The important trick you have to learn while presenting your limitations is to present them in a constructive way rather than being too negative about them. You must try to use positive language even when you are talking about major limitations of your work. In this blog, we will look at some clever techniques to present the study limitations in your research paper without reducing the impact of your work.

1. Use Less Negative Words

Negative words in study limitations

In the example below, the authors are trying to tell the readers that one of the drawbacks of their study was that a lot of parameters were approximated. In the first example, the authors start the sentence with the word ‘Unfortunately’. This is a negative word. Don’t use strong negative words like ‘unfortunately’, ‘disappointing’, ‘regrettably’, etc.  Try to use slightly less negative words like ‘limitations’, ‘pitfalls’, ‘drawbacks’, ‘shortcomings’ etc. In the second example, the authors have used the word ‘limitation’ which is a slightly less negative word.

The authors have used strong negative words such as ‘Unfortunately’ and ‘Regrettably’

Unfortunately, due to lack of reliable data a lot of parameters were approximated from available literature. Regrettably, there wasn’t enough literature on the topic.

The authors have used slightly less negative words like ‘Limitations’ and ‘Scarcely available’

One of the limitations of the study is that certain parameters were approximated from scarcely available literature data.

2. Clarify Exactly What Your Limitations Are

In the example below, the authors are trying to tell the readers that one of the drawbacks of their study is the small sample size. In the first example, the authors have not given any further explanation as to why the sample size is small. Whereas in the second example, the authors have clearly explained the reason. They are saying that the sample size is small because the cases were limited to one hospital. They are also finishing the passage with a positive note saying that even though it is a small study it has yielded useful results, and future work should try to replicate these findings in larger studies.

You can imagine the type of impact both examples might have on the readers. The first example undermines the credibility of the research, whereas the second example sets a slightly different tone and sounds a bit positive.

The author has provided no reason for the small sample size. This is a very blunt statement and undermines the crediblity of the research.

Unfortunately, the sample size was too small in study.

The author has clearly explained why their sample size was small and their explanation sounds credible

One limitation is that the sample size was small. This is because the number of cases was limited to one hospital. Nevertheless, the study has yielded important results. Larger yet similar studies are required to reconfirm the findings.

3. Distance Yourself from the Limitation

Here is a slightly different way of presenting the same limitations. The authors have used some clever tactics here to make the limitations sound more positive.

The authors have take a neutal stance and telling the readers that this is a common problem faced by most studies of this nature

Although the study has yielded important results, it is limited by the small sample size. Due to financial constraints, the majority of such studies are limited to cases from one hospital.

You can see that the author has used the adverb ‘Although’ at the start of the sentence, so this immediately tells the readers that something negative is about to follow. They are saying that although the study has yielded very important results, the sample size is a bit small.

Distancing yourself from the Study limitations

There is something else they are doing here that is quite clever.  They are saying that this is because of financial constraints, and most studies of this nature suffer from this limitation. The authors are distancing themselves from the data and taking a neutral stance by saying they are not the only ones experiencing this problem, and this is a well-known problem in the field. After reading this passage, you get a feeling that although the study has some limitations, it may not be the author’s fault. This is a very good example demonstrating how to strike a constructive and positive tone when talking about limitations.

4. Summary

You must talk about the limitations of your work in the discussion section of the paper. One of the important qualities that the scientific community expects from a researcher is honesty and admitting when they have made a mistake. However, the trick is not to make your readers feel too negative about your work. We have covered a few strategies in this blog to make your limitations sound less negative. For further reading, please refer to our blogs on handling negative results and research limitations examples

If you have any questions, please drop a comment below, and we will answer as soon as possible. We also recommend you to refer to our other blogs on academic writing tools,  academic writing resourcesacademic writing phrases and research paper examples which are relevant to the topic discussed in this blog. 

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