How to resolve the literature gap from literature review?

Feb 05, 2024
to resolve the literature gap from literature review

Focusing on a research journey can be an impossible task as one delves into the vast expanse of existing literature. Yet, pinpointing problems in this vast sea of knowledge can prove to be quite difficult. In this blog post, we'll look into effective techniques for addressing gaps in your literature review, so that your research can make a valuable contribution to your field.

What is Research Gap?

A research gap refers to a deficiency, unexplored area, or unanswered question in the existing body of knowledge within a particular field of study. It represents a space or void in the current literature where further investigation, analysis, or exploration is needed. Identifying and addressing research gaps is a crucial aspect of academic research as it allows researchers to contribute new insights, knowledge, or solutions, thereby advancing the understanding of a subject or field.

Researchers typically identify research gaps during the literature review phase of their study. This involves reviewing existing literature to understand what is already known about a topic and pinpointing areas where there is insufficient information, conflicting findings, or where no research has been conducted. Addressing these gaps becomes the focus of the new research, allowing the study to contribute to the scholarly conversation and expand the current understanding of the subject matter.

For example, let’s say your research aims to identify the cause (or causes) of a particular disease. Upon reviewing the literature, you may find that there’s a body of research that points toward cigarette smoking as a key factor – but at the same time, a large body of research that finds no link between smoking and the disease. In that case, you may have something of a research gap that warrants further investigation.

Now that we’ve defined what a research gap is – an unanswered question or unresolved problem

– let’s look at a few different types of research gaps.

  • The classic literature gap
  • The disagreement gap
  • The contextual gap, and
  • The methodological gap

The Classic Literature Gap:

Definition: The classic literature gap is a term used to describe a scenario where there is a noticeable absence of thorough or fundamental research on a specific subject or matter.

Characteristics: There is often a lack of widely recognized, important writings that thoroughly delve into and establish a strong basis for comprehending the topic.

Significance: Identifying a classic literature gap indicates the need for foundational research to establish a strong base of knowledge in the area.

The Disagreement Gap:

Definition: The variation arises when the current body of literature presents contrasting results, explanations, or perspectives on a particular aspect of a subject.

Characteristics: There is a gap in the research where researchers have differing opinions and inconsistencies regarding important aspects, results, or theories in this subject.

Significance: Addressing the disagreement gap may involve resolving conflicting evidence, clarifying methodologies, or synthesizing diverse perspectives to contribute to a more cohesive understanding.

The Contextual Gap:

Definition: The contextual gap is a result of insufficient research that fails to take into account the specific contextual factors that influence a particular phenomenon.

Characteristics: There may be a gap in the analysis, where the impact of cultural, social, economic, or environmental factors on the subject under investigation is not adequately explored.

Significance: Filling the contextual gap requires conducting research that considers and integrates the broader context, providing a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the topic.

The Methodological Gap:

Definition: The methodological gap becomes apparent when there are shortcomings, variations, or problems in the research methods used in previous studies on a specific subject.

Characteristics: There may be a gap that needs to be addressed, which could include concerns related to sample size, research design, data collection methods, or statistical analysis.

Significance: Addressing the methodological gap involves refining or innovating research methodologies to enhance the reliability and validity of future studies, ensuring more robust findings.

The Significance of Identifying Literature Gaps

Recognizing the lack of certain information in literature is not just an intellectual pursuit; it is crucial for advancing our knowledge. It requires recognizing the boundaries of existing knowledge and uncovering possibilities for future investigation. Through the identification of these gaps, researchers make valuable contributions to the growth and advancement of their fields. They constantly push the boundaries of knowledge and challenge developed paradigms.

Conducting a Comprehensive Literature Review

An extensive literature review is essential for any research project. Start by immersing yourself in academic databases, exploring pertinent terms, and keeping tabs on references. The objective is to fully engage with the existing body of work, acquiring a nuanced comprehension of the current state of knowledge.

Defining Research Questions or Objectives

Employing the literature as your guide, express your research questions or objectives in a clear manner. These serve as guiding lights, directing your attention to specific aspects of the existing literature. Having clear goals is essential for guiding your research journey.

Identifying Themes and Trends

As you explore the literature, it's important to keep an eye out for common themes and patterns that emerge. Are there specific areas that researchers tend to focus on? Recognizing these patterns allows you to not only identify what has been examined, but also uncover potential areas that have not yet been explored in various aspects of your field.

Evaluating Methodologies

Methodologies act as the means by which researchers analyze and comprehend their subjects. Analyze the approaches employed in previous research. Are there any limitations or gaps in these approaches that could have resulted in incomplete or inconclusive findings? This in-depth analysis sets the foundation for innovative methods of research.

Looking for Contradictions and Inconsistencies

Methodologies provide the tools through which researchers analyze and understand their subjects. Examine the methods used in previous studies. Are there any limitations or gaps in these methods that may have led to incomplete or inconclusive findings? This comprehensive analysis establishes the groundwork for innovative study techniques.

Considering Cross-disciplinary Perspectives

Embrace the power of interdisciplinary collaboration and avoid limiting yourself to just one domain. Discover other areas of study and related fields. Exploring different perspectives from various disciplines can provide a diverse range of ideas and insights, uncovering overlooked areas within a specific academic field.

Checking for Outdated Information

The rate of research is fast, and knowledge quickly becomes outdated. Make sure the literature you review is up-to-date. Stay updated with the latest sources to stay informed about the latest developments in your field.

Exploring Emerging Topics

Explore novel fields of inquiry. Explore new and upcoming subjects or advancements that haven't received much attention. These emerging fields often offer chances for innovative research and innovation.

Engaging with Experts

No one can conduct research in detachment. Make valuable connections with industry professionals by attending conferences, workshops, or participating in online forums. Having conversations with well-informed individuals can offer valuable perspectives on topics that need more investigation.

Utilizing Bibliometric Analysis

In the era of digital scholarship, bibliometric analysis tools can be valuable partners. Discover influential articles, significant authors, and emerging research trends in your field. This analytical method helps to grasp the influence and appeal of various research subjects.

Considering Practical Applications

Evaluate if the present body of literature has practical implications or tackles real-life issues. Recognizing areas where solutions or practical applications are lacking can help direct your research towards making meaningful contributions.

Reflecting on Unanswered Questions

There is a great deal of potential in the unanswered questions that exist within the field of research. Consider the aspects of the literature that raise unanswered questions. Tackling these areas of improvement has the potential to make significant advancements in the field.

In the never-ending quest for knowledge, recognizing gaps in literature is not a fixed duty but an ongoing, ever-changing endeavor. Thoroughly examining relevant literature, carefully noting any inconsistencies, exploring different fields of study, and consulting with experts are essential steps in conducting valuable and influential research.

Examples to identify research gap

Imagine you are a civil engineer with expertise in structural engineering. You are interested in ensuring the durability and safety of buildings in earthquake-prone regions. Your goal is to identify a research gap within this specific domain.

1. Literature Review
Existing Studies: Start by reviewing existing studies on the durability of construction materials in earthquake-prone regions. Look into studies that investigate the performance of various materials under seismic conditions.

2. Identify Themes and Trends
Themes in Existing Literature: After reviewing several studies, you observe that most research focuses on the structural integrity of buildings during earthquakes. However, there seems to be limited emphasis on the long-term durability of construction materials exposed to seismic events.

3. Evaluate Methodologies
Methodological Limitations: Evaluate the methodologies used in the studies. You notice that many studies primarily rely on simulations and laboratory tests, but there is a lack of comprehensive field studies assessing the actual performance of construction materials in real earthquake events.

4. Look for Contradictions and Inconsistencies
Contradictory Findings: While the majority of studies report on the immediate structural response to earthquakes, you find contradictory findings regarding the long-term effects of seismic events on the durability of specific materials.

5. Cross-disciplinary Perspectives
Explore Geotechnical Engineering Research: Consider exploring literature from related disciplines, such as geotechnical engineering. You find that there is a lack of integration between structural engineering studies and the understanding of soil-structure interactions during earthquakes, impacting material durability.

6. Check for Outdated Information
Latest Publications: Ensure your literature review includes the most recent publications. You discover that recent advancements in material science and seismic-resistant technologies are not thoroughly incorporated into existing studies.

7. Explore Emerging Topics
Advanced Materials: Investigate emerging topics, such as the development of advanced construction materials with enhanced durability in seismic environments. While mentioned in a few studies, there is a gap in comprehensive research assessing the real-world application and performance of these materials.

8. Engage with Experts
Connect with Seismic Engineers and Material Scientists: Engage with experts in seismic engineering and material science through conferences and forums. Discussions reveal a shared interest in addressing the gap between laboratory findings and the real-world performance of construction materials in earthquake-prone regions.

9. Utilize Bibliometric Analysis
Bibliometric Analysis:Use bibliometric analysis tools to identify highly cited articles and influential authors in the field. This reveals a gap in terms of collaborative research between structural engineers and material scientists, hindering the translation of laboratory advancements to practical applications in earthquake-resistant structures.

10. Consider Practical Applications
Practical Implementation: Evaluate whether the existing literature provides practical solutions for implementing durable construction materials in earthquake-prone regions. You find that there is a gap in terms of guidelines and standards for the selection and use of these materials in real-world construction projects.

11. Reflect on Unanswered Questions
Unanswered Questions: Conclude your literature review by reflecting on questions that remain unanswered, such as the long-term durability of specific construction materials in diverse seismic environments and the practical challenges in implementing advanced materials in real construction projects.

Through this comprehensive review, you've identified a potential research gap: the need for integrated studies that assess the real-world durability of construction materials in earthquake-prone regions. This gap presents an opportunity for your research to contribute to the development of practical guidelines and standards for the selection and implementation of durable materials in seismic-resistant structures.

As you embark on your research journey, stay curious and open to adapting your focus based on emerging developments in your field. The quest for knowledge is an ongoing adventure, and by identifying and addressing literature gaps, you play a vital role in shaping the future of your discipline.