With presenting the limitations of your research you acknowledge the obstacles. Limitations channel you into certain directions and challenge you every time you think a genius idea came to your mind. They bring you down to Earth right when you thought you were on the verge of a breakthrough.
A common mistake students and even experienced professors make is assuming that identifying the research limitations makes the audience question the relevance and value of the research. However, the fact that a researcher managed to identify all the limitations, conduct the study, and draw conclusions is a sign of good academic capabilities.
What are research limitations?
Think about all the problems you faced on every stage of writing your paper. The shortcomings, unexpected changes of objectives, modifying your interpretations are all limitations that were imposed on your research process.
A discussion of limitations should be a subjective learning process that assesses the magnitude, and critically evaluates the extenuating impact of the said limitations. This leads to the importance of stating limitations as it creates opportunities for both the original author and other researchers to improve the quality and validity of any future studies.
Why include limitations in a research paper
It is better to specify all the limitations yourself than have it brought up during your research presentation. If you show your audience that your research problem was studied carefully and with consideration of the research limitations, your credibility level will increase. It is vital when you are a student and your experience is not that immense. The committee might want to question your data collection ways, problem identification, and other choices you made. Most questions that the reader has are based on the limitations that were not taken into account by the author.
Common research limitations of the dissertation
No doubt the limitations significantly depend on the topic and field you are researching. If you are opting for the recently discovered notions, with the limited literature available online, the size of your research might not reach the requirement. The pillars of every winning research are scope and resource base. The more extensive background of the topic is the more chances you have to complete a ground-breaking study. For sure, the analytical skills matter too.
If you already have the topic assigned to you, and you do not know where to start looking for limitations, pay attention to the following points.
- Selection. If you want to research a disappearing language but you have only a couple of books online and no chance to meet the remaining speakers, your selection will be limited. At that point, you need to assess whether the existing material is enough to achieve all aims, objectives you set. Either look for a different material or change the focus.
- Data collection. If you are only capable of using online sources or conducting the online study, all the literature and selection samples become limited.
- Facilities and equipment. Your resource base, excluding literature, might require certain equipment. If you have no chances of getting extra laptops, software, or other similar equipment to conduct the study, it becomes your limitation.
- References. It happens that you find an approach or idea but you are not sure about its original author. Mind that everything in your paper is either the information collected from reliable sources or your thoughts. The materials you refer to are cited in a required format. All your interpretations usually go into the conclusion section. In case you write down the idea without indicating the author it considers to be plagiarism.
- Accuracy and date of publishing your data. It is crucial to make sure that on the stage of data collection you double-check the relevance of your selection. It is worth checking whether the same topic and data have not been presented before. It is possible that your hypothesis was figured out already.
Structuring and Writing Limitations in Research Paper
The limitation section should be written in such a way that it demonstrates that the author understands the core concepts of bias, confounding, and analytical self-criticism. It is not necessary to highlight every single limitation, but rather the ones that have a direct impact on the study results or the research problem. The thought process of the researcher should be presented, explaining the pros and cons of any decisions made and the circumstances which have led to the limitation. Structuring the limitations should be done in a fourfold approach:
- Identify and describe the limitation. This should be done through the use of professional terminology and accompanying definitions when necessary. The explanation of the limitation should be brief and precise to ensure that readers have a clear grasp of the issue, as well as being able to follow the author’s pattern of thought.
- Outline the potential influence or impact that the limitation may have on the study. This consists of elements such as the likelihood of occurrence, the magnitude of impact, and the general direction that a specific limitation has driven the study findings. It is generally accepted that some limitations will have a more profound influence than others. Therefore, it is vital to highlight the impact of the limitation so that readers can decide which issues to consider when examining the topic as limitations with a null value bias are less dangerous.
- Discuss alternative approaches to the specific limitations, or the research question in general. A justification should be provided by the author to support the particular approach and methodology selected in the specific study and why it was warranted within the context of any limitations. If possible, persuasive evidence should be provided and alternative decisions discussed to some extent. This demonstrates transparency of thought and reassures readers that despite potential limitations, the selected approach was the best alternative for the current research on the topic within the field of study.
- Describe techniques to minimize any risks resulting from the limitations. This may include reference to previous research and suggestions on the improvement of design and analysis.