Signalling Gaps

A key writing move for academic writers to master is how to signal gaps in the literature. Writers will highlight selective gaps in their introduction section to foreshadow the aims of their study. This also helps them to explain the rationale or motivation behind conducting the research.

There are at least 7 different types of research gaps and writers need to identify the most important ones. Here are example phrases for each type of gap that can be used as a starter sentence.

Evidence Gap

  • Previous research has not yet addressed contradictions in the findings when comparing (insert study a) with (insert study b, c, d etc as needed).

Empirical Gap

  • Variable X (insert variable name) may link with variable y (insert variable name) but these associations have not yet been examined.
  • The proposition(s) of theory/model x (insert) have yet to be empircally verified.
  • Evidence in support of the hypothesised relationship between variable x (insert) and variable y (insert) still remains to be investigated.

Knowledge Gap

  • However, less is known regarding (insert specific gap).
  • Recent years have witnessed a growth in (insert research area). Hpwever, there remains a gap in the literature regarding (insert specific gap).
  • Little is known about/or how (insert specifc gap).
  • Work examining (insert specific gap) is absent.

Methodological Gap

  • Researchers have called for doing more (qualitative/quantitative/mixed methods/case study) research into (problem/issue) to provide a deeper understanding of (specific gap).
  • There is room to better understand (insert research area) by using (name methodology of how specific gap will be addressed in the study).
  • New insights into (problem/issue) would be gained by using (insert specific method/approach).

Practical-knowledge Gap

  • Research into (insert practice) is currently lacking.
  • Very little research has investigated the implementation of (insert practice/intervention) for (insert specific benefit/outcome).

Population Gap

  • While (insert research) has been informative/useful, a critical perspective/viewpoint is missing/absent without involving (specific population).
  • While this finding is supportive of (insert detail), the sample in Author et al. (year)’s study was exclusively (insert detail of study sample).
  • Despite calls to address (problem/issue) in (this group), the (problem/issue) of (this group) remains relatively unstudied.
  • Minimal research has investigated (specific population) in the context of (specific problem/issue).

Theoretical Gap

  • Research on (insert topic) has been largely descriptive to date/studied from (insert theory) theoretical perspective. Applying (insert theory) will help to provide new insights by (add specific reason).

Also see the Manchester Academic Phrasebank for more phrases to help with your academic writing.


Miles, D. (2017), A Taxonomy of Research Gaps: Identifying and Defining the Seven Research Gaps. Doctoral Student Workshop: Finding Research Gaps – Research Methods and Strategies.

Müller-Bloch, C. & Kranz, J., (2014). A Framework for Rigorously Identifying Research Gaps
in Qualitative Literature Reviews, The Thirty Sixth International Conference on
Information Systems, Fort Worth 2015, pp. 1–19.

Robinson, K., Saldanha, I. & McKoy, N.A. (2011). Development of A Framework for to Identify
Research Gaps Systematic Reviews, Journal of Epidemiology, 64(1), pp. 1325-1330.