and objectives (purpose) of the research.
  • What – the subject to be investigated, and the included variables.
  • Where – the location or setting of the study, i.e. where the data will be gathered and to which entity the data will belong.
  • When – the timeframe within which the data is to be collected.
  • Who – the subject matter of the study and the population from which they will be selected. This population needs to be large enough to be able to make generalisations.
  • How – how the research is to be conducted, including a description of the research design (e.g. whether it is experimental research, qualitative research or a case study), methodology, research tools and analysis techniques.

To make things as clear as possible, you should also state why specific variables were omitted from the research scope, and whether this was because it was a delimitation or a limitation. You should also explain why they could not be overcome with standard research methods backed up by scientific evidence.

How to Start Writing Your Study Scope

Use the below prompts as an effective way to start writing your scope:

  • This study is to focus on…
  • This study covers the…
  • This study aims to…

Guidelines on How to Write Delimitations

Since the delimitation parameters are within the researcher’s control, readers need to know why they were set, what alternative options were available, and why these alternatives were rejected. For example, if you are collecting data that can be derived from three different but similar experiments, the reader needs to understand how and why you decided to select the one you have.

Your reasons should always be linked back to your research question, as all delimitations should result from trying to make your study more relevant to your scope. Therefore, the scope and delimitations are usually considered together when writing a paper.

How to Start Writing Your Study Delimitations

Use the below prompts as an effective way to start writing your study delimitations:

  • This study does not cover…
  • This study is limited to…
  • The following has been excluded from this study…

Examples of Delimitation in Research

Examples of delimitations include:

  • research objectives,
  • research questions,
  • research variables,
  • target populations,
  • statistical analysis techniques .

Examples of Limitations in Research

Examples of limitations include:

  • Issues with sample and selection,
  • Insufficient sample size, population traits or specific participants for statistical significance,
  • Lack of previous research studies on the topic which has allowed for further analysis,
  • Limitations in the technology/instruments used to collect your data,
  • Limited financial resources and/or funding constraints.

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Concept Paper

A concept paper is a short document written by a researcher before starting their research project, explaining what the study is about, why it is needed and the methods that will be used.

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Scope of Research

The scope of the study is defined at the start of the study. It is used by researchers to set the boundaries and limitations within which the research study will be performed.

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Christian is a PhD student at the University of Leeds. His research project investigatores the role of the molecular clock in sympathetic preganglionic neurons.

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Limitations of Research Study: Everything You Need to Know

Table of contents

  • 1 Defining Limitations in Qualitative Research
  • 2.1 Limitations may lead to potentially biased observational studies
  • 2.2 How to address limitations in research?
  • 3 Impact of Study Limitations on Research Outcomes: How to Find Limitations of a Study
  • 4.1 Limited Access to Outstanding Future Study

Research for academic purposes is always challenging and requires much prep. This includes careful research design and an understanding of experiment limitations. Even though you have analyzed and prepared things, the results may still differ.

There are many reasons for this, and one of the main reasons is limitations in research. Unfortunately, a study can’t consider all options or circumstances at once. For example, you are studying how nutrition affects student performance. But you are not considering each student’s traits, routines, relationships, weather, age, and so on.

The study must include confounding factors in its conclusions and results, which can distort the final result. This article will help you understand the strengths and limitations of research and guide you on how to consider them. This is when you reach valid conclusions and plan future investigations.

Defining Limitations in Qualitative Research

What are limitations in research? Many factors confound the study, including its reliability, validity, and generalizability. These can limit the research problem. Internal limitations are constraints within the researcher’s control, including sample bias or method flaws. But external research limits come from factors like population or environmental factors. They are beyond the researcher’s control.

The limitations of research studies are significant in defining the scope of research inquiry. It outlines the results’ extent and meaning. It finds areas where the outcome might be less reliable or relevant.

Acknowledging and writing limits fosters honesty. It reminds researchers and readers of science’s complexity and uncertainties. Researchers can improve methods. They do this by understanding and fixing limitations in a research paper. It helps to interpret research findings more. This advances knowledge in their fields and literature review.

If you need help with writing a research paper , our writing service is ready to assist you.

Common Limitations of Research Studies

In general, there are four types of limitations in a research study:

Limitations may lead to potentially biased observational studies

Many things can become limitations in a dissertation. They affect the study’s reliability, internal and external validity, and generalizability. However, the research method impacts the whole study.

The dissertation has methodological limitations. These include problems in the study’s design and execution and constraints. Simple limitation examples: a small sample size can weaken statistical power. Flaws in prior research design can also hurt the study’s validity.

Collecting precise and complete data in the scientific literature is hard. These challenges are known as data collection limitations in research. The study’s limitations can come from measurement errors. These errors are caused by imperfect tools or human error. They lead to inaccuracies in the data. Also, response bias comes from participants’ tendency to answer in socially desirable ways.  It can distort results and hurt the study’s credibility.

A study’s limited resources can be a big obstacle for research. For instance, time constraints may require shorter periods, which can curtail the breadth and depth of the study’s findings. When funds are limited, researchers may lack resources for good methods or thorough analyses. This further hinders research.

External validity limits research. It refers to how well a study’s conclusions apply to contexts beyond where it was conducted. Factors like the study population or setting have distinct characteristics. They can make extending the findings to other groups or places hard.

How to address limitations in research?

It is essential for researchers to be aware of common research limitations and to plan their research process. They need to know their topic and know the limitations in research examples. Identifying limits in their research paper helps researchers. It can cut flaws, improve data collection, and save resources. They can also judge how their findings apply. Acknowledging these limits can help researchers. It can increase the credibility and impact of their results. This fosters more confidence in their findings. It is in the scientific community and in future research. If you struggle with the limitation, ask for help with research paper .

Impact of Study Limitations on Research Outcomes: How to Find Limitations of a Study

Methodological limitations can compromise research results. These include small sample sizes and flawed research designs. These possible limitations of the study increase the likelihood of chance findings or bias. Similarly, limits on data collection cause inaccuracies. They come from things like response bias or measurement errors and can distort data. These problems harm the validity of the findings.

Unsolved limitations and a lack of research examples greatly affect how we interpret and use study results. Without mitigation, researchers risk drawing wrong conclusions and overgeneralizing findings. For instance, a scientific study may have limited external validity. Its findings may not represent the broader population or apply to different contexts, leading to misguided information in the existing literature or interventions.

Case studies provide valuable insights into the real-world effects of those examples of limitations of a study. For instance, a study may aim to test a new medication. But, it may face limits on resources. These limits could lead to a small sample size and low statistical power. As a result, the study may fail to detect the drug’s subtle, yet clinically significant effects. This could lead to wrong conclusions about its effectiveness. Presenting limitations and alternative approaches is part of the methods section and discussion.

Consider another scenario where a survey aims to investigate public opinion on a social issue. However, the research topic itself may lead to response bias, potentially creating limitations in a study. Ignoring such limits could lead to distorted findings. It would misrepresent the beliefs and attitudes of the surveyed people. This would damage the study’s credibility. So, admitting research’s limits is crucial. The impact of these limits on results is clear. It shows the importance of careful methods and clear reporting. Researchers can improve their findings’ trustworthiness.

They can do this by finding and fixing limitations. In doing so, they can ensure that their research contributes greatly to advancing knowledge. It also informs evidence-based decision-making in future research. If you need help, our writing service specialists will gladly assist you.

Strategies for Addressing and Presenting Studies Limitations

We must acknowledge the limits of the research if we want to keep academic papers authentic and reliable. Below are a few tactics to accomplish this:

  • Transparent Reporting : Researchers should openly acknowledge and describe limitations in their academic publications. Transparently reported findings let readers evaluate their credibility and accuracy, which promotes further investigations.
  • Sensitivity analyses are essential in research writing. They examine the potential limitations of a study. By changing key parameters or assumptions, researchers can check the strength of their findings. They can also find any sources of bias or uncertainty.
  • We recommend using various methods or data sources . This will improve the trust and accuracy of research conclusions. By using all the results, researchers can avoid relying on one method. This helps lessen the impact of method problems on study outcomes.
  • Working with teams of people from different disciplines can beat resource limits . It also expands the toolkit available to researchers. By sharing expertise and resources across fields, researchers can do better research. They can also fix limitations.
  • Considering alternatives will lessen the impact of limits on study conclusions . Researchers should carefully assess and analyze other explanations or interpretations of results. Considering other ideas is crucial. It ensures the findings are robust. They won’t depend only on specific methods or assumptions.

In the future, researchers can use strategies to find limits. They can then fix and cut them in qualitative research. This will ensure their findings are reliable, valid, and credible. It involves a clear understanding of limitations vs implications. Also, being clear about limitations in writing fosters trust. It makes the scientific community more confident. Researchers should communicate any limitations in the discussion section and research limitations section. So, the importance of limitations in research is hard to overestimate.

Limited Access to Outstanding Future Study

Accepting and addressing limits is not a sign of weakness. It is a testament to the difficulty and honesty of science. They can do this by reporting limits in past studies. They can also do this by doing sensitivity analyses and working with other fields. They should also consider alternative explanations. Over these efforts, we can create a culture of humility, transparency, and confidence. This will ensure that research findings add to our understanding. They will do so in a meaningful way. Embracing limits when you write becomes a pathway to better integrity and knowledge.

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Research Limitations & Delimitations

What they are and how they’re different (with examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewed By: David Phair (PhD) | September 2022

If you’re new to the world of research, you’ve probably heard the terms “ research limitations ” and “ research delimitations ” being thrown around, often quite loosely. In this post, we’ll unpack what both of these mean, how they’re similar and how they’re different – so that you can write up these sections the right way.

Overview: Limitations vs Delimitations

  • Are they the same?
  • What are research limitations
  • What are research delimitations
  • Limitations vs delimitations

First things first…

Let’s start with the most important takeaway point of this post – research limitations and research delimitations are not the same – but they are related to each other (we’ll unpack that a little later). So, if you hear someone using these two words interchangeably, be sure to share this post with them!

Research Limitations

Research limitations are, at the simplest level, the weaknesses of the study , based on factors that are often outside of your control as the researcher. These factors could include things like time , access to funding, equipment , data or participants . For example, if you weren’t able to access a random sample of participants for your study and had to adopt a convenience sampling strategy instead, that would impact the generalizability of your findings and therefore reflect a limitation of your study.

Research limitations can also emerge from the research design itself . For example, if you were undertaking a correlational study, you wouldn’t be able to infer causality (since correlation doesn’t mean certain causation). Similarly, if you utilised online surveys to collect data from your participants, you naturally wouldn’t be able to get the same degree of rich data that you would from in-person interviews .

Simply put, research limitations reflect the shortcomings of a study , based on practical (or theoretical) constraints that the researcher faced. These shortcomings limit what you can conclude from a study, but at the same time, present a foundation for future research . Importantly, all research has limitations , so there’s no need to hide anything here – as long as you discuss how the limitations might affect your findings, it’s all good.

Research Delimitations

Alright, now that we’ve unpacked the limitations, let’s move on to the delimitations .

Research delimitations are similar to limitations in that they also “ limit ” the study, but their focus is entirely different. Specifically, the delimitations of a study refer to the scope of the research aims and research questions . In other words, delimitations reflect the choices you, as the researcher, intentionally make in terms of what you will and won’t try to achieve with your study. In other words, what your research aims and research questions will and won’t include.

As we’ve spoken about many times before, it’s important to have a tight, narrow focus for your research, so that you can dive deeply into your topic, apply your energy to one specific area and develop meaningful insights. If you have an overly broad scope or unfocused topic, your research will often pull in multiple, even opposing directions, and you’ll just land up with a muddy mess of findings .

So, the delimitations section is where you’ll clearly state what your research aims and research questions will focus on – and just as importantly, what they will exclude . For example, you might investigate a widespread phenomenon, but choose to focus your study on a specific age group, ethnicity or gender. Similarly, your study may focus exclusively on one country, city or even organization. As long as the scope is well justified (in other words, it represents a novel, valuable research topic), this is perfectly acceptable – in fact, it’s essential. Remember, focus is your friend.

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Conclusion: Limitations vs Delimitations

Ok, so let’s recap.

Research limitations and research delimitations are related in that they both refer to “limits” within a study. But, they are distinctly different. Limitations reflect the shortcomings of your study, based on practical or theoretical constraints that you faced.

Contrasted to that, delimitations reflect the choices that you made in terms of the focus and scope of your research aims and research questions. If you want to learn more about research aims and questions, you can check out this video post , where we unpack those concepts in detail.

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This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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18 Comments

GUDA EMMANUEL

Good clarification of ideas on how a researcher ought to do during Process of choice

Stephen N Senesie

Thank you so much for this very simple but explicit explanation on limitation and delimitation. It has so helped me to develop my masters proposal. hope to recieve more from your site as time progresses

Lucilio Zunguze

Thank you for this explanation – very clear.

Mohammed Shamsudeen

Thanks for the explanation, really got it well.

Lolwethu

This website is really helpful for my masters proposal

Julita Chideme Maradzika

Thank you very much for helping to explain these two terms

I spent almost the whole day trying to figure out the differences

when I came across your notes everything became very clear

nicholas

thanks for the clearly outlined explanation on the two terms, limitation and delimitation.

Zyneb

Very helpful Many thanks 🙏

Saad

Excellent it resolved my conflict .

Aloisius

I would like you to assist me please. If in my Research, I interviewed some participants and I submitted Questionnaires to other participants to answered to the questions, in the same organization, Is this a Qualitative methodology , a Quantitative Methodology or is it a Mixture Methodology I have used in my research? Please help me

Rexford Atunwey

How do I cite this article in APA format

Fiona gift

Really so great ,finally have understood it’s difference now

Jonomo Rondo

Getting more clear regarding Limitations and Delimitation and concepts

Mohammed Ibrahim Kari

I really appreciate your apt and precise explanation of the two concepts namely ; Limitations and Delimitations.

LORETTA SONGOSE

This is a good sources of research information for learners.

jane i. butale

thank you for this, very helpful to researchers

TAUNO

Very good explained

Mary Mutanda

Great and clear explanation, after a long confusion period on the two words, i can now explain to someone with ease.

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Research-Methodology

Research Limitations

It is for sure that your research will have some limitations and it is normal. However, it is critically important for you to be striving to minimize the range of scope of limitations throughout the research process.  Also, you need to provide the acknowledgement of your research limitations in conclusions chapter honestly.

It is always better to identify and acknowledge shortcomings of your work, rather than to leave them pointed out to your by your dissertation assessor. While discussing your research limitations, don’t just provide the list and description of shortcomings of your work. It is also important for you to explain how these limitations have impacted your research findings.

Your research may have multiple limitations, but you need to discuss only those limitations that directly relate to your research problems. For example, if conducting a meta-analysis of the secondary data has not been stated as your research objective, no need to mention it as your research limitation.

Research limitations in a typical dissertation may relate to the following points:

1. Formulation of research aims and objectives . You might have formulated research aims and objectives too broadly. You can specify in which ways the formulation of research aims and objectives could be narrowed so that the level of focus of the study could be increased.

2. Implementation of data collection method . Because you do not have an extensive experience in primary data collection (otherwise you would not be reading this book), there is a great chance that the nature of implementation of data collection method is flawed.

3. Sample size. Sample size depends on the nature of the research problem. If sample size is too small, statistical tests would not be able to identify significant relationships within data set. You can state that basing your study in larger sample size could have generated more accurate results. The importance of sample size is greater in quantitative studies compared to qualitative studies.

4. Lack of previous studies in the research area . Literature review is an important part of any research, because it helps to identify the scope of works that have been done so far in research area. Literature review findings are used as the foundation for the researcher to be built upon to achieve her research objectives.

However, there may be little, if any, prior research on your topic if you have focused on the most contemporary and evolving research problem or too narrow research problem. For example, if you have chosen to explore the role of Bitcoins as the future currency, you may not be able to find tons of scholarly paper addressing the research problem, because Bitcoins are only a recent phenomenon.

5. Scope of discussions . You can include this point as a limitation of your research regardless of the choice of the research area. Because (most likely) you don’t have many years of experience of conducing researches and producing academic papers of such a large size individually, the scope and depth of discussions in your paper is compromised in many levels compared to the works of experienced scholars.

You can discuss certain points from your research limitations as the suggestion for further research at conclusions chapter of your dissertation.

My e-book,  The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance  offers practical assistance to complete a dissertation with minimum or no stress. The e-book covers all stages of writing a dissertation starting from the selection to the research area to submitting the completed version of the work within the deadline. John Dudovskiy

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Home » Delimitations in Research – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Delimitations in Research – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

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Delimitations

Delimitations

Definition:

Delimitations refer to the specific boundaries or limitations that are set in a research study in order to narrow its scope and focus. Delimitations may be related to a variety of factors, including the population being studied, the geographical location, the time period, the research design , and the methods or tools being used to collect data .

The Importance of Delimitations in Research Studies

Here are some reasons why delimitations are important in research studies:

  • Provide focus : Delimitations help researchers focus on a specific area of interest and avoid getting sidetracked by tangential topics. By setting clear boundaries, researchers can concentrate their efforts on the most relevant and significant aspects of the research question.
  • Increase validity : Delimitations ensure that the research is more valid by defining the boundaries of the study. When researchers establish clear criteria for inclusion and exclusion, they can better control for extraneous variables that might otherwise confound the results.
  • Improve generalizability : Delimitations help researchers determine the extent to which their findings can be generalized to other populations or contexts. By specifying the sample size, geographic region, time frame, or other relevant factors, researchers can provide more accurate estimates of the generalizability of their results.
  • Enhance feasibility : Delimitations help researchers identify the resources and time required to complete the study. By setting realistic parameters, researchers can ensure that the study is feasible and can be completed within the available time and resources.
  • Clarify scope: Delimitations help readers understand the scope of the research project. By explicitly stating what is included and excluded, researchers can avoid confusion and ensure that readers understand the boundaries of the study.

Types of Delimitations in Research

Here are some types of delimitations in research and their significance:

Time Delimitations

This type of delimitation refers to the time frame in which the research will be conducted. Time delimitations are important because they help to narrow down the scope of the study and ensure that the research is feasible within the given time constraints.

Geographical Delimitations

Geographical delimitations refer to the geographic boundaries within which the research will be conducted. These delimitations are significant because they help to ensure that the research is relevant to the intended population or location.

Population Delimitations

Population delimitations refer to the specific group of people that the research will focus on. These delimitations are important because they help to ensure that the research is targeted to a specific group, which can improve the accuracy of the results.

Data Delimitations

Data delimitations refer to the specific types of data that will be used in the research. These delimitations are important because they help to ensure that the data is relevant to the research question and that the research is conducted using reliable and valid data sources.

Scope Delimitations

Scope delimitations refer to the specific aspects or dimensions of the research that will be examined. These delimitations are important because they help to ensure that the research is focused and that the findings are relevant to the research question.

How to Write Delimitations

In order to write delimitations in research, you can follow these steps:

  • Identify the scope of your study : Determine the extent of your research by defining its boundaries. This will help you to identify the areas that are within the scope of your research and those that are outside of it.
  • Determine the time frame : Decide on the time period that your research will cover. This could be a specific period, such as a year, or it could be a general time frame, such as the last decade.
  • I dentify the population : Determine the group of people or objects that your study will focus on. This could be a specific age group, gender, profession, or geographic location.
  • Establish the sample size : Determine the number of participants that your study will involve. This will help you to establish the number of people you need to recruit for your study.
  • Determine the variables: Identify the variables that will be measured in your study. This could include demographic information, attitudes, behaviors, or other factors.
  • Explain the limitations : Clearly state the limitations of your study. This could include limitations related to time, resources, sample size, or other factors that may impact the validity of your research.
  • Justify the limitations : Explain why these limitations are necessary for your research. This will help readers understand why certain factors were excluded from the study.

When to Write Delimitations in Research

Here are some situations when you may need to write delimitations in research:

  • When defining the scope of the study: Delimitations help to define the boundaries of your research by specifying what is and what is not included in your study. For instance, you may delimit your study by focusing on a specific population, geographic region, time period, or research methodology.
  • When addressing limitations: Delimitations can also be used to address the limitations of your research. For example, if your data is limited to a certain timeframe or geographic area, you can include this information in your delimitations to help readers understand the limitations of your findings.
  • When justifying the relevance of the study : Delimitations can also help you to justify the relevance of your research. For instance, if you are conducting a study on a specific population or region, you can explain why this group or area is important and how your research will contribute to the understanding of this topic.
  • When clarifying the research question or hypothesis : Delimitations can also be used to clarify your research question or hypothesis. By specifying the boundaries of your study, you can ensure that your research question or hypothesis is focused and specific.
  • When establishing the context of the study : Finally, delimitations can help you to establish the context of your research. By providing information about the scope and limitations of your study, you can help readers to understand the context in which your research was conducted and the implications of your findings.

Examples of Delimitations in Research

Examples of Delimitations in Research are as follows:

Research Title : “Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Cybersecurity Threat Detection”

Delimitations :

  • The study will focus solely on the use of artificial intelligence in detecting and mitigating cybersecurity threats.
  • The study will only consider the impact of AI on threat detection and not on other aspects of cybersecurity such as prevention, response, or recovery.
  • The research will be limited to a specific type of cybersecurity threats, such as malware or phishing attacks, rather than all types of cyber threats.
  • The study will only consider the use of AI in a specific industry, such as finance or healthcare, rather than examining its impact across all industries.
  • The research will only consider AI-based threat detection tools that are currently available and widely used, rather than including experimental or theoretical AI models.

Research Title: “The Effects of Social Media on Academic Performance: A Case Study of College Students”

Delimitations:

  • The study will focus only on college students enrolled in a particular university.
  • The study will only consider social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • The study will only analyze the academic performance of students based on their GPA and course grades.
  • The study will not consider the impact of other factors such as student demographics, socioeconomic status, or other factors that may affect academic performance.
  • The study will only use self-reported data from students, rather than objective measures of their social media usage or academic performance.

Purpose of Delimitations

Some Purposes of Delimitations are as follows:

  • Focusing the research : By defining the scope of the study, delimitations help researchers to narrow down their research questions and focus on specific aspects of the topic. This allows for a more targeted and meaningful study.
  • Clarifying the research scope : Delimitations help to clarify the boundaries of the research, which helps readers to understand what is and is not included in the study.
  • Avoiding scope creep : Delimitations help researchers to stay focused on their research objectives and avoid being sidetracked by tangential issues or data.
  • Enhancing the validity of the study : By setting clear boundaries, delimitations help to ensure that the study is valid and reliable.
  • Improving the feasibility of the study : Delimitations help researchers to ensure that their study is feasible and can be conducted within the time and resources available.

Applications of Delimitations

Here are some common applications of delimitations:

  • Geographic delimitations : Researchers may limit their study to a specific geographic area, such as a particular city, state, or country. This helps to narrow the focus of the study and makes it more manageable.
  • Time delimitations : Researchers may limit their study to a specific time period, such as a decade, a year, or a specific date range. This can be useful for studying trends over time or for comparing data from different time periods.
  • Population delimitations : Researchers may limit their study to a specific population, such as a particular age group, gender, or ethnic group. This can help to ensure that the study is relevant to the population being studied.
  • Data delimitations : Researchers may limit their study to specific types of data, such as survey responses, interviews, or archival records. This can help to ensure that the study is based on reliable and relevant data.
  • Conceptual delimitations : Researchers may limit their study to specific concepts or variables, such as only studying the effects of a particular treatment on a specific outcome. This can help to ensure that the study is focused and clear.

Advantages of Delimitations

Some Advantages of Delimitations are as follows:

  • Helps to focus the study: Delimitations help to narrow down the scope of the research and identify specific areas that need to be investigated. This helps to focus the study and ensures that the research is not too broad or too narrow.
  • Defines the study population: Delimitations can help to define the population that will be studied. This can include age range, gender, geographical location, or any other factors that are relevant to the research. This helps to ensure that the study is more specific and targeted.
  • Provides clarity: Delimitations help to provide clarity about the research study. By identifying the boundaries and limitations of the research, it helps to avoid confusion and ensures that the research is more understandable.
  • Improves validity: Delimitations can help to improve the validity of the research by ensuring that the study is more focused and specific. This can help to ensure that the research is more accurate and reliable.
  • Reduces bias: Delimitations can help to reduce bias by limiting the scope of the research. This can help to ensure that the research is more objective and unbiased.

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Limitations Of the Study Example and Tips For Students

limitations of study

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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  1. How to Write Limitations of the Study (with examples)

    Common types of limitations and their ramifications include: Theoretical: limits the scope, depth, or applicability of a study. Methodological: limits the quality, quantity, or diversity of the data. Empirical: limits the representativeness, validity, or reliability of the data. Analytical: limits the accuracy, completeness, or significance of ...

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    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 ...

  3. How to structure the Research Limitations section of your dissertation

    However, is not necessary for you to discuss all of these limitations in your Research Limitations section. After all, you are not writing a 2000 word critical review of the limitations of your dissertation, just a 200-500 word critique that is only one section long (i.e., the Research Limitations section within your Conclusions chapter).

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    21 Research Limitations Examples. By Chris Drew (PhD) / November 19, 2023. Research limitations refer to the potential weaknesses inherent in a study. All studies have limitations of some sort, meaning declaring limitations doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing, so long as your declaration of limitations is well thought-out and explained.

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    Delimitations. Delimitations are the definitions you set as the boundaries of your own thesis or dissertation, so delimitations are in your control. Delimitations are set so that your goals do not become impossibly large to complete. Examples of delimitations include objectives, research questions, variables, theoretical objectives that you ...

  6. Research Limitations: Simple Explainer With Examples

    Whether you're working on a dissertation, thesis or any other type of formal academic research, remember the five most common research limitations and interpret your data while keeping them in mind. Access to Information (literature and data) Time and money. Sample size and composition. Research design and methodology.

  7. Limitations of a Study: The Complete Guide

    For instance, a study involving females only or carried out in a specific town can have limitations like sample size, gender, and location. What's more, the entire study could be limited to the researcher's perception. Lack of or inadequate training: The research process doesn't have a systematic methodology.

  8. Diving Deeper into Limitations and Delimitations

    While each study will have its own unique set of limitations, some limitations are more common in quantitative research, and others are more common in qualitative research. In quantitative research, common limitations include the following: - Participant dropout. - Small sample size, low power. - Non-representative sample.

  9. Limitations of the Study

    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.

  10. Limitations of a Research Study

    3. Identify your limitations of research and explain their importance. 4. Provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices. 5. Write how you are suggesting that it is possible to overcome them in the future. Limitations can help structure the research study better.

  11. PDF How to discuss your study's limitations effectively

    For each limitation you identify, provide a sentence that refutes the limitation or that provides information to counterbalance or otherwise minimize the limitation's perceived impact. You can cite previous studies to help substantiate your assertions: "However, this small sample represents the largest of its kind to date, which means that our

  12. Organizing Academic Research Papers: Limitations of the Study

    Here are examples of limitations you may need to describe and to discuss how they possibly impacted your findings. Descriptions of limitations should be stated in the past tense. 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 ...

  13. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

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    The scope and delimitations of a thesis, dissertation or paper define the topic and boundaries of a research problem - learn how to form them. ... Examples of Limitations in Research. Examples of limitations include: Issues with sample and selection, Insufficient sample size, population traits or specific participants for statistical ...

  15. PDF How to Present Limitations and 13 Alternatives

    13 • How to Present Limitations and Alternatives 249 In this example, the first quote would not be sufficient for most dissertation com-mittees, as it does not display that the student understands the concept of recall bias. The improved example clearly defines the concept of recall bias as it relates to the pro-

  16. Dissertation Structure & Layout 101 (+ Examples)

    Time to recap…. And there you have it - the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows: Title page. Acknowledgments page. Abstract (or executive summary) Table of contents, list of figures and tables.

  17. Limitations of Research Study

    The dissertation has methodological limitations. These include problems in the study's design and execution and constraints. Simple limitation examples: a small sample size can weaken statistical power. Flaws in prior research design can also hurt the study's validity. Collecting precise and complete data in the scientific literature is hard.

  18. Research Limitations vs Research Delimitations

    Research Limitations. Research limitations are, at the simplest level, the weaknesses of the study, based on factors that are often outside of your control as the researcher. These factors could include things like time, access to funding, equipment, data or participants.For example, if you weren't able to access a random sample of participants for your study and had to adopt a convenience ...

  19. Limitations in Research

    Some Examples of Limitations in Research are as follows: Example 1: Research Title: ... Generally, limitations should be discussed in the conclusion section of a research paper or thesis, although they may also be mentioned in other sections, such as the introduction or methods. The specific limitations that are discussed will depend on the ...

  20. List the Possible Limitations and Delimitations

    Generally, a component of limitations is to present limits related to the methodology which reflect parameters relevant to the application and interpretation of the data. Specifically, a component of limitations points to the generalizability of findings that establish internal or external validity.

  21. Research Limitations

    For example, if conducting a meta-analysis of the secondary data has not been stated as your research objective, no need to mention it as your research limitation. Research limitations in a typical dissertation may relate to the following points: 1. Formulation of research aims and objectives. You might have formulated research aims and ...

  22. Delimitations in Research

    Delimitations refer to the specific boundaries or limitations that are set in a research study in order to narrow its scope and focus. Delimitations may be related to a variety of factors, including the population being studied, the geographical location, the time period, the research design, and the methods or tools being used to collect data.

  23. Limitations of the Study Example and Tips

    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.