I need about 150 words for each question   
A. A dissertation topic must emerge from a gap, need, or tension in the empirical research literature, not from a personal experience or an attempt to solve a personal problem. Why do you think this is so?
B. A theoretical foundation is the lens through which a researcher views a study. Using the article from this week’s assignment, what is the theoretical foundation? Why is it important to examine the theoretical foundation? How might the theoretical framework influence your own view of your topic?

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A Framework for Identifying Research Gap in Social Sciences: Evidence from

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67Research Note© 2017 IUP. All Rights Reserved.

A Framework for Identifying
Research Gap in Social Sciences:

Evidence from the Past

Research gap is a researchquestion which has not beenaddressed properly.
Researchers and academicians often find

it difficult to identify the research gap in

the literature in their respective fields.

Exploring the research gap is one of the

most difficult tasks for researchers who

are novice or who are at the preliminary

stage of their research.

According to Carey et al. (2011)

“Audiences including researchers,

funders, clinicians, advocates, and

patients could use information about

prioritized research gaps to understand

areas of uncertainty and more quickly

initiate studies”. Robinson et al. (2011,

p. 1325) opined that “the clear and

explicit identification of research gaps is

a necessary step in developing a

research agenda, including decisions

about funding and the design of

informative studies”. Identifying research

gap from the literature is common

practice but criteria used seems to be

ambiguous and vague. According to

Carey et al. (2011) “A survey of 64 US

and international systematic review

organizations found that only 5/37

respondents reported a formal process

for the identification of research gaps

and/or needs”. Robinson et al. (2011)

Research Note

suggested the reasons for research gap

including insufficient or imprecise

information, biased information,

inconsistency or unknown consistency

and not the right information.

Research gap analysis is ambiguous

and equivocal for novice, young

researchers as they find it challenging

to explore the research gap because of

lack of criteria or predetermined

procedures. For example, identifying the

broad area and then selecting the

specific area can lead to the problem

identification.

The objective of the study is to

suggest a framework for identifying

research gap. The study also suggested

propositions based on each dimension

of research gap analysis. The present

study also proposed an updated process

of research gap analysis.

The study was exploratory in nature

and is based on systematic review of the

literature. The methodology proposed

for the study was adopted from

(Tranfield et al., 2003). According to

Tranfield et al. (2003, p. 208) “in

management research, the literature
review process is a key tool, used to

manage the diversity of knowledge for
a specific academic inquiry”.

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The IUP Journal of Management Research, Vol. XVI, No. 4, 201768

The methodology was planned in a
systematic manner including the
development of a protocol for review,

identification of studies using keyword
search, selection of studies and
reporting of studies. Inclusion and

exclusion criteria were adopted to
enhance the quality of the review. The
decision regarding inclusion and

exclusion of studies was based on the
relevance of the study. Studies were
explored from various databases
including Google Scholar and ProQuest
in order to reduce the interpretation
bias. As Tranfield et al. (2003, p. 215)
stated, “A systematic search begins with
the identification of keywords and search
terms, which are built from the scoping
study, the literature and discussions
within the review team”. Studies were
explored using the keyword search,
‘research gap’, ‘problem identification’,
‘systematic review’, ‘meta-analysis’,
‘citation analysis’ and ‘content analysis’.

The objective of the paper is to
propose a model of research gap analysis
and what the dimensions of research gap
analysis are and how research gap
analysis leads to problem identification.

Figure 1: Process of Research Gap Analysis

Identify the Broad Area

Methods of Identification

Feasibility of Research Gap

Selection of Research Gap

Expected Outcomes

The present model suggested
propositions based on each dimension,
i.e., as to what extent these dimensions
measure research gap. The paper also
discussed the process of research gap
analysis as shown in Figure 1.

Process of Research Gap
Analysis
There are various conceptualizations
about the identification of research gap,
viz., citation analysis, content analysis,
meta-analysis, systematic reviews,
future research and limitations as shown
in Figure 2. There is no definite research
gap process defined in the literature. The
present research gap process is based
on five elements including identifying the
research gap, methods of identifying the
research gap, feasibility of research gap,
selection of research gap and expected
outcomes. The following paragraph gives
the detailed summary of each element
of research gap as shown in Figure 1.

Identify the Broad Area: Identifying the
research gap in the literature is still
debatable as there is no consensus of
opinion among researchers and
academicians as how to identify the

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69Research Note

research gap. To identify the research
gap, the investigator needs to prune
down his area of interest. For example,
if your area of interest is marketing, you
can further prune it down to a market
orientation which can act as a starting
point for further analysis. Research gap
identification requires a lot of reading
and analyzing the material from
literature which has been made easy
with the advent of some online
databases, viz., ProQuest, EBSCOhost,
emerald, and science direct.

Methods of Identifying the Research
Gap: As Tom (2012) suggested, “As with
all research, it is important to formulate
questions that need further
investigation and identify gaps in the
literature that must be researched. First,
you need to identify and select relevant
information sources, which will mean

looking at books in the library, catalogs,

databases and on the Internet”. There

are various methods available for

identifying the research gap, viz., citation

analysis reports, meta-analysis reports,

content analysis reports and systematic

reviews. However, identifying the gap

with meta-analysis is least preferred by

researchers because of lack of

knowledge and expertise. Systematic

reviews are the most widely used

methods for identifying the research gap

whereby a researcher reviews and

analyzing the literature over a period of

time. For example, a researcher can

select a time period of 5 to 10 years

depending upon the availability of the

literature. There is a big gap between

theory and practice: theoreticians lack

the information about practical

applications of research findings while

as practitioners they have the practical

experience. Therefore, it is indeed useful

to look at the problem from theoretical

and practical perspectives. Another way

to look into the research gap is the

referencing, viz., forward and backward

Figure 2: Conceptual Model of Research Gap

Citation Analysis

Content Analysis
Reports

Meta-Analysis

Systematic
Reviews

Future Research
and Limitations

Research Gap
Problem

Identification
P6

P5

P4

P3

P2

P1

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The IUP Journal of Management Research, Vol. XVI, No. 4, 201770

referencing. According to Florida Atlantic

University (2017), backward referencing

“also known as chain searching, involves

identifying and examining the references

or works cited in an article. It is one way

to learn about the development of

knowledge on a topic. A researcher will

do this in order to study the origins and

development of a theory, construct, or

model of interest. Another reason to

backward reference search is to identify

experts, institutions or organizations

that specialize in a topic of research”.

Forward reference searching is when a

researcher identifies articles that cite a

particular article or work after it had been

published. This type of search focuses

on the publications created after an

initial original article or research

publication. Forward reference searching

helps a researcher expand their

knowledge on a topic by locating follow-

up studies. A researcher then can

identify new findings and developments

(Florida Atlantic University, 2017).

Feasibility of Research Gap: After

exploring the different methods for

identifying the research gap, the

researcher should emphasize the

feasibility of research problem or

research question. If the research

problem is not feasible then it will be

better to modify the research problem

or approach. If the problem identified

lacks the novelty due to confusing

literature available then step 1 and 2

should be revised. Feasibility of research

gap depends upon the availability of both

primary and secondary data, sufficient

literature available and statistical tools

available.

Selection of Research Gap: Selection of

research problem depends upon the

relevance and importance of the field.

Farooq (2013) suggested criteria for

selection of research problem, viz.,

personal inclination, resource availability,

relative importance, researcher

knowledge and practicality. Selection of

research problem is based on the

researchers own interest, relevance,

and contribution. The selection of the

research gap is based on the availability

of the literature, researchers own

interest and the contribution to the

concerned field. For example, if the

problem identified is, “Knowledge

Management” and the l iterature

available in the databases is limited, one

must rely on other resources, viz., books

and other resources. Selection of

research gap is similar to the decision

making process whereby decision is

taken based on the various alternatives.

Expected Outcomes: The researcher

should identify the expected outcomes

from his/her research gap. If the

research gap identified does not lead to

any expected outcome then the gap

identified is vague and indefinite. A

researcher must have a prior

understanding about the expected

outcomes from his/her research which

may lead to the definite contribution

towards the body of knowledge. If the

problem identified does not lead to any

contribution to the body of knowledge,

then one must revise the whole research

gap process.

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71Research Note

Dimensions of Research
Gap Analysis
There is a paucity of research about

research gap analysis, there is hardly

any study which has conceptualized the

research gap analysis based on certain

dimensions and propositions. The

present study proposed selected

dimensions which reflect the research

gap as shown in Figure 2. Following

paragraphs provide the detailed

summary of each proposed dimension

based on comprehensive review of the

literature.

Citation Analysis: Citation analysis is a

most appropriate way of identifying and

analyzing the research gap. Research

papers which are highly cited provide the

basic understanding about problem

identification. According to Hoffmann and

Doucette (2012, p. 321) “Citation

analysis is a branch of bibliometric that

examines the citations found in

publications such as journal articles and

books to look for patterns of use”. Smith

(1981) stated that “The development of

citation analysis has been marked by the

invention of new techniques and

measures, the exploitation of new tools,

and the study of different units of

analysis. These trends have led to a

rapid growth in both the number and

types of studies using citation analysis”

(p. 85). Citation analysis is the dominant

way to identify the research gap using

Google Scholar, Scopus, Web-of-Science,

CiteSeer, SciFinder, Faculty of 1,000 and

scholarly databases including Ebsco,

ProQuest, Emerald, etc., to identify the

papers or studies with a maximum

number of citations. Analyzing the

citations depends upon the keywords
used and the nature of the study.
According to Hoffmann and Doucette

(2012, pp. 324-325) “The most
significant component of analyzing
citations is related to the variables that

each researcher chose to analyze”.
Citations can be analyzed using the
Microsoft Excel, Microsoft access, and

SPSS. Journal Citation Reports (JCR),
Scimago Journal and Country ranking and
essential science indicator can be used

to verify the citations of journals and
studies. Therefore, following proposition
was framed.

Proposition 1: Citation analysis is an

important predictor of research gap
which leads to problem
identification.

Content Analysis Reports: Content
analysis is a research technique which
is used in qualitative research to make
inferences by interpreting the texts,
images, and documents. Content
analysis reports can be very supportive
for identifying the research gap from the
qualitative research. According to Duriau
et al. (2007, p. 5) “Content analysis, a
class of methods at the intersection of
the qualitative and quantitative
traditions, is promising for the rigorous
exploration of many important but
difficult-to-study issues of interest to
management researchers”. Researchers
and academicians often lack basic
understanding about identifying and
exploring the research gap using
content analysis reports. According to
Duriau et al. (2007, p. 23) “Content
analysis implemented with care should
be of particular interest for management
researchers because of several factors,

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The IUP Journal of Management Research, Vol. XVI, No. 4, 201772

including access to deep structures of
managers, non-intrusiveness, analytical
flexibility, and the ability to implement

longitudinal designs”. Therefore,
following proposition was framed.

Proposition 2: Content analysis
reports is an important predictor of

research gap which leads to problem
identification.

Meta-Analysis: Meta-analysis is defined

as the process of integrating the findings

from previous studies by statistically

analyzing the literature. Identifying

research gap using quantitative

literature reviews including meta-

analysis is a most challenging task for

researchers who lack the basic

understanding of meta-analysis, i.e.,

how to do meta-analysis?. Meta-analysis

reports provide the overview about a

particular construct, i.e., how a construct

has been measured and what are the

different findings of that particular

construct. Exploring research gap using

meta-analysis is untapped and

unexplored due to lack of information

and knowledge about meta-analysis.

Therefore, following proposition was

framed.

Proposition 3: Meta-analysis is an

important predictor of research gap

which leads to problem

identification.

Systematic Reviews: According to

Green (2005, p. 270), “A systematic

review is a scientific tool that can be

used to appraise, summarize and

communicate the results and implications

of otherwise unmanageable quantities

of research”. A systematic review collects

and analyses the literature about a

research problem from various studies.
Systematic reviews are quantitative in
nature whereby researchers explore the

literature which may support or
contradict a finding depending upon the
nature of the study. According to Tranfield

et al. (2003, p. 208), “ The aim of
conducting a literature review is often
to enable the researcher both to map

and to assess the existing intellectual
territory and to specify a research
question to develop the existing body

of knowledge further”. Robinson et al.
(2011) developed a framework to
facilitate the identification and

characterization of research gaps from
systematic reviews. Merely exploring the
literature from databases does not lead

to a research gap, however, literature
explored requires thorough reading and
understating a particular problem or

research question.

State-of-the-art paper is another way

to look into the research gap. According
to Patter (2016) “A state of the art paper
is a variation on the history of the field.

It is always an argument; it takes a
particular and arguably new angle on
what has been written. A state of the

art paper is usually generated through
a narrative or thematic review, and is
usually very explicitly selective”.

Researchers emphasizing more on
quantitative literature review requires
knowledge about the process, i.e., how

to conduct the quantitative literature
review? Which test to apply after
collecting the studies from various

sources? and how to calculate the effect
size? According to Christoph and Kranz
(2015, p. 2) “There is a need for a

framework that helps scholars to identify

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73Research Note

research gaps in qualitative literature
reviews whose objective is to summarize
extant theory to identify gaps in theory
or research”. Therefore, following
proposition was framed.

Proposition 4: Systematic review is
an important predictor of research
gap which leads to problem
identification.

PRISMA: Preferred Reporting Items of
Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis
framework was developed by Mother et
al. (2009) based on the reporting of
systematic reviews in a very
comprehensive and systematic way. The
framework identifies the records through
database searchi as well as from other

sources. Screening of records after the
duplicates have been removed and the
number of records screened and
excluded is noted. After the screening
of records, full-texts are identified for
eligibility and the number of full-texts
excluded is recorded with reasons.
Subsequently, a number of studies are
included in qualitative syntheses and
some others in quantitative syntheses
as shown in Figure 3.

Future Research and Limitations:
According to Price (2004, p. 66), “A
limitation of a study design or instrument
is the systematic bias that the
researcher did not or could not control
and which could inappropriately affect

Figure 3: PRISMA Framework

Source: Mother et al. (2009)

Records Identified Through
Database Searching

(n= )

Additional Records Identified
Through Other Sources

(n= )

Records After Duplicates Removed
(n= )

Records Screened
(n= )

Records Excluded
(n= )

Full-Text Articles
Assessed for Eligibility

(n= )

Full-Text Articles
Excluded, with Reasons

(n= )

Studies Included in
Qualitative Synthesis

(n= )

Studies Included in
Quantitative Synthesis

(Meta-Analysis)
(n= )

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The IUP Journal of Management Research, Vol. XVI, No. 4, 201774

the results”. Limitation and future
research is a part of every research
paper and thesis which is untapped and

unexplored. For example, if a researcher
wants to study the relationship between
knowledge sharing orientation and

business performance and he/she has
not explored the mediating effect of
social capital, this can be a part of future

research or limitation. Compilation of
future research and l imitations of
different research papers, articles and

theses and then combining all the
relevant information and contents
systematically can lead to research gap.

Therefore, following proposition was
framed.

Proposition 5: Future research and
limitations is an important predictor
of research gap which leads to

problem identification.

Problem Identification: Problem
identification is the outcome of research

gap or research problem or research
question. Studies so far lacked the
process of identifying the research gap

due to lack of methods and procedures.
However, problem identification is not the
end of research gap analysis, there are

other aspects which should be taken into
consideration, i.e., what follows problem
identification. The cause and effect

relationship between the learning
orientation and business performance in
a specific context can be a research gap

which ultimately leads to the problem
identification. Therefore, fol lowing
proposition was framed.

Proposition 6: Research gap is
positively related to problem

identification.

Conclusion
The study developed a framework to
facilitate the identification of research
gap from citation analysis, content
analysis, systematic reviews, meta-
analysis, future research, and limitations.
The model identified certain dimensions
(citation analysis, content analysis,
systematic reviews, meta-analysis,
future research, and limitations) which
were poorly defined in the past
literature. Dimensions identified can be
very helpful in identifying the research
gap which leads to the problem
identification. Research gap is positively
related to problem identification in
evidence- based research. According to
Robinson et al. (2011, p. 1329) “Knowing
where the gaps are and the reason(s)
underlying their existence could help in
the translation of these gaps into specific
research needs, and subsequently, in the
priorit ization and design of the
appropriate research to fill them.” The
present study provides a systematic way
of exploring the research gap using
citation analysis reports followed by
meta-analysis and limitations of the
study which may act as a reliable source
of research gap analysis.

The study also found that PRISMA is
the most widely used tool for identifying
the research gap which is frequently
used in social sciences especially in
systematic reviews. However, the gap
identified using the present model varies
from using the other frameworks. The
framework can be very helpful for
researchers who are at the preliminary
stage of their research especially M.Phil
and Ph.D. scholars who lack basic
understanding about identifying

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75Research Note

research gap. However, the study is

applicable for researchers and

practitioners across various industries for

identifying research gap.

The study was based on a review of

the literature and limited studies were

selected for the development of a

conceptual model of research gap

analysis. Future research needs to

empirically validate the model by

identifying statements for each

dimension to know as to what extent

these dimensions reflect the research

[email protected]

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* Senior Research Fellow, Mittal School of
Business, Lovely Professional University,
Phagwara, Punjab, India. E-mail:
[email protected]

Rayees Farooq*

Au
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