You have your topic, your research questions (or at least a general idea of what they might be), and now you’re faced with a literature review. Many clients come to us with questions about “finding the gap in the literature.” Either they are confused about the term, or they don’t know how to go about it, or are just plain lost.

Don’t worry – Dissertation Editor can help!

What is a Literature Review?

Chapter 2 of your dissertation is typically a literature review. What this is, is a comprehensive overview of the significant literature on your topic, as well as analysis. You need to use the literature to illustrate the problem you’ve identified and explain the research that’s already been done, as well as clarify the research you plan to do. A significant part of the literature review will be identifying a gap in the literature.

This doesn’t have to mean a completely unexplored, unchartered area of interest. It can be an aspect that is understudied, or you might be coming at an issue from a new perspective or using a different theory or approach. You can also look at an aspect of the problem – a certain population, setting, analysis, or other aspect. Sometimes it doesn’t look like a gap, but an edge – something that has a little research, but could use more; something that can be improved or redesigned, or taken in a completely new direction.

How do I Find the Gap in the Literature?

As with research in general, it helps to start big, and get small. Think of it in terms of nesting dolls or stacking cups – start with a big, broad topic, and do a lot of reading with your key search terms. Look at themes that keep appearing, or questions that keep popping up. The references of peer-reviewed articles are great places to search for relevant articles that might be of interest.

Eventually, you’ll find that your research has funneled down and gotten smaller, if you continue to pursue the leads you’ve gotten from other articles. Not only are you looking for what hasn’t been adequately pursued, but you want to make sure you aren’t pursuing a dead end, either. Keep an eye out for reasons certain research leads have not been followed, and what has and hasn’t yielded results.

It can be helpful to pay careful attention to the conclusion sections of research articles, as these often have “areas for future research” mentions. Meta-analyses can also be helpful in looking at larger swaths of information when searching for the gap in the literature.

Here at Dissertation Editor, we offer consultation services that can assist you with this. When you order a consultation, you get the benefit of a coach's undivided, focused attention. We can help you talk through your findings and narrow down your research questions. Though we can't tell you what to study, what your research questions should be, or what the specific gap in the research is, we are happy to look over outlines or notes on what you have up to this point, as well as any proposal you might have, and discuss various avenues of study or approaches to the research problem. Talking through your findings can be immensely helpful and provide much-needed clarification.

Email us at to find out more about our consultation services, and whether it might be helpful for you!

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