Literature reviews are ubiquitous in academic journals, scholarly reports, and social work education. Students taking social work courses throughout the curriculum, including Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Practice, Policy, and Research classes, are frequently asked to write literature reviews for a variety of reasons. Literature reviews are often done within the context of writing a paper and sometimes done as a mini-assignment, perhaps setting the frame for a broader paper, exposing students to the breadth of information available on a topic area, or demonstrating skills in critical thinking and writing ability. However, there are some general guidelines to follow when writing a literature review.
Bibliography Definition The limitations of the study are those characteristics of design or methodology that impacted or influenced the interpretation of the findings from your research. Always acknowledge a study's limitations.
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 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 to also confront assumptions and explore what we don't know.
Claiming limitations 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 results and conclusions.
Limitations require a critical, overall appraisal and interpretation of their impact. You should answer the question: 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 the introduction of your paper.
Here are examples of limitations related to methodology and the research process you may need to describe and discuss how they possibly impacted your results.
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Note that descriptions of limitations should be stated in the past tense because they were discovered after you completed your research. Possible Methodological Limitations Sample size -- the number of the units of analysis you use in your study is dictated by the type of research problem you are investigating.
Note that, if your sample size is too small, it will be difficult to find significant relationships from the data, as statistical tests normally require a larger sample size to ensure a representative distribution of the population and to be considered representative of groups of people to whom results will be generalized or transferred.
Note that sample size is generally less relevant in qualitative research if explained in the context of the research problem. You need to not only describe these limitations but provide cogent reasons why you believe data is missing or is unreliable. Lack of prior research studies on the topic -- citing prior research studies forms the basis of your literature review and helps lay a foundation for understanding the research problem you are investigating.
Depending on the currency or scope of your research topic, there may be little, if any, prior research on your topic. Before assuming this to be true, though, consult with a librarian! In cases when a librarian has confirmed that there is little or no prior research, you may be required to develop an entirely new research typology [for example, using an exploratory rather than an explanatory research design].
Note again that discovering a limitation can serve as an important opportunity to identify new gaps in the literature and to describe the need for further research. Measure used to collect the data -- sometimes it is the case that, after completing your interpretation of the findings, you discover that the way in which you gathered data inhibited your ability to conduct a thorough analysis of the results.
For example, you regret not including a specific question in a survey that, in retrospect, could have helped address a particular issue that emerged later in the study.
Acknowledge the deficiency by stating a need for future researchers to revise the specific method for gathering data. Self-reported data -- whether you are relying on pre-existing data or you are conducting a qualitative research study and gathering the data yourself, self-reported data is limited by the fact that it rarely can be independently verified.
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 can contain several potential sources of bias that you should be alert to and note as limitations.
These biases become apparent if they are incongruent with data from other sources. Possible Limitations of the Researcher Access -- if your study depends on having access to people, organizations, data, or documents and, for whatever reason, access is denied or limited in some way, the reasons for this needs to be described.
Also, be sure to explain why denied or limited access does not prevent you from following through on your study. Longitudinal effects -- unlike your professor, who can literally devote years [even a lifetime] to studying a single topic, the time available to investigate a research problem and to measure change or stability over time is pretty much constrained by the due date of your assignment.
Be sure to choose a research problem 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 whether you can complete your research within the confines of the assignment's due date, talk to your professor.Purpose of the Literature Review. It gives readers easy access to research on a particular topic by selecting high quality articles or studies that are relevant, meaningful, important and valid and summarizing them into one complete report.
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