I'm currently finalizing my master's thesis and am working on the discussion and limitations part.

I did some relatively standard statistical tests on my data, which gave promising results. My supervisor suggested trying some machine learning to create a predictive model. While I did take a basic machine learning course during my master's, I am by no means an expert in this area.

Now, my machine learning model performed pretty okay. But, since I only know some basic machine learning, I'm sure better results might be achieved with other machine learning methods I have not tried due to lack of expertise. Is it appropriate to mention this lack of expertise as a reason why I did not try to further improve these models?

Note: I tried 2 different ML methods/algorithms, which were suggested by another member of staff.

3 Answers 3


Rather than describing this as a limitation, I would present this as an area for future research. For example,

Machine learning methods X and Y produced promising results for predictive modeling. An area for future research would be to optimize these as well as explore methods, a, b, and c.

and then build upon this with details to be an appropriate length (probably a paragraph or two).


Like in the other answer by @RichardErickson, I would suggest you frame this as a future direction rather than a limitation per se.

However, your general question seems to be whether you should reveal your own personal limitations in your thesis, and for that I would strongly say no, never. It's normal and reasonable to not pursue every possible avenue around a research project: time is simply finite.

That said, your lack of experience or understanding of a technique should never be used as an excuse. Part of doing research is learning new techniques. In your specific circumstance, it sounds like you've already covered that base fairly well by applying two different machine learning techniques; your supervisor can help you determine whether this is completely sufficient or not, depending on the results. Your thesis (and any publication) should make clear how you applied those techniques and allow a reader to assess the appropriateness of your approach based on their own expertise.


It is not generally appropriate to cite your own lack of expertise for failing to pursue a particular line of analysis in research. The reason is that an academic work is supposed to be an objective analysis of the problem, and so the reader will want to learn about what methods are scientifically useful to deal with the research problem at hand, not about the personal skills of the authors.

Of course, there are certainly cases where authors of an academic work do not have the skills to extend the research in a particular direction. That is what is happening in your case. Instead of mentioning the limitations on your expertise, you should simply state the method you used, and then note that other methods might be applicable to the situation, and these constitute an avenue for possible further research. It is not necessary for you to be the one that does that future research ---since you lack the necessary expertise--- but you can still point out that other methods might fruitfully extend the analysis.

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