One of the most difficult things associated with thesis writing is coming up with a suitable research topic. Ideally, as a researcher, address a knowledge gap to generate one. What should you do? This article provides a simplified approach to this common concern of those new to research.
You may find writing the literature review confusing, and feel that you don’t know where to start, as this part of research writing requires familiarity with the research topic being investigated. Familiarity will not happen unless you have read a great deal about what work or progress has been done to shed light to or understand why things happen the way they do, which in science is referred to as a phenomenon.
1. Literature Review to Discover the Knowledge Gap
The ultimate aim of a review of literature is to provide background information about a phenomenon using existing relevant and reliable or credible literature. Scientists attempt to explain the phenomenon, which, as expected, will always show a dearth of information on some aspects and fall short of your expectations.
Along the way, as you examine the literature, there will always be questions in your mind, which you try to resolve by reading more—hoping that there will be answers to your questions somewhere. In the end, you will still look for answers to your set of questions, but find nothing that addresses your curiosity.
Have you read enough? There’s a possibility that you might have not read everything, that there may be some literature that you have missed somewhere, somehow.
So, when should you stop reading relevant literature and conclude that indeed you have reached that point where you are convinced that no one has ever done anything or failed to answer adequately the questions that you have in mind? How can you ensure that you have exhausted available literature such that you can declare that there is a GAP in knowledge and come up with your unique research topic?
2. Why Scientists Specialize
In reality, identifying a knowledge gap in research is not a simple task, especially if you are new to the field of inquiry you are in. You will need to read more. More of how specialists in your field of specialization view the issues that you have in mind. Thus, it’s a good thing to read a meta-analysis, or synthesis of research work on a particular topic of interest.
You cannot profess that you know everything. Even if you consider yourself a Jack of All Trades, there will always be things you don’t know. Remember the Johari Window Model? Everyone has a blind spot, and things that are unknown, both by you and everyone else.
The limitation on our awareness of all things around us is the reason scientists specialize or stick to a particular study, research endeavor, or research topic for many years, trying to synthesize all work and fill in the gaps that will help explain a phenomenon.
The idea is to bring together all the work there is available for scrutiny and get useful insights and hind sights—what has been done and what has been left undone.
3. The Importance of Peer-Review to Find Out That Knowledge Gap Exists
These initiatives should be made known to everyone concerned through peer-reviewed publications. Why peer-reviewed? That is because, persons working along those lines of inquiry will recognize that indeed, what you are doing is something that they do not know about and which they would want to know.
For all intents and purposes, then, your gauge in saying that there is a GAP in knowledge is to read the work of those scientists or researchers who are recognized authority on those research topics you want to explore. These scientists or researchers publish their findings in reputable scientific journals. What they are saying or have done so far will serve as benchmark or springboard for further inquiry—a knowledge gap in research remains.
How will you know a person is knowledgeable or the authority on a certain topic of inquiry given that you are new in that field?
Well, one way to do so is to see if he or she has other research papers on the same topic available for examination, or probably see his credentials. After all, those in authority in a field are those who can convince everyone that what he is doing, his arguments, are the most sensible explanation of a phenomenon.
But if you have a better idea, then show your evidence. Who knows, your suggestions or propositions are better than anyone else’s.
13 Additional Viewpoints on the Knowledge Gap
I synthesized, edited, and reworded the important points raised by university scientists on the knowledge gap (or research gap). I describe these points below:
- The knowledge gap is that which needs to be filled by new research because we know little or nothing about it.
- Knowledge gap exists because an explanation of an issue has become outdated and no longer relevant.
- Knowledge gap in research refers to problems in a particular field that has not been addressed.
- Knowledge gap arises because empirical studies cannot explain a phenomenon.
- Using a unique method of investigation reveals a knowledge gap.
- There is a knowledge gap if evidence does not validate or support a proposed hypothesis.
- A knowledge gap persists if established theories cannot explain new findings.
- Scientists always miss out on answering all facets of research questions. Thus, every research has recommendations for further study to fill a knowledge gap.
- Knowledge gap emerges if we lack the information to reach a plausible explanation to a phenomenon.
- If something new arises, like the difficulties encountered on the recent pandemic due to COVID-19 that lingered for almost three years (ongoing at this time of writing) as lasting solutions through research are not immediately available, not only knowledge gap is revealed but a “gaping hole” in the current understanding of coronaviruses and their management.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, everything we thought we knew about the management of respiratory disease was questioned. Not just a gap; a gaping hole in our knowledge and understanding was exposed.Rajkumar Rajendram
© 2014 February 8 P. A. Regoniel, updated May 6, 2022