Identifying gaps

As with all research, formulating questions that need further investigation and being able to identify gaps in the literature must be approached with research. Identifying and selecting relevant information sources from which you will find the literature you need will mean looking at books in the library, catalogues, databases and on the Internet.

Once you have decided what area you want to target and you have found appropriate sources to research you will need to interpret the results. Evaluate the information you have gathered carefully and if necessary modify your search. In this instance you are looking specifically for gaps in the research where you can make your mark by suggesting ways forward or theories of your own, or merely just point out that research is incomplete in any given area. Once you have outlined the gaps in the literature point them out with their flaws making sure that you outline pertinent issues for future study. Although pointing out the gaps in the literature may show that you have looked thoroughly at the area of study your own interpretation and suggestion on how research may proceed or what could be done to fill those gaps will be infinitely better. Here are two examples, the first, a bad review:

Sexual harassment has many consequences. Adams, Kottke, and Padgitt (1983) found that some women students said they avoided taking a class or working with certain professors because of the risk of harassment. They also found that men and women students reacted differently. Their research was a survey of 1,000 men and women graduate and undergraduate students. Benson and Thomson’s study in Social Problems (1982) lists many problems created by sexual harassment. In their excellent book, The Lecherous Professor, Dziech and Weiner (1990) give a long list of difficulties that victims have suffered.

And now the same review but presented in a far better way:

The victims of sexual harassment suffer a range of consequences, from lowered self-esteem and loss of self-confidence to withdrawal from social interaction, changed career goals, and depression (Adams, Kottke, and Padgitt, 1983; Benson and Thomson, 1982; Dziech and Weiner, 1990).For example, Adams, Kottke, and Padgitt (1983) noted that 13 percent of women students said they avoided taking a class or working with certain professors because of the risk of harassment.

Finding the right voice for your literature review is all-important. Make your work clear, concise and informative. And as ever, always leave your reader with something to dwell upon!

Example References

Deakin University Library (2001). The Literature Review [Homepage of Deakin University Library], [Online]. Available: [2001, June 11].

Neuman, W. L. (2003). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 5th Ed. Allyn and Bacon, Boston.

University Of Queensland (2001). Literature review [Homepage of University of Queensland], [Online]. Available: [2001, June 11].