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How to Create an Effective Thesis Statement in 5 Easy Steps

Creating a thesis statement can be a daunting task. It’s one of the most important sentences in your paper, and it needs to be done right. But don’t worry — with these five easy steps, you’ll be able to create an effective thesis statement in no time.

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas

The first step is to brainstorm ideas for your paper. Think about what you want to say and write down any ideas that come to mind. This will help you narrow down your focus and make it easier to create your thesis statement.

Step 2: Research Your Topic

Once you have some ideas, it’s time to do some research on your topic. Look for sources that support your ideas and provide evidence for the points you want to make. This will help you refine your argument and make it more convincing.

Step 3: Formulate Your Argument

Now that you have done some research, it’s time to formulate your argument. Take the points you want to make and put them into one or two sentences that clearly state what your paper is about. This will be the basis of your thesis statement.

Step 4: Refine Your Thesis Statement

Once you have formulated your argument, it’s time to refine your thesis statement. Make sure that it is clear, concise, and specific. It should also be arguable so that readers can disagree with it if they choose.

Step 5: Test Your Thesis Statement

The last step is to test your thesis statement. Does it accurately reflect the points you want to make? Is it clear and concise? Does it make an arguable point? If not, go back and refine it until it meets all of these criteria.

Creating an effective thesis statement doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With these five easy steps, you can create a strong thesis statement in no time at all.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


limitations in dissertation

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How to Present the Limitations of the Study Examples

limitations in dissertation

What are the limitations of a study?

The limitations of a study detail any flaws or shortcomings in a research 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


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

Research Limitations

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  • The role of limitations in research: why they are important
  • How to Organize Limitations of a Research Study

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What are the Limitations of a Study (Research)?

Why and where to include limitations in my research paper, common limitations of the researchers.

  • Limited Access to Information

Time Limits

Conflicts on biased views and personal issues, different types, 1. research design limitations, 2. impact limitations, 3. data or statistical limitations, how to structure your research limitations correctly, how to set your research limitations, formulation of your objectives and aims, implementation of your data collection methods, what are sample sizes, lacking previous studies in the same field, scope of discussions, concluding thoughts.

When completing a study or any other important work, there are different details that you should include to present its comprehensive and clear description. Sometimes you might even need to hire a thesis writer to help you with the whole writing process. Don’t underrate the section with limitations in research . It plays a big role in the entire process. Some students find it difficult to write this part, while others are reluctant to include it in their academic papers. Don’t underestimate the significance of limitations in research to provide readers with an accurate context of your work and enough data to evaluate the impact and relevance of your results. What is the best way to go about them? Keep reading to find out more.

Every research has its limitations. These limitations can appear due to constraints on methodology or research design. Needless to say, this may impact your whole study or research paper. Most researchers prefer to not discuss their study limitations because they think it may decrease the value of their paper in the eyes of the audience.

Remember that it’s quite important to show your study limitations to your audience (other researchers, editors of journals, and public readers). You need to notice that you know about these limitations and about the impact they may have. It’s important to give an explanation of how your research limitations can affect the conclusions and thoughts drawn from your research. 

In this guide, you can read useful tips on how to write limitations on your future research. Read great techniques on making a proper limitations section and see examples to make sure you have got an idea of writing your qualitative research limitations. You need to understand that even if limitations show the weaknesses of your future research, including them in your study can make your paper strengthen because you show all the problems before your readers will discover them by themselves. 

Apart from this, when the author points out the study limitations, it means that you have researched all the weak sides of your study and you understand the topic deeply. Needless to say, all the studies have their limitations even if you know how to make research design properly. When you’re honest with your readers, it can impress people much better than ignoring limitations at all.

Every research has certain limitations, and it’s completely normal, but you need to minimize their range of scope in the process. Provide your acknowledgment of them in the conclusion. Identify and understand potential shortcomings in your work.

When discussing limitations in research, explain how they impact your findings because creating their short list or description isn’t enough. Your research may have many limitations. Your basic goal is to discuss the ones that relate to the research questions that you choose for a specific academic assignment.

Limitations of your qualitative research can become clear to your readers even before they start to read your study. Sometimes, people can see the limitations only when they have viewed the whole document. You have to present your study limitations clearly in the Discussion section of a researh paper . This is the final part of your work where it’s logical to place the limitations section. You should write the limitations at the very beginning of this paragraph, just after you have highlighted the strong sides of the research methodology. When you discuss the limitations before the findings are analyzed, it will help to see how to qualify and apply these findings in future research.   

Limitations related to the researcher must also be written and shown to readers. You have to provide suggestions on decreasing these limitations in both your and future studies.

Limited Access to Information 

Your study may involve some organizations and people in the research, and sometimes you may get problems with access to these organizations. Due to this, you need to redesign and rewrite your study. You need to explain the cause of limited access to your readers.

Needless to say, all the researchers have their deadlines when they need to complete their studies. Sometimes, time constraints can affect your research negatively. If this happened, you need to acknowledge it and mention a need for future research to solve the main problem. 

Some researchers can have biased views because of their cultural background or personal views. Needless to say, it can affect the research. Apart from this, researchers with biased views can choose only those results and data that support their main arguments. If you want to avoid this problem, pay your attention to the problem statement and proper data gathering.

Before you start your study or work, keep in mind that there are specific limitations to what you test or possible research results. What are their types? There are different types that students may encounter and they all have unique features, including:

  • Research design limitations,
  • Impact limitations,
  • Data or statistical limitations.

Specific constraints on your population research or available procedures may affect the final outcomes or results that you obtain.

Even if your research has excellent stats and a strong design, it may suffer from the impact of such factors as:

  • The field is conductive to incremental findings,
  • Being too population-specific.
  • A strong regional focus.

In some cases, it’s impossible to collect enough data or enrollment is very difficult, and all that under-powers your research results. They may stem from your study design. They produce more issues in interpreting your findings.

There are strict rules to structure this section of your academic paper where you need to justify and explain its potential weaknesses. Take these basic steps to end up with a well-structured section:

  • Announce to identify your research limitations and explain their importance,
  • Reflect to provide the necessary depth, explain their nature, and justify your study choices,
  • Look forward to suggest how it’s possible to overcome them in the future.

They walk your readers through this section. You need them to make it clear to your target audience that you recognize potential weaknesses in your work, understand them, and can point effective solutions.

No one is perfect. It means that your work isn’t beyond possible flaws, but you need to use them as a great opportunity to overcome new challenges and improve your knowledge. In a typical academic paper, research limitations can relate to these points:

  • Formulation of your objectives and aims,
  • Implementation of your data collection methods,
  • Sample sizes,
  • Lack of previous studies in your chosen area,
  • The scope of discussions.

Learn to determine them in each one.

Your work has certain shortcomings if you formulate objectives and aims in a very broad manner. What to do in this case? Specify effective methods or ways to narrow your formulation of objectives and aims to increase the level of your study focus.

If you don’t have a lot of experience in collecting primary data, there’s a certain risk that the implementation of your methods has flaws. It’s necessary to acknowledge that.

They depend on the nature of your chosen problem and their significance is bigger in quantitative studies, unlike the qualitative ones. If your sample size is very small, statistical tests will fail to identify important relationships or connections within a particular data set. How to solve this problem? State that other researchers need to base the same study on a larger sample size to end up with more accurate results. To find more information on how to identify a resesrch problem , check our guide. 

Writing a literature review is a key step in any scientific work because it helps students determine the scope of existing studies in the chosen area. Why should you use the literature review findings? They are a basic foundation for any researcher who must use them to achieve a set of specific objectives or aims. What if there are no previous works? You may face this challenge if you choose an evolving or current problem for your study or if it’s very narrow.

Feel free to include this point as a shortcoming of your work, no matter what your chosen area is. Why? The main reason is that you don’t have long years of experience in writing scientific papers or completing complex studies. That’s why the depth and scope of your discussions can be compromised in different levels compared to scholars with a lot of expertise. Include certain points from limitations in research. Use them as suggestions for the future.

Any research suffers from specific limitations that range from common flaws to serious problems in design or methodology dissertation has. The ability to set these shortcomings plays a huge role in writing a successful academic paper and earning good grades. What if you lack it? Turn to our professional thesis writers and get their expert consultation on thesis or research paper.

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  • Introduction
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  • Data Analysis

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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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.

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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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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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limitations in dissertation

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.

limitations in dissertation

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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.


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


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


Very helpful Many thanks 🙏


Excellent it resolved my conflict .


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

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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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