University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Research Help

Gaps in the Literature

Gaps in the Literature are missing pieces or insufficient information in the research literature. These are areas that have scope for further research because they are unexplored, under-explored, or outdated. 

puzzle with missing piece

Gaps could be:

  • population or sample: size, type, location etc…
  • research methods: qualitative, quantitative, or mixed
  • data collection or analysis
  • research variables or conditions

Finding Gaps

Search research databases such as Scopus, ProQuest Central, and PubMed (MEDLINE).  Find recommended databases for your subject area in the Research by Subject guide for your course or program. Conduct an extensive literature search to find a broad range of research articles on a topic.

Identifying Gaps

If you do not find articles in your literature search, this may indicate a gap.

If you do find articles, the goal is to find a gap for contributing new research. Authors signal that there is a gap using words such as:

  • has not been clarified, studied, reported, or elucidated
  • further research is required or needed
  • is not well reported
  • suggestions for further research
  • key question is or remains
  • it is important to address
  • poorly understood or known
  • lack of studies.


See example abstracts in CSE format highlighting places in the text where gaps in the literature are indicated.

Learn More

Identifying Research Gaps  YouTube video from UCLA Library

Framework for Determining Research Gaps During Systematic Review: Evaluation

Questions & Help

If you have questions on this, or another, topic, contact a librarian for help!

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