Is it common to discuss the fact that one didn't have time to do more reading, or didn't have time to elaborate certain sections, in the "limitations" section of a thesis?

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    I'm not sure what you mean. I would expect your limitations section to discuss inherent limitations of your results or methods. So if by "time limits" you mean "we can only run this reaction for 2 hours and then it blows up", then yes. If you mean "I didn't have time to run more experiments" then no. Jun 26, 2014 at 17:37
  • I mean our second possibility, something like I didn't have the time to do more readings, or elaborate certain sections. Jun 26, 2014 at 17:42
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    something like I didn't have the time to do more readings, or elaborate certain sections. -- You'll want to avoid writing this into your thesis.
    – Mad Jack
    Jun 26, 2014 at 18:18
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    Time limitations do show up on papers occasionally, in fields where experiments or computations take too long to be reasonable. For example, something like "if we tried to calculate for two more particles then the code would take about six months to run" is usually written up like "calculations for larger systems take prohibitively long times". This does not apply, of course, to not reading enough or not writing carefully enough.
    – E.P.
    Jun 26, 2014 at 20:40
  • If you didn't investigate something (in work, not in readings), you could mention it in a future work section (if you're okay possibly racing other researchers to do the further investigation). Jun 26, 2014 at 21:19

2 Answers 2


No. It not common, nor should you do it! As paul garrett pointed out, this type of excuse makes it seem as though you didn't care or couldn't be bothered to do a better job.

I would add also that no matter how much time and effort you have put into developing an idea and writing your paper, it is almost inevitable that there will be something that you missed or could have done better had you had/taken more time. Even the magnum opus on which you have spent your entire lifetime will be superseded by better or more complete thoughts; this is an inevitable reality of academic writing, and not one you should apologize for.

Perhaps especially as a student, one struggles to find the balance that represents maximum output for minimum time spent. Knowing when to 'let go' is a function of maturity and experience. When you've made that decision (or have had it made for you, due to time constraints outside your control), accept that this might be better, but don't apologize for the inevitable.


"No", for several reasons. First, even if literally true due to external constraints, it sounds too much like one really didn't care enough, or had other, more important things to do. Second, if it's a sort of excuse for not having a better paper, that's both unprofessional and will only make people mistrust you all the more. Third, although scientific and other scholarly literature has manifest limitations, to apparently concede huge limitations at the outset is pathetic.

Even if such remarks are a (misguided) attempt at some sort of modesty, don't do it. Your thesis is not "about you", but about its subject. Personal remarks should be limited to thank-yous and such in the acknowledgements.

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