how to find a research gap

How to find a Research Gap – A step-by-step Guide

The field of research is fast evolving with tons of researches been conducted daily. But then, researches are not been conducted for the sake of conducting a research. In the academic field, researches are needed for your projects, thesis, dissertation, journal publications, seminars, workshops etc. As such, for this to be thoroughly done, you must identify a gap in research you seek to fill

What is a Research Gap?

Simply put, a research gap can be defined as an unanswered question or an unresolved problem in a field of study. It could also mean a gap or hole in a research that needs to be filled. Research gaps are the backbone of researches. Hence, every research must be geared towards filling a gap.

In this article, I will show you a systematic approach on how to find a research gap that are relevant to your field. Hence, as a final year, MSc or PhD student, this article will help you in answering questions, which will help you in your choice of a suitable research area.

#1 Choose your area of interest

The first step in this guide is to choose your area of interest. Every field has branches and you cannot research on all the branches. For example, if your field is ICT, the branches are; Database, Web Development, Programming, cyber security, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence etc. If your field is economics, the branches are Microeconomics, macroeconomics etc. Hence you must start by identifying your area of interest.

#2 Go to Google Scholar

At the moment, Google scholar is the world largest digital library for academic purpose. You can head over to google scholar to look for relevant publications in your area of interest. For example, if your area of interest is Machine Learning, google scholar has thousand of books, journal, etc that has been published on machine learning. Take a further look at the books and download the ones that suits your interest

#3 Look for insufficient study

Assuming the number of outputs gotten from google scholar is not enough, it then poses a gap for more research to be done. It means that much work has not been done in that field. Therefore you could choose to carry out a study in addition to the few works that have already been carried out. These insufficiency can arise from geographical locations, population, subject, age, gender etc. All these can pose a gap in the research and hence point to the need for more research. Here are few examples that will help you understand the insufficiency stated above

  1. When a particular study has been conducted in Europe, Asia and Africa, it leaves a geographical gap of conducting same study in North and South America
  2. Assume we conduct a study on “the impact of AI tools on students’ academic performance in France“, if our sample size is 1000 students, it then creates a population gap for the study. This is because 1000 students is relatively small when compared the entire population of students in France. As such, the result of the study will not be good for generalization because of the few number. With this, a research gap has been created that needs to be filled.
  3. Suppose we carry out a research on “the effect of teachers use of instructional materials on the academic performance of chemistry students“, the result of this study may be generalized for all chemistry students. But it will be wrong to generalize the result for students in other departments. Hence this has created a Subject gap and hence, more research needs to be conducted on same topic with students of other departments.
  4. If we want to know the academic performance of students in Biology department and discover that there is an unbalance in the sample size between the male and female respondents, it also becomes another gap. For example, if our sample size is 500 students and 420 are males while 80 are females, such a sample size is unbalance and thus creates more gap for further research.  This will indicate the need for another research that will have a good number of female students so as to enable generalization.

#4 Check for recent publications

Suppose that most of the publications available are old publications which dates above 10 years with just very few been recent, it means that there is no enough recent publications. Hence you can go ahead to publish a more recent article or research with a State-of-the-Art information. To do this, check for the year of publication of the work with which you will be able to ascertain how recent it is. This is the major reason why most authors edit their publications frequently so as to embrace recent information

#5 Check for limitations in a work

While reviewing a literature, check for the limitations, challenges and constraints encountered by the author while carrying out his own study. These limitations will give you an insight on where the researchers had difficulties. You can go ahead to use those limitations as a framework for your own research. Hence, the outcome of your study will aim at addressing those limitations

#6 Check for Future work/recommendation

At the end of a research, the author, with the outcome/result of his study makes relevant recommendations that will point to the need for more work. Others present those recommendations as future work. These are areas where more work is needed. Hence the recommendation and future work section are statements of research gaps. When an author lists 5 recommendations, he has indirectly listed 5 research gaps that should be filled.

#7 Check the methodology adopted for a research

The methodology a researcher adopted for a particular research can also show the need for further researches. As a researcher, you may see the need to carryout the same research with a different methodology. This will be strongly advised and encouraged in the field of research.

#8 Check out for understanding gap or conflicting areas

Suppose several authors have conducted several studies on a particular subject matter, yet the outcome of the various studies are conflicting, it presents an understanding gap which make it unprofessional to make conclusions from conflicting results. Hence, you may need to carry out your own study so as to arrive at your own conclusion.

#9 Your supervisor can be of help

In most institutions, for one to qualify as a supervisor, he/she must be a PhD holder or a Professor. This means that they must become a professional in a given field and as such should know the relevant research gaps that exists in that field. For example, my supervisor helped me get a research topic for my MSc thesis. The topic was gotten from her wealth of knowledge in her field and also to address a problem she faces as the Dean of a faculty in the institution. This can also be another good way to find a research gap for your research work

#10 Use AI tools

Artificial Intelligence tools like ChatGPT can help your generate ideas of the available research gaps in your area of interest. Suppose my area of interest is Edge computing, a query on ChatGPT can help with relevant suggestions from which the researcher evaluates the responses gotten. A query like this could help, “what are the available research gaps in edge computing”. ChatGPT is professional in queries like this but ensure to evaluate all your responses before settling for anyone

Conclusion

Hopefully, I have been able to show you how to find research gap for your research work. The steps listed here are very important and its highly advised you use them to help your study. The gap your research seek to fill determines the nature of study or research you will carry out. Try them out and they will mostly work out for you.

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