Approaches to research a handbook for those writing a dissertation

When discussing the limitations of your research, be sure to:. 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.

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Purdue University. Don't Inflate the Importance of Your Findings!

Step 1: Write a winning dissertation proposal

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! 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.

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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. 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.

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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.

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Huberman, A. Michael and Matthew B. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, , pp. Contact us. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Limitations of the Study This guide provides advice on how to develop and organize a research paper in the social and behavioral sciences.

The Conclusion Toggle Dropdown Appendices Definition The limitations of the study are those characteristics of design or methodology that impacted or influenced the interpretation of the findings from your research.

2.1 What Is A Literature Review In Research Thesis

Importance of Descriptions of Possible Limitations All studies have limitations. 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. You need to not only describe these limitations but provide cogent reasons why you believe data is missing or is unreliable. 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.

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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.


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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.


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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. To set a reading intention, click through to any list item, and look for the panel on the left hand side:.

Contact us. Approaches to research: a handbook for those writing a dissertation. Library availability. Buy from Blackwell's. Have you read this? Please log in to set a read status Setting a reading intention helps you organise your reading. Read the guide. Your reading intentions are private to you and will not be shown to other users. What are reading intentions?