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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21 Research Limitations Examples

21 Research Limitations Examples

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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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.


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What are the limitations in research and how to write them?

Learn about the potential limitations in research and how to appropriately address them in order to deliver honest and ethical research.

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It is fairly uncommon for researchers to stumble into the term research limitations when working on their research paper. Limitations in research can arise owing to constraints on design, methods, materials, and so on, and these aspects, unfortunately, may have an influence on your subject’s findings.

In this Mind The Graph’s article, we’ll discuss some recommendations for writing limitations in research , provide examples of various common types of limitations, and suggest how to properly present this information.

What are the limitations in research?

The limitations in research are the constraints in design, methods or even researchers’ limitations that affect and influence the interpretation of your research’s ultimate findings. These are limitations on the generalization and usability of findings that emerge from the design of the research and/or the method employed to ensure validity both internally and externally. 

Researchers are usually cautious to acknowledge the limitations of their research in their publications for fear of undermining the research’s scientific validity. No research is faultless or covers every possible angle. As a result, addressing the constraints of your research exhibits honesty and integrity .

Why should include limitations of research in my paper?

Though limitations tackle potential flaws in research, commenting on them at the conclusion of your paper, by demonstrating that you are aware of these limitations and explaining how they impact the conclusions that may be taken from the research, improves your research by disclosing any issues before other researchers or reviewers do . 

Additionally, emphasizing research constraints implies that you have thoroughly investigated the ramifications of research shortcomings and have a thorough understanding of your research problem. 

Limits exist in any research; being honest about them and explaining them would impress researchers and reviewers more than disregarding them. 

Remember that acknowledging a research’s shortcomings offers a chance to provide ideas for future research, but be careful to describe how your study may help to concentrate on these outstanding problems.

Possible limitations examples

Here are some limitations connected to methodology and the research procedure that you may need to explain and discuss in connection to your findings.

Methodological limitations

Sample size.

The number of units of analysis used in your study is determined by the sort of research issue being investigated. It is important to note that if your sample is too small, finding significant connections in the data will be challenging, as statistical tests typically require a larger sample size to ensure a fair representation and this can be limiting. 

Lack of available or reliable data

A lack of data or trustworthy data will almost certainly necessitate limiting the scope of your research or the size of your sample, or it can be a substantial impediment to identifying a pattern and a relevant connection.

Lack of prior research on the subject

Citing previous research papers forms the basis of your literature review and aids in comprehending the research subject you are researching. Yet there may be little if any, past research on your issue.

The measure used to collect data

After finishing your analysis of the findings, you realize that the method you used to collect data limited your capacity to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the findings. Recognize the flaw by mentioning that future researchers should change the specific approach for data collection.

Issues with research samples and selection

Sampling inaccuracies arise when a probability sampling method is employed to choose a sample, but that sample does not accurately represent the overall population or the relevant group. As a result, your study suffers from “sampling bias” or “selection bias.”

Limitations of the research

When your research requires polling certain persons or a specific group, you may have encountered the issue of limited access to these interviewees. Because of the limited access, you may need to reorganize or rearrange your research. In this scenario, explain why access is restricted and ensure that your findings are still trustworthy and valid despite the constraint.

Time constraints

Practical difficulties may limit the amount of time available to explore a research issue and monitor changes as they occur. If time restrictions have any detrimental influence on your research, recognize this impact by expressing the necessity for a future investigation.

Due to their cultural origins or opinions on observed events, researchers may carry biased opinions, which can influence the credibility of a research. Furthermore, researchers may exhibit biases toward data and conclusions that only support their hypotheses or arguments.

The structure of the limitations section 

The limitations of your research are usually stated at the beginning of the discussion section of your paper so that the reader is aware of and comprehends the limitations prior to actually reading the rest of your findings, or they are stated at the end of the discussion section as an acknowledgment of the need for further research.

The ideal way is to divide your limitations section into three steps: 

1. Identify the research constraints; 

2. Describe in great detail how they affect your research; 

3. Mention the opportunity for future investigations and give possibilities. 

By following this method while addressing the constraints of your research, you will be able to effectively highlight your research’s shortcomings without jeopardizing the quality and integrity of your research.

Present your research or paper in an innovative way

If you want your readers to be engaged and participate in your research, try Mind The Graph tool to add visual assets to your content. Infographics may improve comprehension and are easy to read, just as the Mind The Graph tool is simple to use and offers a variety of templates from which you can select the one that best suits your information.


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Jessica Abbadia is a lawyer that has been working in Digital Marketing since 2020, improving organic performance for apps and websites in various regions through ASO and SEO. Currently developing scientific and intellectual knowledge for the community's benefit. Jessica is an animal rights activist who enjoys reading and drinking strong coffee.

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How to present limitations in research

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30 January 2024

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Limitations don’t invalidate or diminish your results, but it’s best to acknowledge them. This will enable you to address any questions your study failed to answer because of them.

In this guide, learn how to recognize, present, and overcome limitations in research.

  • What is a research limitation?

Research limitations are weaknesses in your research design or execution that may have impacted outcomes and conclusions. Uncovering limitations doesn’t necessarily indicate poor research design—it just means you encountered challenges you couldn’t have anticipated that limited your research efforts.

Does basic research have limitations?

Basic research aims to provide more information about your research topic . It requires the same standard research methodology and data collection efforts as any other research type, and it can also have limitations.

  • Common research limitations

Researchers encounter common limitations when embarking on a study. Limitations can occur in relation to the methods you apply or the research process you design. They could also be connected to you as the researcher.

Methodology limitations

Not having access to data or reliable information can impact the methods used to facilitate your research. A lack of data or reliability may limit the parameters of your study area and the extent of your exploration.

Your sample size may also be affected because you won’t have any direction on how big or small it should be and who or what you should include. Having too few participants won’t adequately represent the population or groups of people needed to draw meaningful conclusions.

Research process limitations

The study’s design can impose constraints on the process. For example, as you’re conducting the research, issues may arise that don’t conform to the data collection methodology you developed. You may not realize until well into the process that you should have incorporated more specific questions or comprehensive experiments to generate the data you need to have confidence in your results.

Constraints on resources can also have an impact. Being limited on participants or participation incentives may limit your sample sizes. Insufficient tools, equipment, and materials to conduct a thorough study may also be a factor.

Common researcher limitations

Here are some of the common researcher limitations you may encounter:

Time: some research areas require multi-year longitudinal approaches, but you might not be able to dedicate that much time. Imagine you want to measure how much memory a person loses as they age. This may involve conducting multiple tests on a sample of participants over 20–30 years, which may be impossible.

Bias: researchers can consciously or unconsciously apply bias to their research. Biases can contribute to relying on research sources and methodologies that will only support your beliefs about the research you’re embarking on. You might also omit relevant issues or participants from the scope of your study because of your biases.

Limited access to data : you may need to pay to access specific databases or journals that would be helpful to your research process. You might also need to gain information from certain people or organizations but have limited access to them. These cases require readjusting your process and explaining why your findings are still reliable.

  • Why is it important to identify limitations?

Identifying limitations adds credibility to research and provides a deeper understanding of how you arrived at your conclusions.

Constraints may have prevented you from collecting specific data or information you hoped would prove or disprove your hypothesis or provide a more comprehensive understanding of your research topic.

However, identifying the limitations contributing to your conclusions can inspire further research efforts that help gather more substantial information and data.

  • Where to put limitations in a research paper

A research paper is broken up into different sections that appear in the following order:



The discussion portion of your paper explores your findings and puts them in the context of the overall research. Either place research limitations at the beginning of the discussion section before the analysis of your findings or at the end of the section to indicate that further research needs to be pursued.

What not to include in the limitations section

Evidence that doesn’t support your hypothesis is not a limitation, so you shouldn’t include it in the limitation section. Don’t just list limitations and their degree of severity without further explanation.

  • How to present limitations

You’ll want to present the limitations of your study in a way that doesn’t diminish the validity of your research and leave the reader wondering if your results and conclusions have been compromised.

Include only the limitations that directly relate to and impact how you addressed your research questions. Following a specific format enables the reader to develop an understanding of the weaknesses within the context of your findings without doubting the quality and integrity of your research.

Identify the limitations specific to your study

You don’t have to identify every possible limitation that might have occurred during your research process. Only identify those that may have influenced the quality of your findings and your ability to answer your research question.

Explain study limitations in detail

This explanation should be the most significant portion of your limitation section.

Link each limitation with an interpretation and appraisal of their impact on the study. You’ll have to evaluate and explain whether the error, method, or validity issues influenced the study’s outcome and how.

Propose a direction for future studies and present alternatives

In this section, suggest how researchers can avoid the pitfalls you experienced during your research process.

If an issue with methodology was a limitation, propose alternate methods that may help with a smoother and more conclusive research project . Discuss the pros and cons of your alternate recommendation.

Describe steps taken to minimize each limitation

You probably took steps to try to address or mitigate limitations when you noticed them throughout the course of your research project. Describe these steps in the limitation section.

  • Limitation example

“Approaches like stem cell transplantation and vaccination in AD [Alzheimer’s disease] work on a cellular or molecular level in the laboratory. However, translation into clinical settings will remain a challenge for the next decade.”

The authors are saying that even though these methods showed promise in helping people with memory loss when conducted in the lab (in other words, using animal studies), more studies are needed. These may be controlled clinical trials, for example. 

However, the short life span of stem cells outside the lab and the vaccination’s severe inflammatory side effects are limitations. Researchers won’t be able to conduct clinical trials until these issues are overcome.

  • How to overcome limitations in research

You’ve already started on the road to overcoming limitations in research by acknowledging that they exist. However, you need to ensure readers don’t mistake weaknesses for errors within your research design.

To do this, you’ll need to justify and explain your rationale for the methods, research design, and analysis tools you chose and how you noticed they may have presented limitations.

Your readers need to know that even when limitations presented themselves, you followed best practices and the ethical standards of your field. You didn’t violate any rules and regulations during your research process.

You’ll also want to reinforce the validity of your conclusions and results with multiple sources, methods, and perspectives. This prevents readers from assuming your findings were derived from a single or biased source.

  • Learning and improving starts with limitations in research

Dealing with limitations with transparency and integrity helps identify areas for future improvements and developments. It’s a learning process, providing valuable insights into how you can improve methodologies, expand sample sizes, or explore alternate approaches to further support the validity of your findings.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

The goal of a research proposal is twofold: to present and justify the need to study a research problem and to present the practical ways in which the proposed study should be conducted. The design elements and procedures for conducting research are governed by standards of the predominant discipline in which the problem resides, therefore, the guidelines for research proposals are more exacting and less formal than a general project proposal. Research proposals contain extensive literature reviews. They must provide persuasive evidence that a need exists for the proposed study. In addition to providing a rationale, a proposal describes detailed methodology for conducting the research consistent with requirements of the professional or academic field and a statement on anticipated outcomes and benefits derived from the study's completion.

Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

How to Approach Writing a Research Proposal

Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons:

  • Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study;
  • Learn how to conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to determine that the research problem has not been adequately addressed or has been answered ineffectively and, in so doing, become better at locating pertinent scholarship related to your topic;
  • Improve your general research and writing skills;
  • Practice identifying the logical steps that must be taken to accomplish one's research goals;
  • Critically review, examine, and consider the use of different methods for gathering and analyzing data related to the research problem; and,
  • Nurture a sense of inquisitiveness within yourself and to help see yourself as an active participant in the process of conducting scholarly research.

A proposal should contain all the key elements involved in designing a completed research study, with sufficient information that allows readers to assess the validity and usefulness of your proposed study. The only elements missing from a research proposal are the findings of the study and your analysis of those findings. Finally, an effective proposal is judged on the quality of your writing and, therefore, it is important that your proposal is coherent, clear, and compelling.

Regardless of the research problem you are investigating and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions:

  • What do you plan to accomplish? Be clear and succinct in defining the research problem and what it is you are proposing to investigate.
  • Why do you want to do the research? In addition to detailing your research design, you also must conduct a thorough review of the literature and provide convincing evidence that it is a topic worthy of in-depth study. A successful research proposal must answer the "So What?" question.
  • How are you going to conduct the research? Be sure that what you propose is doable. If you're having difficulty formulating a research problem to propose investigating, go here for strategies in developing a problem to study.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Failure to be concise . A research proposal must be focused and not be "all over the map" or diverge into unrelated tangents without a clear sense of purpose.
  • Failure to cite landmark works in your literature review . Proposals should be grounded in foundational research that lays a foundation for understanding the development and scope of the the topic and its relevance.
  • Failure to delimit the contextual scope of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.]. As with any research paper, your proposed study must inform the reader how and in what ways the study will frame the problem.
  • Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research . This is critical. In many workplace settings, the research proposal is a formal document intended to argue for why a study should be funded.
  • Sloppy or imprecise writing, or poor grammar . Although a research proposal does not represent a completed research study, there is still an expectation that it is well-written and follows the style and rules of good academic writing.
  • Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues . Your proposal should focus on only a few key research questions in order to support the argument that the research needs to be conducted. Minor issues, even if valid, can be mentioned but they should not dominate the overall narrative.

Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal.  The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Sanford, Keith. Information for Students: Writing a Research Proposal. Baylor University; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Structure and Writing Style

Beginning the Proposal Process

As with writing most college-level academic papers, research proposals are generally organized the same way throughout most social science disciplines. The text of proposals generally vary in length between ten and thirty-five pages, followed by the list of references. However, before you begin, read the assignment carefully and, if anything seems unclear, ask your professor whether there are any specific requirements for organizing and writing the proposal.

A good place to begin is to ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Why is the topic important?
  • How is it significant within the subject areas covered in my class?
  • What problems will it help solve?
  • How does it build upon [and hopefully go beyond] research already conducted on the topic?
  • What exactly should I plan to do, and can I get it done in the time available?

In general, a compelling research proposal should document your knowledge of the topic and demonstrate your enthusiasm for conducting the study. Approach it with the intention of leaving your readers feeling like, "Wow, that's an exciting idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!"

Most proposals should include the following sections:

I.  Introduction

In the real world of higher education, a research proposal is most often written by scholars seeking grant funding for a research project or it's the first step in getting approval to write a doctoral dissertation. Even if this is just a course assignment, treat your introduction as the initial pitch of an idea based on a thorough examination of the significance of a research problem. After reading the introduction, your readers should not only have an understanding of what you want to do, but they should also be able to gain a sense of your passion for the topic and to be excited about the study's possible outcomes. Note that most proposals do not include an abstract [summary] before the introduction.

Think about your introduction as a narrative written in two to four paragraphs that succinctly answers the following four questions :

  • What is the central research problem?
  • What is the topic of study related to that research problem?
  • What methods should be used to analyze the research problem?
  • Answer the "So What?" question by explaining why this is important research, what is its significance, and why should someone reading the proposal care about the outcomes of the proposed study?

II.  Background and Significance

This is where you explain the scope and context of your proposal and describe in detail why it's important. It can be melded into your introduction or you can create a separate section to help with the organization and narrative flow of your proposal. Approach writing this section with the thought that you can’t assume your readers will know as much about the research problem as you do. Note that this section is not an essay going over everything you have learned about the topic; instead, you must choose what is most relevant in explaining the aims of your research.

To that end, while there are no prescribed rules for establishing the significance of your proposed study, you should attempt to address some or all of the following:

  • State the research problem and give a more detailed explanation about the purpose of the study than what you stated in the introduction. This is particularly important if the problem is complex or multifaceted .
  • Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing; be sure to answer the "So What? question [i.e., why should anyone care?].
  • Describe the major issues or problems examined by your research. This can be in the form of questions to be addressed. Be sure to note how your proposed study builds on previous assumptions about the research problem.
  • Explain the methods you plan to use for conducting your research. Clearly identify the key sources you intend to use and explain how they will contribute to your analysis of the topic.
  • Describe the boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus. Where appropriate, state not only what you plan to study, but what aspects of the research problem will be excluded from the study.
  • If necessary, provide definitions of key concepts, theories, or terms.

III.  Literature Review

Connected to the background and significance of your study is a section of your proposal devoted to a more deliberate review and synthesis of prior studies related to the research problem under investigation . The purpose here is to place your project within the larger whole of what is currently being explored, while at the same time, demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. Think about what questions other researchers have asked, what methodological approaches they have used, and what is your understanding of their findings and, when stated, their recommendations. Also pay attention to any suggestions for further research.

Since a literature review is information dense, it is crucial that this section is intelligently structured to enable a reader to grasp the key arguments underpinning your proposed study in relation to the arguments put forth by other researchers. A good strategy is to break the literature into "conceptual categories" [themes] rather than systematically or chronologically describing groups of materials one at a time. Note that conceptual categories generally reveal themselves after you have read most of the pertinent literature on your topic so adding new categories is an on-going process of discovery as you review more studies. How do you know you've covered the key conceptual categories underlying the research literature? Generally, you can have confidence that all of the significant conceptual categories have been identified if you start to see repetition in the conclusions or recommendations that are being made.

NOTE: Do not shy away from challenging the conclusions made in prior research as a basis for supporting the need for your proposal. Assess what you believe is missing and state how previous research has failed to adequately examine the issue that your study addresses. Highlighting the problematic conclusions strengthens your proposal. For more information on writing literature reviews, GO HERE .

To help frame your proposal's review of prior research, consider the "five C’s" of writing a literature review:

  • Cite , so as to keep the primary focus on the literature pertinent to your research problem.
  • Compare the various arguments, theories, methodologies, and findings expressed in the literature: what do the authors agree on? Who applies similar approaches to analyzing the research problem?
  • Contrast the various arguments, themes, methodologies, approaches, and controversies expressed in the literature: describe what are the major areas of disagreement, controversy, or debate among scholars?
  • Critique the literature: Which arguments are more persuasive, and why? Which approaches, findings, and methodologies seem most reliable, valid, or appropriate, and why? Pay attention to the verbs you use to describe what an author says/does [e.g., asserts, demonstrates, argues, etc.].
  • Connect the literature to your own area of research and investigation: how does your own work draw upon, depart from, synthesize, or add a new perspective to what has been said in the literature?

IV.  Research Design and Methods

This section must be well-written and logically organized because you are not actually doing the research, yet, your reader must have confidence that you have a plan worth pursuing . The reader will never have a study outcome from which to evaluate whether your methodological choices were the correct ones. Thus, the objective here is to convince the reader that your overall research design and proposed methods of analysis will correctly address the problem and that the methods will provide the means to effectively interpret the potential results. Your design and methods should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

Describe the overall research design by building upon and drawing examples from your review of the literature. Consider not only methods that other researchers have used, but methods of data gathering that have not been used but perhaps could be. Be specific about the methodological approaches you plan to undertake to obtain information, the techniques you would use to analyze the data, and the tests of external validity to which you commit yourself [i.e., the trustworthiness by which you can generalize from your study to other people, places, events, and/or periods of time].

When describing the methods you will use, be sure to cover the following:

  • Specify the research process you will undertake and the way you will interpret the results obtained in relation to the research problem. Don't just describe what you intend to achieve from applying the methods you choose, but state how you will spend your time while applying these methods [e.g., coding text from interviews to find statements about the need to change school curriculum; running a regression to determine if there is a relationship between campaign advertising on social media sites and election outcomes in Europe ].
  • Keep in mind that the methodology is not just a list of tasks; it is a deliberate argument as to why techniques for gathering information add up to the best way to investigate the research problem. This is an important point because the mere listing of tasks to be performed does not demonstrate that, collectively, they effectively address the research problem. Be sure you clearly explain this.
  • Anticipate and acknowledge any potential barriers and pitfalls in carrying out your research design and explain how you plan to address them. No method applied to research in the social and behavioral sciences is perfect, so you need to describe where you believe challenges may exist in obtaining data or accessing information. It's always better to acknowledge this than to have it brought up by your professor!

V.  Preliminary Suppositions and Implications

Just because you don't have to actually conduct the study and analyze the results, doesn't mean you can skip talking about the analytical process and potential implications . The purpose of this section is to argue how and in what ways you believe your research will refine, revise, or extend existing knowledge in the subject area under investigation. Depending on the aims and objectives of your study, describe how the anticipated results will impact future scholarly research, theory, practice, forms of interventions, or policy making. Note that such discussions may have either substantive [a potential new policy], theoretical [a potential new understanding], or methodological [a potential new way of analyzing] significance.   When thinking about the potential implications of your study, ask the following questions:

  • What might the results mean in regards to challenging the theoretical framework and underlying assumptions that support the study?
  • What suggestions for subsequent research could arise from the potential outcomes of the study?
  • What will the results mean to practitioners in the natural settings of their workplace, organization, or community?
  • Will the results influence programs, methods, and/or forms of intervention?
  • How might the results contribute to the solution of social, economic, or other types of problems?
  • Will the results influence policy decisions?
  • In what way do individuals or groups benefit should your study be pursued?
  • What will be improved or changed as a result of the proposed research?
  • How will the results of the study be implemented and what innovations or transformative insights could emerge from the process of implementation?

NOTE:   This section should not delve into idle speculation, opinion, or be formulated on the basis of unclear evidence . The purpose is to reflect upon gaps or understudied areas of the current literature and describe how your proposed research contributes to a new understanding of the research problem should the study be implemented as designed.

ANOTHER NOTE : This section is also where you describe any potential limitations to your proposed study. While it is impossible to highlight all potential limitations because the study has yet to be conducted, you still must tell the reader where and in what form impediments may arise and how you plan to address them.

VI.  Conclusion

The conclusion reiterates the importance or significance of your proposal and provides a brief summary of the entire study . This section should be only one or two paragraphs long, emphasizing why the research problem is worth investigating, why your research study is unique, and how it should advance existing knowledge.

Someone reading this section should come away with an understanding of:

  • Why the study should be done;
  • The specific purpose of the study and the research questions it attempts to answer;
  • The decision for why the research design and methods used where chosen over other options;
  • The potential implications emerging from your proposed study of the research problem; and
  • A sense of how your study fits within the broader scholarship about the research problem.

VII.  Citations

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used . In a standard research proposal, this section can take two forms, so consult with your professor about which one is preferred.

  • References -- a list of only the sources you actually used in creating your proposal.
  • Bibliography -- a list of everything you used in creating your proposal, along with additional citations to any key sources relevant to understanding the research problem.

In either case, this section should testify to the fact that you did enough preparatory work to ensure the project will complement and not just duplicate the efforts of other researchers. It demonstrates to the reader that you have a thorough understanding of prior research on the topic.

Most proposal formats have you start a new page and use the heading "References" or "Bibliography" centered at the top of the page. Cited works should always use a standard format that follows the writing style advised by the discipline of your course [e.g., education=APA; history=Chicago] or that is preferred by your professor. This section normally does not count towards the total page length of your research proposal.

Develop a Research Proposal: Writing the Proposal. Office of Library Information Services. Baltimore County Public Schools; Heath, M. Teresa Pereira and Caroline Tynan. “Crafting a Research Proposal.” The Marketing Review 10 (Summer 2010): 147-168; Jones, Mark. “Writing a Research Proposal.” In MasterClass in Geography Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning . Graham Butt, editor. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 113-127; Juni, Muhamad Hanafiah. “Writing a Research Proposal.” International Journal of Public Health and Clinical Sciences 1 (September/October 2014): 229-240; Krathwohl, David R. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education and the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005; Procter, Margaret. The Academic Proposal. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Punch, Keith and Wayne McGowan. "Developing and Writing a Research Proposal." In From Postgraduate to Social Scientist: A Guide to Key Skills . Nigel Gilbert, ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 59-81; Wong, Paul T. P. How to Write a Research Proposal. International Network on Personal Meaning. Trinity Western University; Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences , Articles, and Books. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing a Research Proposal. University Library. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Stating the Obvious: Writing Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations

Stating the Obvious: Writing Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations

During the process of writing your thesis or dissertation, you might suddenly realize that your research has inherent flaws. Don’t worry! Virtually all projects contain restrictions to your research. However, being able to recognize and accurately describe these problems is the difference between a true researcher and a grade-school kid with a science-fair project. Concerns with truthful responding, access to participants, and survey instruments are just a few of examples of restrictions on your research. In the following sections, the differences among delimitations, limitations, and assumptions of a dissertation will be clarified.


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 have adopted, and populations chosen as targets to study. When you are stating your delimitations, clearly inform readers why you chose this course of study. The answer might simply be that you were curious about the topic and/or wanted to improve standards of a professional field by revealing certain findings. In any case, you should clearly list the other options available and the reasons why you did not choose these options immediately after you list your delimitations. You might have avoided these options for reasons of practicality, interest, or relativity to the study at hand. For example, you might have only studied Hispanic mothers because they have the highest rate of obese babies. Delimitations are often strongly related to your theory and research questions. If you were researching whether there are different parenting styles between unmarried Asian, Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic women, then a delimitation of your study would be the inclusion of only participants with those demographics and the exclusion of participants from other demographics such as men, married women, and all other ethnicities of single women (inclusion and exclusion criteria). A further delimitation might be that you only included closed-ended Likert scale responses in the survey, rather than including additional open-ended responses, which might make some people more willing to take and complete your survey. Remember that delimitations are not good or bad. They are simply a detailed description of the scope of interest for your study as it relates to the research design. Don’t forget to describe the philosophical framework you used throughout your study, which also delimits your study.


Limitations of a dissertation are potential weaknesses in your study that are mostly out of your control, given limited funding, choice of research design, statistical model constraints, or other factors. In addition, a limitation is a restriction on your study that cannot be reasonably dismissed and can affect your design and results. Do not worry about limitations because limitations affect virtually all research projects, as well as most things in life. Even when you are going to your favorite restaurant, you are limited by the menu choices. If you went to a restaurant that had a menu that you were craving, you might not receive the service, price, or location that makes you enjoy your favorite restaurant. If you studied participants’ responses to a survey, you might be limited in your abilities to gain the exact type or geographic scope of participants you wanted. The people whom you managed to get to take your survey may not truly be a random sample, which is also a limitation. If you used a common test for data findings, your results are limited by the reliability of the test. If your study was limited to a certain amount of time, your results are affected by the operations of society during that time period (e.g., economy, social trends). It is important for you to remember that limitations of a dissertation are often not something that can be solved by the researcher. Also, remember that whatever limits you also limits other researchers, whether they are the largest medical research companies or consumer habits corporations. Certain kinds of limitations are often associated with the analytical approach you take in your research, too. For example, some qualitative methods like heuristics or phenomenology do not lend themselves well to replicability. Also, most of the commonly used quantitative statistical models can only determine correlation, but not causation.


Assumptions are things that are accepted as true, or at least plausible, by researchers and peers who will read your dissertation or thesis. In other words, any scholar reading your paper will assume that certain aspects of your study is true given your population, statistical test, research design, or other delimitations. For example, if you tell your friend that your favorite restaurant is an Italian place, your friend will assume that you don’t go there for the sushi. It’s assumed that you go there to eat Italian food. Because most assumptions are not discussed in-text, assumptions that are discussed in-text are discussed in the context of the limitations of your study, which is typically in the discussion section. This is important, because both assumptions and limitations affect the inferences you can draw from your study. One of the more common assumptions made in survey research is the assumption of honesty and truthful responses. However, for certain sensitive questions this assumption may be more difficult to accept, in which case it would be described as a limitation of the study. For example, asking people to report their criminal behavior in a survey may not be as reliable as asking people to report their eating habits. It is important to remember that your limitations and assumptions should not contradict one another. For instance, if you state that generalizability is a limitation of your study given that your sample was limited to one city in the United States, then you should not claim generalizability to the United States population as an assumption of your study. Statistical models in quantitative research designs are accompanied with assumptions as well, some more strict than others. These assumptions generally refer to the characteristics of the data, such as distributions, correlational trends, and variable type, just to name a few. Violating these assumptions can lead to drastically invalid results, though this often depends on sample size and other considerations.

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How to Present the Limitations of the Study Examples

research proposal limitations are

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.

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

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  • How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

How to Write a Research Proposal | Examples & Templates

Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023.

Structure of a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will conduct your research.

The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements:


Literature review.

  • Research design

Reference list

While the sections may vary, the overall objective is always the same. A research proposal serves as a blueprint and guide for your research plan, helping you get organized and feel confident in the path forward you choose to take.

Table of contents

Research proposal purpose, research proposal examples, research design and methods, contribution to knowledge, research schedule, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research proposals.

Academics often have to write research proposals to get funding for their projects. As a student, you might have to write a research proposal as part of a grad school application , or prior to starting your thesis or dissertation .

In addition to helping you figure out what your research can look like, a proposal can also serve to demonstrate why your project is worth pursuing to a funder, educational institution, or supervisor.

Research proposal aims
Show your reader why your project is interesting, original, and important.
Demonstrate your comfort and familiarity with your field.
Show that you understand the current state of research on your topic.
Make a case for your .
Demonstrate that you have carefully thought about the data, tools, and procedures necessary to conduct your research.
Confirm that your project is feasible within the timeline of your program or funding deadline.

Research proposal length

The length of a research proposal can vary quite a bit. A bachelor’s or master’s thesis proposal can be just a few pages, while proposals for PhD dissertations or research funding are usually much longer and more detailed. Your supervisor can help you determine the best length for your work.

One trick to get started is to think of your proposal’s structure as a shorter version of your thesis or dissertation , only without the results , conclusion and discussion sections.

Download our research proposal template

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See an example

research proposal limitations are

Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We’ve included a few for you below.

  • Example research proposal #1: “A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management”
  • Example research proposal #2: “Medical Students as Mediators of Change in Tobacco Use”

Like your dissertation or thesis, the proposal will usually have a title page that includes:

  • The proposed title of your project
  • Your supervisor’s name
  • Your institution and department

The first part of your proposal is the initial pitch for your project. Make sure it succinctly explains what you want to do and why.

Your introduction should:

  • Introduce your topic
  • Give necessary background and context
  • Outline your  problem statement  and research questions

To guide your introduction , include information about:

  • Who could have an interest in the topic (e.g., scientists, policymakers)
  • How much is already known about the topic
  • What is missing from this current knowledge
  • What new insights your research will contribute
  • Why you believe this research is worth doing

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As you get started, it’s important to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the most important research on your topic. A strong literature review  shows your reader that your project has a solid foundation in existing knowledge or theory. It also shows that you’re not simply repeating what other people have already done or said, but rather using existing research as a jumping-off point for your own.

In this section, share exactly how your project will contribute to ongoing conversations in the field by:

  • Comparing and contrasting the main theories, methods, and debates
  • Examining the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
  • Explaining how will you build on, challenge, or synthesize prior scholarship

Following the literature review, restate your main  objectives . This brings the focus back to your own project. Next, your research design or methodology section will describe your overall approach, and the practical steps you will take to answer your research questions.

Building a research proposal methodology
? or  ? , , or research design?
, )? ?
, , , )?

To finish your proposal on a strong note, explore the potential implications of your research for your field. Emphasize again what you aim to contribute and why it matters.

For example, your results might have implications for:

  • Improving best practices
  • Informing policymaking decisions
  • Strengthening a theory or model
  • Challenging popular or scientific beliefs
  • Creating a basis for future research

Last but not least, your research proposal must include correct citations for every source you have used, compiled in a reference list . To create citations quickly and easily, you can use our free APA citation generator .

Some institutions or funders require a detailed timeline of the project, asking you to forecast what you will do at each stage and how long it may take. While not always required, be sure to check the requirements of your project.

Here’s an example schedule to help you get started. You can also download a template at the button below.

Download our research schedule template

Example research schedule
Research phase Objectives Deadline
1. Background research and literature review 20th January
2. Research design planning and data analysis methods 13th February
3. Data collection and preparation with selected participants and code interviews 24th March
4. Data analysis of interview transcripts 22nd April
5. Writing 17th June
6. Revision final work 28th July

If you are applying for research funding, chances are you will have to include a detailed budget. This shows your estimates of how much each part of your project will cost.

Make sure to check what type of costs the funding body will agree to cover. For each item, include:

  • Cost : exactly how much money do you need?
  • Justification : why is this cost necessary to complete the research?
  • Source : how did you calculate the amount?

To determine your budget, think about:

  • Travel costs : do you need to go somewhere to collect your data? How will you get there, and how much time will you need? What will you do there (e.g., interviews, archival research)?
  • Materials : do you need access to any tools or technologies?
  • Help : do you need to hire any research assistants for the project? What will they do, and how much will you pay them?

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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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

Sacred Heart University Library

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
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Executive Summary
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • 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
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • How to Manage Group Projects
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Essays
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • 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.

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.; Structure: How to Structure the Research Limitations Section of Your Dissertation . Dissertations and Theses: An Online Textbook.; 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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Research Method

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

Implications in Research – Types, Examples and Writing Guide

Table of Contents

Implications in Research

Implications in Research

Implications in research refer to the potential consequences, applications, or outcomes of the findings and conclusions of a research study. These can include both theoretical and practical implications that extend beyond the immediate scope of the study and may impact various stakeholders, such as policymakers, practitioners, researchers , or the general public.

Structure of Implications

The format of implications in research typically follows the structure below:

  • Restate the main findings: Begin by restating the main findings of the study in a brief summary .
  • Link to the research question/hypothesis : Clearly articulate how the findings are related to the research question /hypothesis.
  • Discuss the practical implications: Discuss the practical implications of the findings, including their potential impact on the field or industry.
  • Discuss the theoretical implications : Discuss the theoretical implications of the findings, including their potential impact on existing theories or the development of new ones.
  • Identify limitations: Identify the limitations of the study and how they may affect the generalizability of the findings.
  • Suggest directions for future research: Suggest areas for future research that could build on the current study’s findings and address any limitations.

Types of Implications in Research

Types of Implications in Research are as follows:

Theoretical Implications

These are the implications that a study has for advancing theoretical understanding in a particular field. For example, a study that finds a new relationship between two variables can have implications for the development of theories and models in that field.

Practical Implications

These are the implications that a study has for solving practical problems or improving real-world outcomes. For example, a study that finds a new treatment for a disease can have implications for improving the health of patients.

Methodological Implications

These are the implications that a study has for advancing research methods and techniques. For example, a study that introduces a new method for data analysis can have implications for how future research in that field is conducted.

Ethical Implications

These are the implications that a study has for ethical considerations in research. For example, a study that involves human participants must consider the ethical implications of the research on the participants and take steps to protect their rights and welfare.

Policy Implications

These are the implications that a study has for informing policy decisions. For example, a study that examines the effectiveness of a particular policy can have implications for policymakers who are considering whether to implement or change that policy.

Societal Implications

These are the implications that a study has for society as a whole. For example, a study that examines the impact of a social issue such as poverty or inequality can have implications for how society addresses that issue.

Forms of Implications In Research

Forms of Implications are as follows:

Positive Implications

These refer to the positive outcomes or benefits that may result from a study’s findings. For example, a study that finds a new treatment for a disease can have positive implications for patients, healthcare providers, and the wider society.

Negative Implications

These refer to the negative outcomes or risks that may result from a study’s findings. For example, a study that finds a harmful side effect of a medication can have negative implications for patients, healthcare providers, and the wider society.

Direct Implications

These refer to the immediate consequences of a study’s findings. For example, a study that finds a new method for reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have direct implications for policymakers and businesses.

Indirect Implications

These refer to the broader or long-term consequences of a study’s findings. For example, a study that finds a link between childhood trauma and mental health issues can have indirect implications for social welfare policies, education, and public health.

Importance of Implications in Research

The following are some of the reasons why implications are important in research:

  • To inform policy and practice: Research implications can inform policy and practice decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for actions that can be taken to address the issues identified in the research. This can lead to more effective policies and practices that are grounded in empirical evidence.
  • To guide future research: Implications can also guide future research by identifying areas that need further investigation, highlighting gaps in current knowledge, and suggesting new directions for research.
  • To increase the impact of research : By communicating the practical and theoretical implications of their research, researchers can increase the impact of their work by demonstrating its relevance and importance to a wider audience.
  • To enhance the credibility of research : Implications can help to enhance the credibility of research by demonstrating that the findings have practical and theoretical significance and are not just abstract or academic exercises.
  • To foster collaboration and engagement : Implications can also foster collaboration and engagement between researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders by providing a common language and understanding of the practical and theoretical implications of the research.

Example of Implications in Research

Here are some examples of implications in research:

  • Medical research: A study on the efficacy of a new drug for a specific disease can have significant implications for medical practitioners, patients, and pharmaceutical companies. If the drug is found to be effective, it can be used to treat patients with the disease, improve their health outcomes, and generate revenue for the pharmaceutical company.
  • Educational research: A study on the impact of technology on student learning can have implications for educators and policymakers. If the study finds that technology improves student learning outcomes, educators can incorporate technology into their teaching methods, and policymakers can allocate more resources to technology in schools.
  • Social work research: A study on the effectiveness of a new intervention program for individuals with mental health issues can have implications for social workers, mental health professionals, and policymakers. If the program is found to be effective, social workers and mental health professionals can incorporate it into their practice, and policymakers can allocate more resources to the program.
  • Environmental research: A study on the impact of climate change on a particular ecosystem can have implications for environmentalists, policymakers, and industries. If the study finds that the ecosystem is at risk, environmentalists can advocate for policy changes to protect the ecosystem, policymakers can allocate resources to mitigate the impact of climate change, and industries can adjust their practices to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Economic research: A study on the impact of minimum wage on employment can have implications for policymakers and businesses. If the study finds that increasing the minimum wage does not lead to job losses, policymakers can implement policies to increase the minimum wage, and businesses can adjust their payroll practices.

How to Write Implications in Research

Writing implications in research involves discussing the potential outcomes or consequences of your findings and the practical applications of your study’s results. Here are some steps to follow when writing implications in research:

  • Summarize your key findings: Before discussing the implications of your research, briefly summarize your key findings. This will provide context for your implications and help readers understand how your research relates to your conclusions.
  • Identify the implications: Identify the potential implications of your research based on your key findings. Consider how your results might be applied in the real world, what further research might be necessary, and what other areas of study could be impacted by your research.
  • Connect implications to research question: Make sure that your implications are directly related to your research question or hypotheses. This will help to ensure that your implications are relevant and meaningful.
  • Consider limitations : Acknowledge any limitations or weaknesses of your research, and discuss how these might impact the implications of your research. This will help to provide a more balanced view of your findings.
  • Discuss practical applications : Discuss the practical applications of your research and how your findings could be used in real-world situations. This might include recommendations for policy or practice changes, or suggestions for future research.
  • Be clear and concise : When writing implications in research, be clear and concise. Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms that might be confusing to readers.
  • Provide a strong conclusion: Provide a strong conclusion that summarizes your key implications and leaves readers with a clear understanding of the significance of your research.

Purpose of Implications in Research

The purposes of implications in research include:

  • Informing practice: The implications of research can provide guidance for practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders about how to apply research findings in practical settings.
  • Generating new research questions: Implications can also inspire new research questions that build upon the findings of the original study.
  • Identifying gaps in knowledge: Implications can help to identify areas where more research is needed to fully understand a phenomenon.
  • Promoting scientific literacy: Implications can also help to promote scientific literacy by communicating research findings in accessible and relevant ways.
  • Facilitating decision-making : The implications of research can assist decision-makers in making informed decisions based on scientific evidence.
  • Contributing to theory development : Implications can also contribute to the development of theories by expanding upon or challenging existing theories.

When to Write Implications in Research

Here are some specific situations of when to write implications in research:

  • Research proposal : When writing a research proposal, it is important to include a section on the potential implications of the research. This section should discuss the potential impact of the research on the field and its potential applications.
  • Literature review : The literature review is an important section of the research paper where the researcher summarizes existing knowledge on the topic. This is also a good place to discuss the potential implications of the research. The researcher can identify gaps in the literature and suggest areas for further research.
  • Conclusion or discussion section : The conclusion or discussion section is where the researcher summarizes the findings of the study and interprets their meaning. This is a good place to discuss the implications of the research and its potential impact on the field.

Advantages of Implications in Research

Implications are an important part of research that can provide a range of advantages. Here are some of the key advantages of implications in research:

  • Practical applications: Implications can help researchers to identify practical applications of their research findings, which can be useful for practitioners and policymakers who are interested in applying the research in real-world contexts.
  • Improved decision-making: Implications can also help decision-makers to make more informed decisions based on the research findings. By clearly identifying the implications of the research, decision-makers can understand the potential outcomes of their decisions and make better choices.
  • Future research directions : Implications can also guide future research directions by highlighting areas that require further investigation or by suggesting new research questions. This can help to build on existing knowledge and fill gaps in the current understanding of a topic.
  • Increased relevance: By highlighting the implications of their research, researchers can increase the relevance of their work to real-world problems and challenges. This can help to increase the impact of their research and make it more meaningful to stakeholders.
  • Enhanced communication : Implications can also help researchers to communicate their findings more effectively to a wider audience. By highlighting the practical applications and potential benefits of their research, researchers can engage with stakeholders and communicate the value of their work more clearly.

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Research Design Review

A discussion of qualitative & quantitative research design, the tqf qualitative research proposal: limitations.

TQF Proposal-Limitations

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, p. 344).

The Total Quality Framework (TQF) research proposal has been discussed in several articles appearing in Research Design Review . In “A Quality Approach to the Qualitative Research Proposal,” the importance of critical thinking in proposal writing and the essential eight sections of the TQF research proposal — built around the central role of quality design — are introduced. Three articles in RDR focus on the Design section of the proposal — one article discussing Scope and Data Gathering (i.e., the Credibility component of the TQF), another article reflecting specifically on method and mode , and a third article concerning the ethical considerations of the proposed study. Beyond the Design section, RDR also includes articles on the Background & Literature Review and Research Team sections of the TQF proposal.

Another section of the TQF research proposal is devoted to Limitations. In this section, the proposal author will methodically apply the TQF to produce a critique of the proposed research design in ways that are consistent with what has been discussed in the Design section of the proposal. That is, the Limitations section will contain subsections on Credibility (Scope and Data Gathering), Analyzability (Processing and Verification), Transparency , and Usefulness . In each of these subsections the researcher will acknowledge the likely limitations of the study design that is being proposed, and briefly opine on the likely implications of these limitations to the overall usefulness of the research.

No qualitative (or quantitative) research study is perfect (with only strengths and no drawbacks). By readily (and unhesitatingly) acknowledging that there are limitations in the proposed design, the proposal writer takes the “high road” and thereby strengthens the case that the proposed design is the best one possible, given the funding, time, and other resources that are available to support the study. It also demonstrates that the researcher will be cognizant of these limitations in formulating conclusions and making recommendations based on the study’s findings.

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  • v.60(9); 2016 Sep

How to write a research proposal?

Department of Anaesthesiology, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Devika Rani Duggappa

Writing the proposal of a research work in the present era is a challenging task due to the constantly evolving trends in the qualitative research design and the need to incorporate medical advances into the methodology. The proposal is a detailed plan or ‘blueprint’ for the intended study, and once it is completed, the research project should flow smoothly. Even today, many of the proposals at post-graduate evaluation committees and application proposals for funding are substandard. A search was conducted with keywords such as research proposal, writing proposal and qualitative using search engines, namely, PubMed and Google Scholar, and an attempt has been made to provide broad guidelines for writing a scientifically appropriate research proposal.


A clean, well-thought-out proposal forms the backbone for the research itself and hence becomes the most important step in the process of conduct of research.[ 1 ] The objective of preparing a research proposal would be to obtain approvals from various committees including ethics committee [details under ‘Research methodology II’ section [ Table 1 ] in this issue of IJA) and to request for grants. However, there are very few universally accepted guidelines for preparation of a good quality research proposal. A search was performed with keywords such as research proposal, funding, qualitative and writing proposals using search engines, namely, PubMed, Google Scholar and Scopus.

Five ‘C’s while writing a literature review

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A proposal needs to show how your work fits into what is already known about the topic and what new paradigm will it add to the literature, while specifying the question that the research will answer, establishing its significance, and the implications of the answer.[ 2 ] The proposal must be capable of convincing the evaluation committee about the credibility, achievability, practicality and reproducibility (repeatability) of the research design.[ 3 ] Four categories of audience with different expectations may be present in the evaluation committees, namely academic colleagues, policy-makers, practitioners and lay audiences who evaluate the research proposal. Tips for preparation of a good research proposal include; ‘be practical, be persuasive, make broader links, aim for crystal clarity and plan before you write’. A researcher must be balanced, with a realistic understanding of what can be achieved. Being persuasive implies that researcher must be able to convince other researchers, research funding agencies, educational institutions and supervisors that the research is worth getting approval. The aim of the researcher should be clearly stated in simple language that describes the research in a way that non-specialists can comprehend, without use of jargons. The proposal must not only demonstrate that it is based on an intelligent understanding of the existing literature but also show that the writer has thought about the time needed to conduct each stage of the research.[ 4 , 5 ]


The contents or formats of a research proposal vary depending on the requirements of evaluation committee and are generally provided by the evaluation committee or the institution.

In general, a cover page should contain the (i) title of the proposal, (ii) name and affiliation of the researcher (principal investigator) and co-investigators, (iii) institutional affiliation (degree of the investigator and the name of institution where the study will be performed), details of contact such as phone numbers, E-mail id's and lines for signatures of investigators.

The main contents of the proposal may be presented under the following headings: (i) introduction, (ii) review of literature, (iii) aims and objectives, (iv) research design and methods, (v) ethical considerations, (vi) budget, (vii) appendices and (viii) citations.[ 4 ]


It is also sometimes termed as ‘need for study’ or ‘abstract’. Introduction is an initial pitch of an idea; it sets the scene and puts the research in context.[ 6 ] The introduction should be designed to create interest in the reader about the topic and proposal. It should convey to the reader, what you want to do, what necessitates the study and your passion for the topic.[ 7 ] Some questions that can be used to assess the significance of the study are: (i) Who has an interest in the domain of inquiry? (ii) What do we already know about the topic? (iii) What has not been answered adequately in previous research and practice? (iv) How will this research add to knowledge, practice and policy in this area? Some of the evaluation committees, expect the last two questions, elaborated under a separate heading of ‘background and significance’.[ 8 ] Introduction should also contain the hypothesis behind the research design. If hypothesis cannot be constructed, the line of inquiry to be used in the research must be indicated.

Review of literature

It refers to all sources of scientific evidence pertaining to the topic in interest. In the present era of digitalisation and easy accessibility, there is an enormous amount of relevant data available, making it a challenge for the researcher to include all of it in his/her review.[ 9 ] It is crucial to structure this section intelligently so that the reader can grasp the argument related to your study in relation to that of other researchers, while still demonstrating to your readers that your work is original and innovative. It is preferable to summarise each article in a paragraph, highlighting the details pertinent to the topic of interest. The progression of review can move from the more general to the more focused studies, or a historical progression can be used to develop the story, without making it exhaustive.[ 1 ] Literature should include supporting data, disagreements and controversies. Five ‘C's may be kept in mind while writing a literature review[ 10 ] [ Table 1 ].

Aims and objectives

The research purpose (or goal or aim) gives a broad indication of what the researcher wishes to achieve in the research. The hypothesis to be tested can be the aim of the study. The objectives related to parameters or tools used to achieve the aim are generally categorised as primary and secondary objectives.

Research design and method

The objective here is to convince the reader that the overall research design and methods of analysis will correctly address the research problem and to impress upon the reader that the methodology/sources chosen are appropriate for the specific topic. It should be unmistakably tied to the specific aims of your study.

In this section, the methods and sources used to conduct the research must be discussed, including specific references to sites, databases, key texts or authors that will be indispensable to the project. There should be specific mention about the methodological approaches to be undertaken to gather information, about the techniques to be used to analyse it and about the tests of external validity to which researcher is committed.[ 10 , 11 ]

The components of this section include the following:[ 4 ]

Population and sample

Population refers to all the elements (individuals, objects or substances) that meet certain criteria for inclusion in a given universe,[ 12 ] and sample refers to subset of population which meets the inclusion criteria for enrolment into the study. The inclusion and exclusion criteria should be clearly defined. The details pertaining to sample size are discussed in the article “Sample size calculation: Basic priniciples” published in this issue of IJA.

Data collection

The researcher is expected to give a detailed account of the methodology adopted for collection of data, which include the time frame required for the research. The methodology should be tested for its validity and ensure that, in pursuit of achieving the results, the participant's life is not jeopardised. The author should anticipate and acknowledge any potential barrier and pitfall in carrying out the research design and explain plans to address them, thereby avoiding lacunae due to incomplete data collection. If the researcher is planning to acquire data through interviews or questionnaires, copy of the questions used for the same should be attached as an annexure with the proposal.

Rigor (soundness of the research)

This addresses the strength of the research with respect to its neutrality, consistency and applicability. Rigor must be reflected throughout the proposal.

It refers to the robustness of a research method against bias. The author should convey the measures taken to avoid bias, viz. blinding and randomisation, in an elaborate way, thus ensuring that the result obtained from the adopted method is purely as chance and not influenced by other confounding variables.


Consistency considers whether the findings will be consistent if the inquiry was replicated with the same participants and in a similar context. This can be achieved by adopting standard and universally accepted methods and scales.


Applicability refers to the degree to which the findings can be applied to different contexts and groups.[ 13 ]

Data analysis

This section deals with the reduction and reconstruction of data and its analysis including sample size calculation. The researcher is expected to explain the steps adopted for coding and sorting the data obtained. Various tests to be used to analyse the data for its robustness, significance should be clearly stated. Author should also mention the names of statistician and suitable software which will be used in due course of data analysis and their contribution to data analysis and sample calculation.[ 9 ]

Ethical considerations

Medical research introduces special moral and ethical problems that are not usually encountered by other researchers during data collection, and hence, the researcher should take special care in ensuring that ethical standards are met. Ethical considerations refer to the protection of the participants' rights (right to self-determination, right to privacy, right to autonomy and confidentiality, right to fair treatment and right to protection from discomfort and harm), obtaining informed consent and the institutional review process (ethical approval). The researcher needs to provide adequate information on each of these aspects.

Informed consent needs to be obtained from the participants (details discussed in further chapters), as well as the research site and the relevant authorities.

When the researcher prepares a research budget, he/she should predict and cost all aspects of the research and then add an additional allowance for unpredictable disasters, delays and rising costs. All items in the budget should be justified.

Appendices are documents that support the proposal and application. The appendices will be specific for each proposal but documents that are usually required include informed consent form, supporting documents, questionnaires, measurement tools and patient information of the study in layman's language.

As with any scholarly research paper, you must cite the sources you used in composing your proposal. Although the words ‘references and bibliography’ are different, they are used interchangeably. It refers to all references cited in the research proposal.

Successful, qualitative research proposals should communicate the researcher's knowledge of the field and method and convey the emergent nature of the qualitative design. The proposal should follow a discernible logic from the introduction to presentation of the appendices.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest.

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  • Open access
  • Published: 25 June 2024

The general impact of self-stigma of mental illness on adult patients with depressive disorders: a systematic review

  • Refah Alqahtani 1 &
  • Alan Pringle 2   na1  

BMC Nursing volume  23 , Article number:  432 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

Mental illness stigma is often common among mentally ill patients. This stigma can come from others or the patients themselves, which is called ‘self-stigma’. The present study explored the widespread impacts of self-stigma on adult patients with depression. Additionally, this review compared the severity of self-stigma levels among psychiatric disorders and to review and update thoughts about self-stigma of depression.

An etiology and risk systematic review was conducted using the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) approach as a guideline. The search process was performed via research databases including MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL. The inclusion criteria are studies include participants diagnosed with depressive disorders, both genders, participants’ exposure to mental illness self-stigma, participants’ experience of self-stigma consequences and any geographical site or clinical settings are included, the type of the included studies must be observational studies. The included studies were limited to the English language studies that were published from 2016 and onwards. Patients with depression under the age of eighteen and patients diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses were excluded. The JBI critical appraisal checklist were adopted to assess the risk of bias.

In December 2022, a comprehensive search yielded eight cross-sectional studies that were included in this systematic review, involving a total of 783 patients diagnosed with depression, and 28 studies were excluded for not fulfilling the inclusion criteria of the review. The findings were extracted and synthesized through textual narrative synthesis into three main categories negatively affected by self-stigma of depression. These are: (1) the impact on the quality of life, (2) the impact on self-esteem and (3) the impact on self-worth. Moreover, in regard to the comparison of self-stigma levels among psychiatric disorders, self-stigma for people with schizophrenia was higher than self-stigma of depression.

Self-stigma of depression has negatively impacted multiple aspects of the patient’s life. Thus, the review brings the following recommendations: increase community awareness, educate the healthcare providers, include the topic of mental illness stigma in academic curriculums. The main limitation of the review is the limited number of included studies.

Trial registration

The research proposal for this review has been registered to Prospero (ID number: CRD42022366555).

Peer Review reports

Depression is a mood disorder in which people exhibit constant feelings of sadness, decreased pleasure and a loss of daily functioning [ 1 ]. Depression affects about 3.8% of the world’s population [ 2 ]. Furthermore, it is the leading cause of suicide [ 3 ]. For instance, the United States reported that 40% to 80% of adults who attempted to commit suicide were found to have been diagnosed with depressive disorder [ 4 ]. The global rate of depression among adults is estimated to be 10.7% [ 2 ]. The mental and psychological changes often appear in adulthood [ 5 ]. Consequently, the peak age of onset for mental illnesses occurs at this time [ 6 ]. Thus, adult patients with depressive disorders become more susceptible to stigma [ 7 ], which increases their risk of experiencing the negative effects of mental illness stigma [ 8 ]. Depression is strongly associated with self-stigma. The prevalence of self-stigma among patients with depression revealed a significant rate of 29% [ 9 ]. The self-stigma, however, is discussed more with schizophrenic disorder rather than mood disorders such as depression. Patients with schizophrenia suffer more intensely and regularly from self-stigma than patients with other mental illnesses [ 10 ]. Additionally, the level of self-stigmatization is altered among psychiatric disorders.

Mental illness stigma

Mental illness stigma (MIS) is defined as a negative combination of biases, discrimination and stereotypes towards people diagnosed with mental illness [ 11 ]. The MIS produces daily life challenges to psychiatric patients. These challenges could include negative attitudes such as negative self-perceptions and negative public behaviors [ 12 ]. MIS is divided into four forms: personal, public, perceived and self-stigma. First, personal stigma is a person’s opinions, feelings and manners towards individuals with mental disabilities [ 8 ]. Second, public stigma refers to negative beliefs and attitudes from the general public towards patients with mental illness [ 13 ]. Third, associated with public stigma is perceived stigma, which refers to the person’s view and concern of others’ reactions towards individuals with mental disabilities [ 8 ]. Fourth, self-stigma which is also called ‘internalized stigma’, is described by the patient’s feeling of shame, low self-esteem and embarrassment towards having a mental and psychological problem [ 14 ]. Furthermore, A study highlighted that once psychiatric patients acknowledge that they need to seek mental healthcare services, this might lower their self-esteem, which consequently forms their self-stigma [ 14 ]. Therefore, self-stigma will disturb the occupational and social life of the patients [ 14 , 15 , 16 ]. Moreover, the self-stigma of depression (SSD) has been associated with the interruption of quality of life (QoL), suicidal ideation and reduced professional and social roles in the patient’s life [ 17 ]. Limited studies, however, have directly focused on the SSD [ 17 ]. In contrast, public stigma is studied more because it reflects the judgment and discrimination that the general population has toward individuals with mental illness [ 18 ]. Thus, public stigma is the most researched and studied type of stigma. The MIS has transformed over the ages. For instance, in 1955, 1956, and 1976, documents show a lack of public understanding about psychiatric disorders and a refusal to discuss cases of mental illness [ 19 ]. Mental illness stigma, however, decreased and the seeking of mental healthcare services increased between 1996 and 2006 [ 19 ]. Moreover, a recent displayed a remarkable reduction in public stigma towards depression [ 20 ]. The published research in the field of self-stigma of depression is still limited to studies concerning testing, examining the scales of self-stigma and studying the relationship between depression and self- stigma. Few of the published studies have addressed the impact of self-stigma on patients with depression. As mentioned earlier, public stigma is more researched than self-stigma, and self- stigma is discussed more in patients with schizophrenia than in patients with depression. Based on the searching process using the systematic reviews’ databases, the subject of the impact of self-stigma on adult patients with depression was barely covered and discussed. The authors of this review, however, found some studies focused on the effect of self-stigma on mental illnesses in general without specifying a particular mental illness, such as depressive disorders. Therefore, this review considered investigating the impact of SSD on adult patients. Further, there is an overlap between depression symptoms and self-stigma effects [ 20 ]. Therefore, the systematic reviews must be conducted by including studies that use reliable scales to measure the SSD, in order to differentiate between symptoms of depression and outcomes of self- stigma. Thus, this review intended to study the impact of self-stigma on participants who were identified as having SSD.

As mentioned earlier, since the stigma has changed over the ages, the need to conduct a reviews about MIS is needed. Therefore, the regular producing and publication of studies about mental illness stigma are required to cope with the changes in MIS. Hence, a search of the systematic reviews’ databases was conducted. This search showed several research papers concerning MIS in general, but limited research focused on the effect of self-stigma on patients with depressive disorders. Thus, there was a noticeable lack of published systematic reviews explicitly concentrated on identifying the impact of self-stigma on adult patients with depression. The current study’s purpose is to answer the following research question ‘what is the general impact of self-stigma on adult patients with depressive disorders?’. In addition to fulfilling the discussed gaps in the background with three intentions: (1) to identify the impact of self-stigma on patients with depressive disorders, (2) to review and update thoughts about self-stigma of depression, (3) to compare the level of depression self-stigma to the self- stigma of other common mental illnesses in order to recognize to what extent self-stigma effects depression.

The systematic reviews for etiology and/or risk is utilized for this review. This kind of review is established to determine the relationship between specific exposure or risks and outcomes [ 21 ]. Furthermore, this type of review is used to determine the extent and impact between an exposure and a health outcome [ 22 ]. The research proposal for this review has been registered to Prospero (ID number: CRD42022366555). However, there is adjustment on the current review, that made it differ from the registered protocol. Researchers should consider modifying and expanding inclusion and exclusion criteria and minor changes to the research question after a deep understanding of the research topic [ 23 ]. This modification concerned the research question which has been slightly modified to become as follows: ‘the general impact of self-stigma on adult patients with depressive disorders’ instead of ‘the experience and impact of stigma in adult patients with depressive disorders’. The purpose for this change is to keep the research question focused on the impact only rather than experiences and to narrow the research question by specifying the type of stigma.

The traditional ‘PICO’ framework for systematic reviews of effectiveness does not align, however, with questions relating to risk and etiology [ 21 ]. A systematic review of etiology and risk should follow the ‘PEO’ framework, which indicates Population, Exposure of interest (independent variable) and Outcome (dependent variable) [ 21 , 22 ]. The research question for this review is as follows: ‘What is the general impact of self-stigma on adult patients with depressive disorders’. Thus, the ‘PEO’ question framework is appropriately used as follow; P, Adult patients with depression disorders, E, Self-stigma of mental illness and O , General impact on the patients’ lives. The population category in this review is clearly stated as adult patients ages eighteen years and above who have been clinically diagnosed with one of the depressive disorders. The exposure is an independent variable, which is the patients’ exposure to self-stigma. The outcome of the present study is the general impact of self-stigma on adult patients with depression. The term ‘general impact’ includes many aspects in which self-stigma could affect patients’ lives, such as the quality of life and cognitive ability. The inclusion and exclusion criteria of the primary included studies are illustrated in Table 1 .

The search procedure initially started in February 2022 and ended in June 2022. The databases utilised were limited to: Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online (MEDLINE), Excerpta Medica Database (EMBASE) and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL). The published and unpublished research that fulfilled the research criteria and that was related to the review topic was reviewed. The search included scanning the research results’ titles, abstracts. The suggested search strategy of the ‘three-phase process’ by the JBI was adopted for this review. First, an initial search was conducted in MEDLINE to identify all the possible keywords associated with the current research topic. Second, the previous step to all the included databases was applied with caution toward each specific database’s characteristic of searching methods. Third, the references list of the collected studies was scanned to find additional studies to prepare for the appraisal step. The authors of the current study examined the titles and abstracts of the search results and excluded research that obviously did not meet the inclusion criteria for this review. Full-text articles were retrieved and carefully inspected to ensure they contained the inclusion criteria. The methodological quality tool used to assess the primary studies for this review is the JBI critical appraisal checklist for analytical cross-sectional studies. Two independent reviewers appraised the quality of the selected studies. The JBI checklist was modified by removing two questions related to the confounding factors, since the included studies have not reported the presence of confounding. The studies were critically appraised based on the following criteria:

Were the criteria for inclusion in the sample clearly defined?

Were the study subjects and the setting described in detail?

Was the exposure measured in a valid and reliable way?

Were objective, standard criteria used for measurement of the condition?

Were the outcomes measured in a valid and reliable way?

Was appropriate statistical analysis used?

In this review, some of the included studies are dissimilar regarding participants and methods of assessing the exposure, which makes it inappropriate for the author to apply meta-analysis approach. Therefore, A textual narrative synthesis approach was utilised for this review. This approach aimed to collect the data based on categories derived from the studies’ findings [ 25 ]. This approach was selected intentionally as the research area has not been investigated before through a systematic review. Furthermore, narrative synthesis assists in searching systematically and classifying the data for the first time [ 26 ]. Moreover, according to the JBI framework the textual combination of data is recommended when the included studies are diverse in terms of population, methods, or findings [ 25 ]. Furthermore, any clarification or missing data regarding the included studies was resolved by contacting the authors. For instance, the authors of one of the included studies (Hasan and Musleh, 2018) [ 27 ] were contacted to seek clarification about the tool they used to assess self-stigma, because this will assist the authors of this review to properly evaluating and critiquing the paper. Lastly, the steps of this review have been reported through PRISMA 2020 checklists for abstract and main text.

The search process resulted in the identification of 302 studies. The titles and abstracts were scanned for the total identified studies. Thirty-six studies appeared suitable for this review; however, after comparing them with the inclusion criteria for the current review, eight studies were included and twenty-eight were excluded for not fulfilling the inclusion criteria. The search process was done with the library team’s assistance at the University of Nottingham. The research characteristics of the included studies are illustrated in Table 2 . The sequence of the search results’ process is illustrated through PRISMA 2020 flow diagram in Fig. 1 .

figure 1

Search results

The results of this review showed that there is a significant impact of depression self-stigma on QoL with a variant impact on the aspects of social relations, school, and study. Low self-esteem was reported as an impact of depression self-stigma; however, a single study indicates that low self-esteem is a symptom of depression, which could be due to depression itself or self-stigma. Self-blame and worthlessness were shown as an effect of self-stigma as the patients reported that they prevented themselves from taking an action in at least one life domain due to their mental illness condition. Concerning the comparison of self-stigma levels among patients with mental illness, most studies showed that schizophrenia was higher in experiencing self-stigma of MIS. A summary of the results was represented in Table 3 .

Findings of the included studies

This section represents and integrates the findings of the included studies that investigated the effect of self-stigma on the life aspects of patients with depression. The following domains were presented in this section: quality of life, self-esteem and self-worthiness. In addition, a comparison of the level of self- stigma of depression with the self-stigma of other mental illnesses was discussed.

Quality of Life (QoL)

The following studies showed the impact of self-stigma of depression on the QoL.

Holubova et al. 2016b [ 29 ]

In this study, the overall outcome of ISMI scale showed high significant correlation with all the domains of Q-LES-Q except of the school/study domain. In addition, two subscales from the ISMI scale (stereotype endorsement and stigma resistance) were not significantly correlated with the majority of the Q-LES-Q domains (see Table 4 ). The stereotype endorsement subscale was intended to measure the participants admitting to the common stereotypes of a patient with mental and psychological disorders, such as “psychiatric patients can not contribute and associate with the community because they are mentally ill” [ 28 ]. Stereotype endorsement was significantly correlated with the all the domains of Q-LES-Q except of the physical health, school/study, leisure, and social activities domains. The stigma resistance subscale was placed to determine the patient’s experience of resisting self-stigma of mental illness, such as “despite having a mental condition, I can live a happy and fulfilling life” [ 28 ]. This subscale correlated with all the domains of Q-LES-Q, but not with physical health, leisure time, social activities, and general domain.

Holubova et al. 2016a [ 15 ]

The overall result corresponded to the previous study of Holubova et al. (2016b) [ 29 ]. All the subscales of self-stigma were significantly negatively correlated with all the QoL domains except for the domain of school/study (see Table 4 ). This study indicates that patients who self-stigmatize tend to label themselves as “inferior, incompetent at fulfilling their needs and roles, limited in their skills and general life functioning and unable to succeed in life” (Holubova et al. 2016a, p. 3027) [ 15 ]. The patients’ self-evaluation of their mental status appears to have an impact on their perception of ability to function in many aspects of life.

Garg and Kaur, 2020 [ 30 ]

In this study, the total result of self-stigma was significantly negatively correlated with three domains of WHO QoL (satisfaction with psychological health, physical health and environment) (see Table 5 ). The correlation with satisfaction with social relations, however, was also negative but not significant. The majority of QoL subscales negatively correlated in a highly significant manner with the discrimination subscale. The discrimination subscale of the self‐stigma scale was significantly negatively correlated with all the domains of the WHO QoL, except one domain about the satisfaction with social relations. In addition, the subscales of stigma of disclosure and positive aspects of stigma were negative, although they did not reach statistical significance. The other subscale is assessing the positive aspects of stigma, such as, “my mental health problems have made me more accepting of other people” [ 31 ]. Garg and Kaur (2020) highlight that SSD has a negative impact on QoL [ 30 ]. “Stigma causes a significant reduction in hope, self‐esteem, socio‐occupational functioning, life opportunities resulting in shame, guilt, social isolation, and segregation” (Garg and Kaur, 2020, p. 128) [ 30 ].

Grambal et al. 2016 [ 32 ]

The social relationships are part of the QoL. This study showed an increase in self-stigma between divorced and single participants. Grambal et al. (2016) assumed that more self-stigmatised patients have problems starting and maintaining a close relationship. Consequently, there is a positive correlation between self-stigma and difficulties in establishing social relationships.

Hence, all the included studies showed an impact of self-stigma on the QoL. Holubova et al. (2016a) and Holubova et al. (2016b) agreed that self-stigma is significantly negatively correlated with QoL except in the school and study domain [ 15 , 29 ]. Garg and Kaur (2020) indicate the significant influence of self-stigma on the QoL except for the insignificant impact on the social relationships [ 30 ]. However, Grambal et al. (2016) place emphasis on the impact and relation of self-stigma on social relationships. The studies’ results concerning the impact of self-stigma on QoL are displayed in Table 4 .


The following studies showed an impact of depression self-stigma on self-esteem.

Abo-Rass et al. 2021 [ 33 ]

This study confirmed lower levels of self-esteem were significantly associated with self-stigma of depression. Specifically, SSMIS subscales (stereotype agreement and self-concurrence) were significantly negatively correlated with self-esteem. Stereotype agreement occurs when psychiatric patients support and agree with the common public stereotypes (e.g., mentally ill patients are weak). Self-concurrence is when the psychiatric patients apply and admit the cultural beliefs and views to him or herself (e.g., I am feeble because I have a psychiatric disorder) [ 34 ]. Moreover, in this study self- concurrence had the greatest relationship with low self-esteem.

Shimotsu and Horikawa, 2016 [ 35 ]

This study indicates that low self-esteem is one of the symptoms of depression. Therefore, depression and self-stigma have similar effect on self-esteem. This means depression in isolation could lead to low self- esteem. Additionally, self-stigma might lead to low self-esteem as well.


Two of the included studies displayed the impression of self-stigma of depression on self-worthiness and self-blame.

Patra et al. 2022 [ 36 ]

This study showed that self-stigma of depression works as an obstacle to obtain professional career, social interaction and functional recovery that resulted in the following findings. 76% of participants with depression informed anticipated discrimination and stopped themselves in at least one life domain (such as making friends) due to their expectation of discrimination from others. 70% of the participants had hidden their mental illness from others. 54% had prevented themselves from having a close personal relationship. 32% anticipated discrimination, and they did not apply for jobs. 10% anticipated discrimination, and they did not complete their education. The previous findings confirmed that patients had self-worthlessness due to self-stigma of depression.

Hasan and Musleh, 2018 [ 27 ]

In this study, participants reported a higher response towards negative stereotypes, followed by patients’ self-blame for their mental condition, and a lower response for the factor ‘inability to recover’, which indicates that patients believe they will not improve.

This section will review the results of the included studies that concerned the comparison of self-stigma between depression and other mental illnesses. The following studies already discussed the matter of comparing self-stigma among mental illnesses, in addition to the main research aim; investigating the self-stigma impact.

The overall ISMI score showed that participants with schizophrenia experienced high level of self-stigma more than participants with depression, specifically in the subscales for stereotype endorsement and perceived discrimination. The differences in alienation and social withdrawal subscales between schizophrenia and depression were markedly close, but schizophrenia was higher than depression.

Grambal et al. 2016 [ 32 ]

In this research, the participants with BPD showed the highest the level of self-stigma of all compared psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, depression and anxiety). All subscales of ISMI showed the highest rate among participants with BPD except for one subscale (stigma resistance). Depression had the highest rate in stigma resistance among all the diagnostic groups.

This study aimed to compare depression, schizophrenia and anxiety. Hasan and Musleh (2018) indicated that the first subscale factor ‘negative stereotypes’ was considerably higher in schizophrenia than in depression and anxiety. Furthermore, negative stereotypes were significantly higher in depression than anxiety. Regarding the second subscale factor ‘patient blame’, depression was higher than both diagnostic groups (schizophrenia and anxiety). In the third subscale factor ‘inability to recover’, schizophrenia scored significantly higher than depression and anxiety. Hence, two of the included studies showed that self-stigma of schizophrenia was higher than self-stigma of depression and anxiety disorder. One study, however, showed that the level of self-stigma in BPD was higher than in schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorder.

All the included studies assessed and addressed the impact of self-stigma on adult patients with depression. The impact was found to lower three aspects of the participants’ life and personality: QoL, self-worthiness and self-esteem. The QoL and self-worthiness were negatively influenced by the self-stigma of depression. Self-esteem varied slightly; some studies claimed that self- stigma led to low self-esteem, and a single study stated that depression in isolation could lead to lower self-esteem without self-stigma. Regarding the self-stigma comparison, most of the included studies found that schizophrenia patients showed higher levels of self-stigmatization. However, an individual study indicated that patients with BPD have higher levels of self-stigma, followed by schizophrenia, then, depression. Nevertheless, depressive disorder reported higher levels of patients’ self-blame and stigma resistance. A previous study found that self-stigma was associated with low QoL among patients with depressive disorders [ 37 ]. In general, internalized stigma led to lower QoL regardless of the type of mental illness. Further, the fact of being a person who sought psychiatric help could develop a negative self-image. As deduced from this review, the hospitalized patients reported higher levels of internalized stigma, which accordingly exposed them to the consequences of self-stigma, such as poor QoL [ 29 ]. In regard to social life, this review explored patients’ challenges while attempting to establish a social relationship. A study examined the impact of social interaction (SI) on 104 adult patients with severe mental illnesses [ 38 ]. This study found that negative SI significantly led to lower QoL, while supportive SI was related to higher QoL [ 38 ]. Further, they found that perceived stigma fairly liaised between negative SI and poor QoL [ 38 ]. The difference between negative and supportive SI on the patients’ QoL justifies why this review reported variant results about the impact of SSD on social life. Perhaps some participants received supportive SI and public acceptance, unlike others. Moreover, patients who received negative SI might prevent themselves from social interaction or building social relationships since they predict discrimination based on a previous experience. Anticipating discrimination is reported in this review as a behaviour observed by patients with depression who are identified to have SSD. This behaviour will encourage patients to hide their mental illness to prevent discrimination. Concealing mental illness by psychiatric patients is often appears with self-stigma of mental illness and it is the opposite of ‘stigma disclosure’. This review showed that hiding stigma is common in depressive disorders. Patients with depression tend to hide their mental illness due to their feelings of shame and self-stigmatization, which creates challenges and burdens for the patients while they try to cope with their lives and hide their mental disabilities. Hence, the elimination of mental illness stigma could be obtained by revealing the mental illness history of the affected person [ 18 ]. In regard to the self-esteem, a study reported high levels of self- esteem in self-stigmatized patients who received peer support [ 39 ]. Furthermore, family and peer support played a significant role in reducing self-stigma. The current review showed high levels of self- stigmatization among patients with depression who lived with their unsupportive parents in Asian and Middle Eastern countries. A recent systematic review aimed to investigate the frequency of mental illness self-stigma in different cultural and geographic areas [ 40 ]. The study found that the highest frequency was in South-East Asia (39.7%) and the Middle East (39%). Mental health problems are often neglected and hidden in Asian culture because admitting mental illness is usually associated with shame, stigmatization and lack of family support [ 41 ]. Furthermore, McGuire and Pace (2018) studied the impact of self-stigma of depression between Christians and non-Christian participants diagnosed with depression [ 42 ]. The study showed an increased level of self-stigma in the Christian group, which reveals that religious and cultural beliefs impacted the self- stigma of depression. Regarding self-worth, Corrigan, Larson and Rusch (2009) identified the “Why Try” effect of self-stigma [ 43 ]. This effect occurred when people with psychiatric disorders considered themselves unworthy or unqualified to achieve life goals due to their application of public mental illness stereotypes to themselves [ 44 ]. Corrigan et al. (2009) [ 43 ] showed that negative self-worth was observed highly in patients with depression and linked with offensive stereotypes to themselves [ 34 ]. An example of the patient’s thought is “someone like me is just not worth to be successful in life” [ 43 ]. Correspondingly, the findings of the current review reported reduction in self-worth due to SSD. The forms of self-worthlessness include the patients’ refusal to get a job and to blame themselves for their mental illness. In this review, the level of self-stigma was altered among mental illnesses, but most of the included studies reported a high level of internalized stigma in schizophrenia, except one study reported high level of stigma on BPD, which could be due to the disorder’s symptoms as it is identified by disturbance of self-image, thoughts, and mood. This increased self-stigmatization in schizophrenia could be due to the evident influence of the public stigma on patients with psychotic disorders. Moreover, the public considered psychotic patients more dangerous and aggressive [ 45 ]. Moreover, schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations and delusions, which are obvious symptoms that easily produce public stigma, unlike nonpsychotic [ 46 ]. Therefore, the effect of public stigma will extend to disturbed self-perception, which will result in high levels of internalized stigma. Some published studies, however, reported that nonpsychotic disorders had higher levels of self-stigma compared to psychotic disorders. A tested and confirmed hypothesis indicate that patients with nonpsychotic disorders such as depression were aware of the negative public stereotypes, making them experience self-stigma more intensely than psychotic patients [ 47 ]. From the same perspective, in this review self-stigma resistance was reported as high in depression. Also, a study showed that greater stigma resistance was found among patients with depression [ 48 ]. Stigma resistance in mental health is defined as the ability to remain unresponsive to mental illness stigma [ 28 ]. The resistance was associated with reduced self-stigma, increased self-esteem and improved QoL [ 49 ]. The presence of self-stigma resistance among patients with depression could be due to the patients’ awareness of public stigma since patients are aware they will be able to cope with internalised stigma. Some of the included studies, however, reported low stigma resistance, which could be interpreted as a response of depression symptoms such as feelings of worthlessness, anhedonia and irritable mood. Self-blaming is usually linked to depression. A study showed that more than 80% of patients with depression reported self-blaming for failing to achieve life duties such as losing jobs or social relations [ 50 ]. Thus, these reasons for self-blaming indicated poor QoL, which is mentioned earlier in this review as an impact of self-stigma. Clearly, self-stigma leads indirectly to self-blaming, and depression demonstrated a higher rate of self-blaming due to internalized stigma. Generalization of the research results is critical when applying the findings to population, settings, and times other than those in the original study. A research evidence can only be applied outside the contexts studied when the settings and population are similar to the original study, otherwise there would be no evidence-based practice [ 51 ]. Regarding this study, the culture was an obstacle to generalizing the study findings. The Asian studies in this review reported an impact of self- stigma on self-esteem and self-worth. In contrast, none of the European studies mentioned the effects of self-stigma on self-esteem or self-worth. Consequently, the self-stigma was affected by the culture, traditions and beliefs of the patients’ societies. For example, Asians tend to live with their families, making psychiatric patients more exposed to public stigma by their families, leading to self-esteem disturbance. In addition, three of the included studies in this review have confirmed cultural differences encountered while investigating the impact of self-stigma among patients with depression. Furthermore, A study confirmed cross-cultural differences in the relationship between mental illness self-stigma and other concepts, such as masculine sex norms and negative ideas toward seeking mental help [ 52 ]. Consequently, due to cultural differences, the findings of this review could not be globally generalized. Nonetheless, it could be locally generalized based on each cultural type and geographical site.

Strengths and limitations

All the included studies that contributed to the outcomes of this review were observational (cross-sectional) studies. Cross-sectional studies are best used in health research to assess and investigate the exposure and outcome of a particular health issue [ 53 ]. Cross-sectional studies, however, are prone to some biases [ 54 ]. For example, the included studies of this review measured the self-stigma of mentally ill patients at one point during the interview or questionnaire, regardless of the patient’s compliance to medications, which were found to influence the onset and severity of self-stigma. According to this review, patients who adhered to medications experienced less self-stigma and more stigma resistance.

The main limitation of this review is that the issue of self-stigma of depression was not sufficiently discussed and covered in previous research. In contrast, the researchers broadly discussed the impact of self-stigma on patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (BD). This attention could be due to increasing public stigma, which leads to increased internalized stigma for patients with schizophrenia and BD. Therefore, the researcher will be encouraged to study more about the self-stigma of schizophrenia or BD. Furthermore, four of the included studies stated that their study is the first of its type acknowledging the impact of self-stigma on patients with depression [ 27 , 30 , 32 , 36 ]. This explains the limited number of included studies in this review. A strong point of this research is that it included recent studies despite the limited number of published papers on the topic. Thus, the need for the current study was essential and required. All the included studies comprised a sample from both genders. The ratio number of males and females was not close in most studies. Three studies reported insignificant differences between the genders. The remaining studies did not mention the differences they found. That could affect the reliability of the study. A study indicated that females with mental illnesses tend to self- stigmatize themselves more than males [ 55 ]. Additional limitations arise from the omission of techniques aimed at minimizing errors of data extraction, which has not been done due to the time constraints for this review. Another limitation pertains to the restricted scope of searching within identified databases, disregarding the inclusion of gray literature that has not been explored. Finally, the inclusion criteria of the study settings were broad, which was considered a limitation since it found that the hospitalized patients stigmatized themselves more than the psychiatric patients who visited the outpatient clinics.

The current review satisfactorily answered the research question and met the objectives. The review explored the impact of SSD. The impact was demonstrated from the QoL to the profound intrapersonal effect on self-esteem and self-worthiness. The QoL was negatively affected and reflected on negative stereotypes by the patients themselves, which led to poor functioning in life. In addition, due to self- stigmatization, patients with depression tend to hide their mental illness, which is associated indirectly with decreasing the QoL. Moreover, self-stigma has a significantly negative impact on social life.

However, some studies have proven that it insignificantly negatively affects. Furthermore, SSD had a slightly negative effect on academic performance. Intrapersonal impact depicted lower levels of self-esteem and self-worthiness associated with SSD. This study has proven that the lower self-esteem level is hard to decide as an impact of SSD since it is a symptom of depression. Self-worthiness affected the patients by stopping them in at least one life domain. They anticipated discrimination and prevented themselves from taking decisions and getting better opportunities. Moreover, patients with depression reported self-blame for their mental condition. Studying the impact from a global perspective allowed the author to know the majority of the effects of SSD and understand the cultural differences affecting it. The Asian and Middle Eastern cultures showed increasing rates and severity of self-stigma of depression. This study emphasized that public and perceived stigma are associated with the formation of self-stigma. Further, the published studies in this area were heterogeneous regarding the self-stigma scales used, so generating systematic reviews and meta-analysis is recommended based on a unified self-stigma scale used in all of the included studies since this will provide accurate and reliable findings.

The research recommendations and clinical implications of this review were summarized and presented in Figs.  2 and 3 .

figure 2

The research recommendations

figure 3

The clinical implications

Availability of data and materials

Data is provided within the manuscript or supplementary information files and The datasets analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The authors, RA and AP, collaborated in establishing the research protocol and defining the inclusion criteria for the study. RA took on the responsibility of screening the identified databases and initially selecting the relevant studies. Subsequently, both RA and AP jointly reviewed and finalized the selection of included studies. The critical appraisal of the studies was conducted by both RA and AP. RA performed the data extraction and data synthesis, while AP reviewed and revised the data extraction and data synthesis. Finally, RA conduct the conclusion of the study, while AP go through a deep revision for the whole research paper.

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Alqahtani, R., Pringle, A. The general impact of self-stigma of mental illness on adult patients with depressive disorders: a systematic review. BMC Nurs 23 , 432 (2024).

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How To Write A Research Proposal

A Straightforward How-To Guide (With Examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | August 2019 (Updated April 2023)

Writing up a strong research proposal for a dissertation or thesis is much like a marriage proposal. It’s a task that calls on you to win somebody over and persuade them that what you’re planning is a great idea. An idea they’re happy to say ‘yes’ to. This means that your dissertation proposal needs to be   persuasive ,   attractive   and well-planned. In this post, I’ll show you how to write a winning dissertation proposal, from scratch.

Before you start:

– Understand exactly what a research proposal is – Ask yourself these 4 questions

The 5 essential ingredients:

  • The title/topic
  • The introduction chapter
  • The scope/delimitations
  • Preliminary literature review
  • Design/ methodology
  • Practical considerations and risks 

What Is A Research Proposal?

The research proposal is literally that: a written document that communicates what you propose to research, in a concise format. It’s where you put all that stuff that’s spinning around in your head down on to paper, in a logical, convincing fashion.

Convincing   is the keyword here, as your research proposal needs to convince the assessor that your research is   clearly articulated   (i.e., a clear research question) ,   worth doing   (i.e., is unique and valuable enough to justify the effort), and   doable   within the restrictions you’ll face (time limits, budget, skill limits, etc.). If your proposal does not address these three criteria, your research won’t be approved, no matter how “exciting” the research idea might be.

PS – if you’re completely new to proposal writing, we’ve got a detailed walkthrough video covering two successful research proposals here . 

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

How do I know I’m ready?

Before starting the writing process, you need to   ask yourself 4 important questions .  If you can’t answer them succinctly and confidently, you’re not ready – you need to go back and think more deeply about your dissertation topic .

You should be able to answer the following 4 questions before starting your dissertation or thesis research proposal:

  • WHAT is my main research question? (the topic)
  • WHO cares and why is this important? (the justification)
  • WHAT data would I need to answer this question, and how will I analyse it? (the research design)
  • HOW will I manage the completion of this research, within the given timelines? (project and risk management)

If you can’t answer these questions clearly and concisely,   you’re not yet ready   to write your research proposal – revisit our   post on choosing a topic .

If you can, that’s great – it’s time to start writing up your dissertation proposal. Next, I’ll discuss what needs to go into your research proposal, and how to structure it all into an intuitive, convincing document with a linear narrative.

The 5 Essential Ingredients

Research proposals can vary in style between institutions and disciplines, but here I’ll share with you a   handy 5-section structure   you can use. These 5 sections directly address the core questions we spoke about earlier, ensuring that you present a convincing proposal. If your institution already provides a proposal template, there will likely be substantial overlap with this, so you’ll still get value from reading on.

For each section discussed below, make sure you use headers and sub-headers (ideally, numbered headers) to help the reader navigate through your document, and to support them when they need to revisit a previous section. Don’t just present an endless wall of text, paragraph after paragraph after paragraph…

Top Tip:   Use MS Word Styles to format headings. This will allow you to be clear about whether a sub-heading is level 2, 3, or 4. Additionally, you can view your document in ‘outline view’ which will show you only your headings. This makes it much easier to check your structure, shift things around and make decisions about where a section needs to sit. You can also generate a 100% accurate table of contents using Word’s automatic functionality.

research proposal limitations are

Ingredient #1 – Topic/Title Header

Your research proposal’s title should be your main research question in its simplest form, possibly with a sub-heading providing basic details on the specifics of the study. For example:

“Compliance with equality legislation in the charity sector: a study of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ made in three London care homes”

As you can see, this title provides a clear indication of what the research is about, in broad terms. It paints a high-level picture for the first-time reader, which gives them a taste of what to expect.   Always aim for a clear, concise title . Don’t feel the need to capture every detail of your research in your title – your proposal will fill in the gaps.

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Ingredient #2 – Introduction

In this section of your research proposal, you’ll expand on what you’ve communicated in the title, by providing a few paragraphs which offer more detail about your research topic. Importantly, the focus here is the   topic   – what will you research and why is that worth researching? This is not the place to discuss methodology, practicalities, etc. – you’ll do that later.

You should cover the following:

  • An overview of the   broad area   you’ll be researching – introduce the reader to key concepts and language
  • An explanation of the   specific (narrower) area   you’ll be focusing, and why you’ll be focusing there
  • Your research   aims   and   objectives
  • Your   research question (s) and sub-questions (if applicable)

Importantly, you should aim to use short sentences and plain language – don’t babble on with extensive jargon, acronyms and complex language. Assume that the reader is an intelligent layman – not a subject area specialist (even if they are). Remember that the   best writing is writing that can be easily understood   and digested. Keep it simple.

The introduction section serves to expand on the  research topic – what will you study and why is that worth dedicating time and effort to?

Note that some universities may want some extra bits and pieces in your introduction section. For example, personal development objectives, a structural outline, etc. Check your brief to see if there are any other details they expect in your proposal, and make sure you find a place for these.

Ingredient #3 – Scope

Next, you’ll need to specify what the scope of your research will be – this is also known as the delimitations . In other words, you need to make it clear what you will be covering and, more importantly, what you won’t be covering in your research. Simply put, this is about ring fencing your research topic so that you have a laser-sharp focus.

All too often, students feel the need to go broad and try to address as many issues as possible, in the interest of producing comprehensive research. Whilst this is admirable, it’s a mistake. By tightly refining your scope, you’ll enable yourself to   go deep   with your research, which is what you need to earn good marks. If your scope is too broad, you’re likely going to land up with superficial research (which won’t earn marks), so don’t be afraid to narrow things down.

Ingredient #4 – Literature Review

In this section of your research proposal, you need to provide a (relatively) brief discussion of the existing literature. Naturally, this will not be as comprehensive as the literature review in your actual dissertation, but it will lay the foundation for that. In fact, if you put in the effort at this stage, you’ll make your life a lot easier when it’s time to write your actual literature review chapter.

There are a few things you need to achieve in this section:

  • Demonstrate that you’ve done your reading and are   familiar with the current state of the research   in your topic area.
  • Show that   there’s a clear gap   for your specific research – i.e., show that your topic is sufficiently unique and will add value to the existing research.
  • Show how the existing research has shaped your thinking regarding   research design . For example, you might use scales or questionnaires from previous studies.

When you write up your literature review, keep these three objectives front of mind, especially number two (revealing the gap in the literature), so that your literature review has a   clear purpose and direction . Everything you write should be contributing towards one (or more) of these objectives in some way. If it doesn’t, you need to ask yourself whether it’s truly needed.

Top Tip:  Don’t fall into the trap of just describing the main pieces of literature, for example, “A says this, B says that, C also says that…” and so on. Merely describing the literature provides no value. Instead, you need to   synthesise   it, and use it to address the three objectives above.

 If you put in the effort at the proposal stage, you’ll make your life a lot easier when its time to write your actual literature review chapter.

Ingredient #5 – Research Methodology

Now that you’ve clearly explained both your intended research topic (in the introduction) and the existing research it will draw on (in the literature review section), it’s time to get practical and explain exactly how you’ll be carrying out your own research. In other words, your research methodology.

In this section, you’ll need to   answer two critical questions :

  • How   will you design your research? I.e., what research methodology will you adopt, what will your sample be, how will you collect data, etc.
  • Why   have you chosen this design? I.e., why does this approach suit your specific research aims, objectives and questions?

In other words, this is not just about explaining WHAT you’ll be doing, it’s also about explaining WHY. In fact, the   justification is the most important part , because that justification is how you demonstrate a good understanding of research design (which is what assessors want to see).

Some essential design choices you need to cover in your research proposal include:

  • Your intended research philosophy (e.g., positivism, interpretivism or pragmatism )
  • What methodological approach you’ll be taking (e.g., qualitative , quantitative or mixed )
  • The details of your sample (e.g., sample size, who they are, who they represent, etc.)
  • What data you plan to collect (i.e. data about what, in what form?)
  • How you plan to collect it (e.g., surveys , interviews , focus groups, etc.)
  • How you plan to analyse it (e.g., regression analysis, thematic analysis , etc.)
  • Ethical adherence (i.e., does this research satisfy all ethical requirements of your institution, or does it need further approval?)

This list is not exhaustive – these are just some core attributes of research design. Check with your institution what level of detail they expect. The “ research onion ” by Saunders et al (2009) provides a good summary of the various design choices you ultimately need to make – you can   read more about that here .

Don’t forget the practicalities…

In addition to the technical aspects, you will need to address the   practical   side of the project. In other words, you need to explain   what resources you’ll need   (e.g., time, money, access to equipment or software, etc.) and how you intend to secure these resources. You need to show that your project is feasible, so any “make or break” type resources need to already be secured. The success or failure of your project cannot depend on some resource which you’re not yet sure you have access to.

Another part of the practicalities discussion is   project and risk management . In other words, you need to show that you have a clear project plan to tackle your research with. Some key questions to address:

  • What are the timelines for each phase of your project?
  • Are the time allocations reasonable?
  • What happens if something takes longer than anticipated (risk management)?
  • What happens if you don’t get the response rate you expect?

A good way to demonstrate that you’ve thought this through is to include a Gantt chart and a risk register (in the appendix if word count is a problem). With these two tools, you can show that you’ve got a clear, feasible plan, and you’ve thought about and accounted for the potential risks.

Gantt chart

Tip – Be honest about the potential difficulties – but show that you are anticipating solutions and workarounds. This is much more impressive to an assessor than an unrealistically optimistic proposal which does not anticipate any challenges whatsoever.

Final Touches: Read And Simplify

The final step is to edit and proofread your proposal – very carefully. It sounds obvious, but all too often poor editing and proofreading ruin a good proposal. Nothing is more off-putting for an assessor than a poorly edited, typo-strewn document. It sends the message that you either do not pay attention to detail, or just don’t care. Neither of these are good messages. Put the effort into editing and proofreading your proposal (or pay someone to do it for you) – it will pay dividends.

When you’re editing, watch out for ‘academese’. Many students can speak simply, passionately and clearly about their dissertation topic – but become incomprehensible the moment they turn the laptop on. You are not required to write in any kind of special, formal, complex language when you write academic work. Sure, there may be technical terms, jargon specific to your discipline, shorthand terms and so on. But, apart from those,   keep your written language very close to natural spoken language   – just as you would speak in the classroom. Imagine that you are explaining your project plans to your classmates or a family member. Remember, write for the intelligent layman, not the subject matter experts. Plain-language, concise writing is what wins hearts and minds – and marks!

Let’s Recap: Research Proposal 101

And there you have it – how to write your dissertation or thesis research proposal, from the title page to the final proof. Here’s a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  • The purpose of the research proposal is to   convince   – therefore, you need to make a clear, concise argument of why your research is both worth doing and doable.
  • Make sure you can ask the critical what, who, and how questions of your research   before   you put pen to paper.
  • Title – provides the first taste of your research, in broad terms
  • Introduction – explains what you’ll be researching in more detail
  • Scope – explains the boundaries of your research
  • Literature review – explains how your research fits into the existing research and why it’s unique and valuable
  • Research methodology – explains and justifies how you will carry out your own research

Hopefully, this post has helped you better understand how to write up a winning research proposal. If you enjoyed it, be sure to check out the rest of the Grad Coach Blog . If your university doesn’t provide any template for your proposal, you might want to try out our free research proposal template .

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling short course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Mazwakhe Mkhulisi

Thank you so much for the valuable insight that you have given, especially on the research proposal. That is what I have managed to cover. I still need to go back to the other parts as I got disturbed while still listening to Derek’s audio on you-tube. I am inspired. I will definitely continue with Grad-coach guidance on You-tube.

Derek Jansen

Thanks for the kind words :). All the best with your proposal.


First of all, thanks a lot for making such a wonderful presentation. The video was really useful and gave me a very clear insight of how a research proposal has to be written. I shall try implementing these ideas in my RP.

Once again, I thank you for this content.

Bonginkosi Mshengu

I found reading your outline on writing research proposal very beneficial. I wish there was a way of submitting my draft proposal to you guys for critiquing before I submit to the institution.

Hi Bonginkosi

Thank you for the kind words. Yes, we do provide a review service. The best starting point is to have a chat with one of our coaches here: .

Erick Omondi

Hello team GRADCOACH, may God bless you so much. I was totally green in research. Am so happy for your free superb tutorials and resources. Once again thank you so much Derek and his team.

You’re welcome, Erick. Good luck with your research proposal 🙂


thank you for the information. its precise and on point.

Nighat Nighat Ahsan

Really a remarkable piece of writing and great source of guidance for the researchers. GOD BLESS YOU for your guidance. Regards

Delfina Celeste Danca Rangel

Thanks so much for your guidance. It is easy and comprehensive the way you explain the steps for a winning research proposal.

Desiré Forku

Thank you guys so much for the rich post. I enjoyed and learn from every word in it. My problem now is how to get into your platform wherein I can always seek help on things related to my research work ? Secondly, I wish to find out if there is a way I can send my tentative proposal to you guys for examination before I take to my supervisor Once again thanks very much for the insights

Thanks for your kind words, Desire.

If you are based in a country where Grad Coach’s paid services are available, you can book a consultation by clicking the “Book” button in the top right.

Best of luck with your studies.


May God bless you team for the wonderful work you are doing,

If I have a topic, Can I submit it to you so that you can draft a proposal for me?? As I am expecting to go for masters degree in the near future.

Thanks for your comment. We definitely cannot draft a proposal for you, as that would constitute academic misconduct. The proposal needs to be your own work. We can coach you through the process, but it needs to be your own work and your own writing.

Best of luck with your research!

kenate Akuma

I found a lot of many essential concepts from your material. it is real a road map to write a research proposal. so thanks a lot. If there is any update material on your hand on MBA please forward to me.

Ahmed Khalil

GradCoach is a professional website that presents support and helps for MBA student like me through the useful online information on the page and with my 1-on-1 online coaching with the amazing and professional PhD Kerryen.

Thank you Kerryen so much for the support and help 🙂

I really recommend dealing with such a reliable services provider like Gradcoah and a coach like Kerryen.


Hi, Am happy for your service and effort to help students and researchers, Please, i have been given an assignment on research for strategic development, the task one is to formulate a research proposal to support the strategic development of a business area, my issue here is how to go about it, especially the topic or title and introduction. Please, i would like to know if you could help me and how much is the charge.

Marcos A. López Figueroa

This content is practical, valuable, and just great!

Thank you very much!

Eric Rwigamba

Hi Derek, Thank you for the valuable presentation. It is very helpful especially for beginners like me. I am just starting my PhD.


This is quite instructive and research proposal made simple. Can I have a research proposal template?

Mathew Yokie Musa

Great! Thanks for rescuing me, because I had no former knowledge in this topic. But with this piece of information, I am now secured. Thank you once more.

Chulekazi Bula

I enjoyed listening to your video on how to write a proposal. I think I will be able to write a winning proposal with your advice. I wish you were to be my supervisor.

Mohammad Ajmal Shirzad

Dear Derek Jansen,

Thank you for your great content. I couldn’t learn these topics in MBA, but now I learned from GradCoach. Really appreciate your efforts….

From Afghanistan!

Mulugeta Yilma

I have got very essential inputs for startup of my dissertation proposal. Well organized properly communicated with video presentation. Thank you for the presentation.

Siphesihle Macu

Wow, this is absolutely amazing guys. Thank you so much for the fruitful presentation, you’ve made my research much easier.


this helps me a lot. thank you all so much for impacting in us. may god richly bless you all

June Pretzer

How I wish I’d learn about Grad Coach earlier. I’ve been stumbling around writing and rewriting! Now I have concise clear directions on how to put this thing together. Thank you!


Fantastic!! Thank You for this very concise yet comprehensive guidance.

Fikiru Bekele

Even if I am poor in English I would like to thank you very much.

Rachel Offeibea Nyarko

Thank you very much, this is very insightful.

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graphic with text-call for proposals

Call for Community Based Research Proposals

research image

The Center for Public Education and Community Engagement (CPECE), housed in the College of Education at Texas Christian University (TCU), invites community organizations and academic researchers to submit community-based research proposals for three-year project funding.

  • Year 1 Budget: Up to $5,000
  • Year 2 and 3 Budget: Up to $8,000 per year

These projects aim to foster collaboration between TCU and local communities, focusing on creating positive social change and addressing issues faced by marginalized communities. This initiative is based on the belief that everyone can contribute to positive social change.

Faculty and community-based organizations, including non-profit organizations, grassroots initiatives, schools, community groups, and social enterprises are encouraged to apply jointly.

Proposals require equal partnerships, co-creation of knowledge, and the importance of centering the knowledge and experiences of marginalized communities.

Successful proposals will challenge traditional models of academic research, build long-term partnerships, and ensure lasting community benefits beyond the three-year funding period.

For more information regarding proposal criteria and to submit proposals visit CPECE Call for Community-Based Research Propsals . 

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TCU to Host Inaugural Maestro Conference, Empowering Latinx Educators

TCU’s College of Education is set to host the inaugural Maestro Conference on Saturday, May 18, at 8 a.m. at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni & Visitors Center. The event aims to support and develop Latinx male educators through an action-packed day comprised of dynamic speakers, professional development sessions, networking and community-building opportunities.

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Request for Nominations: The 2024 Societal Impact Awards


The Lucy Societal Impact Awards

The Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society seeks nominations for our annual Lucy Societal Impact Awards (“ The Lucies “) to recognize individuals or teams whose work exemplifies the Institute’s vision to inspire collaborative, equitable, and impactful data innovations as a global force for good .

We will award up to three individuals or teams who have worked to advance data-driven convergence research, translational solutions, and/or education to ethically address society’s wicked problems.

Work should include significant contributions within the civic, industry, academic, or research arena with impact at either the regional (South Bend/Elkhart) or global (United States and beyond) level.

The Institute will work with teams that are selected as finalists to create a project video summary that will be shown at the Lucy Annual Celebration in October 2024.


We welcome nominations for project teams that are composed of both Notre Dame and external candidates, but the work must be led or co-led by a Notre Dame faculty or staff member. The team may include students or postdoctoral scholars.

External awardees may include any individual or representative within industry, community, NGO, civic, or other project collaborators. This includes but is not limited to, faculty or staff from another academic/research institution.

Nomination Components

Responses to each question are limited to 150 words or fewer.

  • Name of the project’s lead organization or researcher, additional partners, submitter name, and contact information.
  • What problem did this team seek to address?
  • How did the team approach this problem or challenge?
  • What has been the impact of this project so far? What do you expect to be the long-term impact of this project? 
  • How did this work exemplify the mission of the Lucy Family Institute ?

Submission & Deadline

Deadline: Aug 1, 2024 at 5:00 PM ET.

Please direct any questions to the 2024 Lucy Annual Celebration Chair, Dr. Matthew Sisk ( [email protected] ).


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Research: Warehouse and Logistics Automation Works Better with Human Partners

  • René de Koster

research proposal limitations are

A recent study suggests that blending human labor with robotics leads to greater efficiency.

A study of automation usage in warehouse and logistics companies around the world suggests that blending human labor with robotics leads to greater efficiency than full automation alone. While scalable robotic systems can handle up to 1,000 tasks per hour, they often face limitations where additional robots don’t improve performance. Human-robot collaboration, employed by companies like DHL and CEVA, enhances productivity, reduces worker fatigue, and increases job satisfaction. The incremental approach of integrating human roles with automated systems not only keeps operations cost effective but also leverages human adaptability for continuous improvements.

In every sphere of business, the use of automation is growing. In warehouses and distribution, for instance, the worldwide market revenue for robotics automation is projected to grow from $7.91 billion in 2021 to more than $51 billion by 2030, according to one Statista forecast .

  • RK René de Koster is a professor of logistics and operations management at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
  • DR Debjit Roy is an institute chair professor in the operations and decision sciences area at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, India.

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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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    Identify the limitations: Start by identifying the potential limitations of your research. These may include sample size, selection bias, measurement error, or other issues that could affect the validity and reliability of your findings. Be honest and objective: When describing the limitations of your research, be honest and objective.

  4. 21 Research Limitations Examples (2024)

    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.

  5. Research Limitations: Simple Explainer With Examples

    Research limitations are one of those things that students tend to avoid digging into, and understandably so. No one likes to critique their own study and point out weaknesses. Nevertheless, being able to understand the limitations of your study - and, just as importantly, the implications thereof - a is a critically important skill. In this post, we'll unpack some of the most common ...

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    The ideal way is to divide your limitations section into three steps: 1. Identify the research constraints; 2. Describe in great detail how they affect your research; 3. Mention the opportunity for future investigations and give possibilities. By following this method while addressing the constraints of your research, you will be able to ...

  7. Understanding Limitations in Research

    Here's an example of a limitation explained in a research paper about the different options and emerging solutions for delaying memory decline. These statements appeared in the first two sentences of the discussion section: "Approaches like stem cell transplantation and vaccination in AD [Alzheimer's disease] work on a cellular or molecular level in the laboratory.

  8. 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 ...

  9. 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.

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    Your professor may assign the task of writing a research proposal for the following reasons: Develop your skills in thinking about and designing a comprehensive research study; ... ANOTHER NOTE: This section is also where you describe any potential limitations to your proposed study. While it is impossible to highlight all potential limitations ...

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    Limitations. Limitations of a dissertation are potential weaknesses in your study that are mostly out of your control, given limited funding, choice of research design, statistical model constraints, or other factors. In addition, a limitation is a restriction on your study that cannot be reasonably dismissed and can affect your design and results.

  12. How to Present the Limitations of the Study Examples

    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 ...

  13. Q: How do I prepare the limitations of a proposal?

    1 Answer to this question. Answer: In a proposal, limitations are the constraints of the study, that is, aspects of the study not covered for various reasons. These could pertain to subjects, geography, data, and so on. For instance, one limitation could be that the study will only look at people of a certain age group or income level.

  14. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research proposal examples. Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We've included a few for you below. Example research proposal #1: "A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management".

  15. PDF How to Present Limitations and 13 Alternatives

    re impressive to reviewers than ignoring them.A fourfold approach can be used when presenting limitations as outlined in the Figure 13.1: (1) describe the potential limitation, (2) describe the potential impact of the limitation on your study findings, (3) discuss alternatives and why they were not selected, and (4) describe the methods that ...

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    Writing a Research Proposal; Acknowledgements; Definition. ... 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 ...

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    Identify limitations: Identify the limitations of the study and how they may affect the generalizability of the findings. Suggest directions for future research: ... Here are some specific situations of when to write implications in research: Research proposal: When writing a research proposal, it is important to include a section on the ...

  20. How to prepare a Research Proposal

    It puts the proposal in context. 3. The introduction typically begins with a statement of the research problem in precise and clear terms. 1. The importance of the statement of the research problem 5: The statement of the problem is the essential basis for the construction of a research proposal (research objectives, hypotheses, methodology ...

  21. The TQF Qualitative Research Proposal: Limitations

    In this section, the proposal author will methodically apply the TQF to produce a critique of the proposed research design in ways that are consistent with what has been discussed in the Design section of the proposal. That is, the Limitations section will contain subsections on Credibility (Scope and Data Gathering), Analyzability (Processing ...

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    A proposal needs to show how your work fits into what is already known about the topic and what new paradigm will it add to the literature, while specifying the question that the research will answer, establishing its significance, and the implications of the answer. [ 2] The proposal must be capable of convincing the evaluation committee about ...

  23. The general impact of self-stigma of mental illness on adult patients

    The main limitation of the review is the limited number of included studies. The research proposal for this review has been registered to Prospero (ID number: CRD42022366555). Mental illness stigma is often common among mentally ill patients. This stigma can come from others or the patients themselves, which is called 'self-stigma'.

  24. MBA Statement on FHFA's Conditional Approval of Freddie Mac's Proposal

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    Make sure you can ask the critical what, who, and how questions of your research before you put pen to paper. Your research proposal should include (at least) 5 essential components : Title - provides the first taste of your research, in broad terms. Introduction - explains what you'll be researching in more detail.

  27. Call for Community Based Research Proposals

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