My methodology is online ethnography. This methodology has certain limitations such as identity play, falsification, and artificiality of data. However, its proponents have suggested some strategies for coping with these limitations and my study is based on them.

I am confused because I think the limitations section is concerned with limitations of a study that were not solved or accounted for, and that are to be avoided in future research.

So, should I discuss these limitations, that have alternative approaches or proposed solutions, in the limitations section? Thank you


With the caveat that this is discipline specific, you could discuss your questions in several places in your article.

First, you can begin to nod at this briefly in the methods section of your article. Every methodology has some drawback or limitation and my advisers always told me to acknowledge this in the beginning. For instance, while doing semi-structured interviews, I admitted that my sampling was convenience and snowball based and restricted to 30 participants. However, I followed this up by citing 2 papers which talk about appropriateness of sample size in grounded theory approaches and theoretical saturation and why this is not hamstringing my paper completely.

Second, one of the ways of validating qualitative studies from a methodological perspective is to look at issues of credibility, transferability etc. One of their solutions is to do member checks (especially for interview based studies) In one of my current projects, I did do member checks and talk about this approach as mitigating some of my methodological drawbacks in the Discussion section of my article.

Third, you can definitely talk about this in the limitations section of your paper. There is no panacea to solving a human-centered research problem (and indeed various nuanced facets of every research project, however thoroughly investigated they might be are almost always incomplete) In the limitations section of my papers, I put down both theoretical as well as methodological limitations of my work and discuss potential ways to approach them in future work or follow up studies.


While I do not directly address your question, the following might help you to find a point of view that allows you to structure your work. Also note that I am from an entirely different discipline.

I am confused because I think the limitations section is concerned with limitations of a study that were not solved or accounted for, and that are to be avoided in future research.

With exception to the rare case that you can fully reduce the effects of a limitation of your methodology to a neglible magnitude, it remains a limitation and thus further work can improve on this aspect.

Moreover, a limitation of a methodology that is neither addressed by countermeasures nor argument (i.e., you can argue that the limitation’s effects are limited) is not only a limitation but a flaw – with some exceptions such as if that limitation only became apparent in hindsight or your main work is to explore the methodology rather than just to apply it. Any claims resulting from a methodology that has errors of fully unknown magnitude are worthless.

Finally, unless your advisor or some other relevant person has dogmatic views on how your thesis is to be structured, your structure should be determined by your content and not vice versa. In particular, it may be wise to address certain aspects only once and thouroughly – and not in multiple places and in parts. For example, you may consider titling a section along the lines of Limitations and how to circumvent them.

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