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Research Gap: 6 ways to Find and Make Potential Use of It

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

If you’re a young researcher, you’ll definitely find that certain research areas dominate your research labs. These topics are often related to your department, or to the interests of your mentor and immediate coworkers.

It is only normal that you feel motivated to continue the same line of research, for instance, if your department is currently conducting research on the use of nanotechnology in medicine.

The real spirit of a researcher is seeking the research gap and the urge to know where you can add more value and bring revolutionary additions to the knowledge. It should be something you feel comfortable and enthusiastic about.

Finding a research gap is so important because it’s the first step towards doing something new, novel and interesting and contributing knowledge to a particular field.

Let’s first understand what a research gap is.

What is Research Gap?

A research gap, or knowledge gap, occurs when an important question remains unanswered.

In order to take the first steps toward answering that question, you need to know where to start looking and how to even identify the right question to ask.

Knowing how to find a research gap can help you determine which areas in your field are most likely to be rewarding for you to work in and which areas are not likely to give you any breakthrough results at all.  

Remember, It should not be confused with a research question.

For example, if we ask the research question of what the side effects of sugar on human health for humans, we find a lot of data in the form of digits, numbers, text and videos, but when we ask a question of what are the effects of more screen time of pregnant women on the health of baby, we found a lack in published information.


Research Gap: 6 ways to Find and Make Potential Use of It

Why Is It Important To Identify a Unique Research Gap?

Identifying a research gap and filling that knowledge gap is an important task for any researcher as it helps in motivating you towards research activities and also provides useful information about your domain of interest and related topics.If you don’t do this study critically, there are chances of repetition of work and bringing the same research in front of the community. 

Identifying a research gap is not so much about finding a problem as it is about defining an area of knowledge that could be further explored and researched.

Finding an answer to these gaps may lead to revolutionary breakthroughs in your field!

In this blog post, I am going to share some important ways to find out research gaps and how to lead them towards potential research projects.

But before digging into the details of ways to find potential research gaps, let’s find out the major types of research gaps and how you can work on these types of gaps to find out the appropriate gap you want to work on and explore. 

1. Literature Gap

Before finding literature gap, you must know what literature gap is:

A literature gap is a research opportunity where there has been no research completed on a given topic.

In order to find a literature gap, you must be able to identify a current or past research study that could have an answer for your question and come up with another question that the previous study would not have answered.

For example, if you wanted to know about the effects of dog breeds on children’s health, you might first search for studies that investigated whether or not there are any links between dog ownership and childhood obesity rates.

If you did not find anything related to this link, then it is likely that this topic does not yet have any existing research done on it. You may want to contact experts in the field or conduct a pilot study in order to collect enough data for a full-scale study.

Asking questions like Is there a difference between how long kids play outside? or Is there a difference in school performance based on what time they get home from school? can help lead you to identify new research gaps.

2. Conceptual Gap

A conceptual gap is a type of research gap that occurs when the topic of interest has not been thoroughly researched and there are still gaps in the knowledge base.

This will help you avoid oversights and running into obstacles later on down the line. Below, we’ll go over three ways you can figure out if your idea has any conceptual gaps.

  • Ask experts (carefully!)

You can do your own brainstorming, but you can also ask experts and other people in your network what they think of your idea. After all, they’re likely to have seen a lot of research projects in their time. If they think it’s useful and important that more research be conducted on a topic, then chances are there is some conceptual gap there—especially if others agree with them!

  • Think Like a Reporter

Another research gap clue is if you can’t figure out what other researchers have studied or focused on regarding your idea—or, even more importantly, what they haven’t done yet. If your topic has been examined by previous researchers, and you can’t think of any holes in their study, then your idea probably isn’t missing anything that would be worth researching.

  • Talk With Researchers

One of your best tools for figuring out whether there is a research gap around your idea is talking to other people in academia and outside of it! You can do so via social media, at conferences, in informal settings like coffee shops, or even just cold-emailing them on their office email.

3. Time Gap

A time gap is a difference between when one person’s research ends and another begins.

The time gap in research is the time it takes for a researcher to realize that their research is outdated. There are many reasons for this research gap, including the fast-changing nature of research and the rise of new technologies.

A time gap in research is also observed when the researchers are unaware of new technologies. This can lead to wasted time and resources as well as missed opportunities for collaboration and innovation.

The time gap in research also sees when you found missing data and numbers.For example, if you study the effect of how many kids’ eyesight has been affected.

by an increase in screen time in the USA in 2021, you found no data. This can gap can be covered by doing research and collecting data against this research gap. 

4. Methodology Gap

A methodology is a process or protocol for conducting research, and a methodology gap is the lack of research on a certain topic.

A methodology gap can be identified by surveying the literature to see whether there are any methodologies to address a given question. If there are none, then it means that there is a gap in the literature.

To get started finding research gaps, you can browse the existing literature and look for emerging patterns in what is already known about your topic of interest.

You can also examine your own work by identifying which questions are still unanswered after you have completed your study, and then reach out to researchers who have expertise in related topics to see if they would be interested in working with you on future projects.

A third option is to use digital tools such as Google Scholar, Scopus, PubMed Central, Microsoft Academic Search, and Web of Science to search for articles using keywords associated with your subject area.

Lastly, there are many social media platforms that facilitate discussions between experts and those researching their topics.

Reddit is a great resource for asking specific questions about your field!

How to Find the Research Gap?

For young researchers, it seems a nightmare to read a lot of boring research papers by different professors on the same topic, narrow down it and finally reaching out a point from where you can take a new start and start exploring that area.

No doubt it’s a researcher-based, thought-provoking and critical task, and in the beginning, it may take you weeks to reach some point.

When you are looking for a research gap, it is important that you do not work in the same field as the person before you because they will already be aware of any gaps in their research.

Instead, look at their publications and see what areas they’re not researching or what questions they’re not answering. After you’ve identified some research gaps, it’s time to use them as a guide for your own work.

Let’s see some quick 6 ways to find out the research gap which are common and very useful 

Research Gap: 6 ways to Find and Make Potential Use of It

1. Look at Published Papers

Read books and articles on the subjects you are most interested in. This will not only provide you with a better understanding of the breadth of the research being done on your subject, but it will also give you a chance to pose questions that can reveal a research need. Don Davis, an economist and Columbia University professor, says: “Read the current literature in your field, take note of the contributions made in earlier works, but try not to be intimidated by it. Challenge everything.”  While finding potential research gap you could ponder things like:

  • What relevance does this research have to my project or the field at large?

  • In what ways can I use this article to develop my research questions?

  • Does the author’s point still need to be explained?

  • What concerns or queries is the author neglecting?

  • Is there another angle I might take into account?

  • What other elements might have affected the outcomes?

  • Are the practises being employed outdated or no longer accepted in your field? Is it possible to test the results using a more modern methodology?

  • You should pay particular attention to the Introduction section of research articles when reading them since this is where the authors discuss the significance of their study topic and the holes they have found and tried to fill with their research. Additionally, have a look at the authors’ recommendations or guidelines for additional research, since these could be quite motivating.

  • To discover more about the advancements and trends in research throughout time in the field you are interested in, read meta-analyses and review articles. This will enable you to familiarise yourself with the issues that have been studied in the past as well as the popular questions on the subjects that interest you.

2. Web Scraping

One of the easiest ways to find a research gap is by using Google Scholar.

  • Plug in your topic, and then click on the scholar in the top right-hand corner. In order to narrow your search, use the left-hand side of the screen which has tabs for different aspects of academic studies, such as journals and books.

Research Gap: 6 ways to Find and Make Potential Use of It

Once you have selected one of those categories, type in what you are looking for in the search bar at the top of the page.

Research Gap: 6 ways to Find and Make Potential Use of It

  • You can find publication status, type of publication, and year range in order to narrow your search as much as possible. For example, if you’re looking for information about the effects of sugary drinks on the brain, you could use the advanced search tool to filter out articles that were published before 1990 or articles that were unpublished (i.e., book chapters). In this way, it would be easier to find research that has been done up until this point without being inundated with irrelevant results.

  • Don’t just stop at Google Scholar! You can also use your favourite search engine to uncover research gaps in published articles by using advanced search filters such as published between and cited by in order to narrow down relevant results. You can even save search filters so that you can quickly access them when needed in order to pinpoint an existing research gap or pinpoint areas where there are limited published studies on a topic.

  • There are a lot of f tools that help a lot to find a potential research gap. These tools provide you with all the literature connected with each other in a sequence at one platform. These are Connected Papers Research Rabbit and Litmap

3. Visit the Websites of Reputable Journals

Experts in a field emphasize the main concepts in that discipline in a section titled “Key Concepts” that is frequently found on the websites of well-known journals.

You can learn a lot from reading this area and come up with a lot of new ideas as well. Additionally, you ought to read the reference list in these papers because it may direct you to crucial sources on the subject.

4.  Consult Your Research Advisor for Assistance

With the help of your research advisor, brainstorm research questions based on the difficulties and issues in your area of study. It may be helpful to identify your study field or even uncover flaws in your approach if you can express your ideas and are aware of what others think and are working on. You can discuss an issue with your advisor and obtain their advice if you believe it would be interesting to work on.

5. Make a list of Your Questions

It is a good idea to write down any questions you have when you read any published literature. Map the query to the source it is based on, if at all possible. When reading anything, whether it be an article, a book, a book chapter, a dissertation, or anything else, Nadine Anderson, Behavioral Sciences and Women’s and Gender Studies Librarian at the University of Michigan, advises, “Keep track of what the authors told you and the questions that occur to you.” She claims that doing this will aid in preventing accidental plagiarism in your research report. To keep a record, you can use tables, charts, photos, or tools. When you do so, it will benefit you in the long run.

6. Investigate Each Query

Once you have a list of potential research questions, you must do extensive study on each one.

Why does this matter? For each uncertainty or question you have, read more. Find out whether other scientists have raised comparable issues and whether they have come up with solutions. This will assist you in avoiding the repetition of effort.

You will devote a significant amount of time to your research project, so choose a topic that you are passionate about. When choosing an innovative research concept, be sure to take into account the project’s timeline as well as other crucial factors including the accessibility of resources like funding, infrastructure, and equipment.

Due to time and resource constraints, an overly ambitious project could be challenging to complete, and a study that doesn’t add enough value might not receive the support of your financing committee or the editorial board of the journal.

Tips to Find Research Gap

Identifying a literature gap is an essential step in academic research as it helps you situate your study within the existing body of knowledge and highlights the significance of your work. Here are some tips to help you find a literature gap:

Conduct a Thorough Literature Review:

  • Start by conducting a comprehensive literature review on your research topic.

  • Read key articles, books, and other relevant sources to understand the current state of research in your field.

Identify Key Themes and Trends:

  • Note the key themes, concepts, and trends that emerge from the literature.

  • Look for recurring issues, controversies, or debates among researchers.

Evaluate Existing Research:

  • Assess the strengths and limitations of existing studies. Identify areas where the current research falls short or lacks depth.

  • Consider the methodologies, sample sizes, and data analysis techniques used in previous studies.

Check Recent Publications:

  • Look for the most recent publications in your field to ensure you are aware of the latest developments.

  • Identify gaps that may have emerged since the last comprehensive review.

Explore Unanswered Questions:

  • Pay attention to questions or issues that remain unanswered in the existing literature.

  • Consider the practical implications of these unanswered questions.

Consider Different Perspectives:

  • Explore research from different perspectives and methodologies.

  • Look for interdisciplinary connections that might reveal gaps that are not apparent within a single discipline.

Engage with Academic Conferences:

  • Attend conferences and review proceedings to identify emerging topics and gaps discussed by researchers in your field.

  • Engage in discussions with experts to gain insights into areas that need further exploration.

Consult with Experts:

  • Talk to professors, mentors, or experts in your field for guidance on potential gaps or underexplored areas.

  • Seek their feedback on your understanding of the existing literature.

Consider Practical Applications:

  • Think about the practical applications of your research and whether there are gaps in addressing real-world problems.

  • Look for areas where theory and practice may not align.

Use Citation Analysis:

  • Analyze citation patterns in relevant papers to identify influential works.

  • Look for instances where key papers are frequently cited but the gap in the literature persists.

Review Research Agendas:

  • Check research agendas and roadmaps proposed by scholars in your field. These often highlight areas where more investigation is needed.

Keep an Open Mind:

  • Be open to unexpected discoveries and alternative perspectives as you explore the literature.

  • Sometimes, gaps may not be obvious until you delve deeper into the material.

Remember that identifying a literature gap is an ongoing process, and your understanding may evolve as your research progresses. Regularly revisit the literature to ensure that you stay abreast of new developments and continue to refine your research question in light of the existing knowledge.

Bonus Tip 

After you’ve identified some research gaps, it’s time to use them as a guide for your own work.

  • Can you answer one of their questions?

  • Do you know an overlooked area where there might be research opportunities?

  • Do you have new techniques or resources to offer?

Well, there are a few options. For example, if you want to be more hands-on with your research and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, try conducting an experiment or setting up an observation. Keep in mind, you may need access to equipment or materials that might not be readily available.

You could also survey people from a variety of backgrounds and collect their opinions about the topic of interest.

These are all good places to start.


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