3 Proven Hacks to Identify the Research Gap in the Literature

PhD process is not merely about collecting data, performing research and obtaining the relevant answer, but also includes writing a research document. Often research scholars indulged in writing a research document ignore the key defining components of the document (identifying & filing research gap) without which the research document is simply a collection of academic words. What makes identifying the research gap so important in PhD is that, it proves that you aren’t duplicating research thereby helping you get your research published and adding more value to the existing knowledge in your field of study. Hence it becomes a mandate to figure the research gap.

Before spelling the beans to how to identify the gap, lets see what exactly a research gap is. To begin with, while reading research reports/academic papers on topics of your interest, you may come across a few topics that have not been researched and have significant scope for more research. A research gap, also known as a literature gap, refers to such unexplored topics that have scope for further research. But, it should be noted that, although finding a research gap sounds easy, in reality it isn’t. Some of the possible ways you can take up to identify the gap are:

  1. Pay attention to your research area –  Before identifying the gaps in the literature, figure out what your area of interest is. This will help you narrow down the research area.  
  2. Perform some exploratory research –  Go through your course textbook, meta-analysis, systematic, & literature reviews, and PsycINFO Thesaurus to determine specific issues & arguments in your study area and also the possible relationships between them.
  3. Read Ebooks – Ebooks give you the panorama view of the research area you are interested in. They give detailed information about your study area, provide summaries of the previous research, and help you identify significant themes and relationships for your study.
  4. Map out the literature – Once you have thoroughly gone through the articles, Ebooks, and other sources, keep track of whatever you have read (including the name of the author & source) to use the information for your study as well as to avoid plagiarism. You can do this by using mind maps, charts, pictures, tables, etc. to map out the literature. Also research your question and check if any of the researchers has the same question as you or has found answers to them. Sources like Science Direct, Web of Science,  Wiley Online Library databases, etc. help you follow the research trail via listing the articles that have been cited.

If you haven’t found any answers to any one of your questions, then you have found a research gap. However, it is advisable to get feedback from your guide before you get carried away.

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