After I read about 40 papers in my research topic, I summarized 25 of them in my thesis, explaining methods used and solutions provided in the literature survey and literature-review sections. I found out a gap in the previous researches and would like to point it out in my thesis, in order to explain where my work would fit.

Should I call this section research gap, or there are a better scientific terms usually used?

  • 3
    I think that's called the literature review.
    – Jessica B
    Nov 3, 2015 at 8:11
  • I believe 'literature review' is a deep explanation about previous research in the field. Nov 3, 2015 at 8:18
  • 1
    While the existing answers cover your direct question for the section title, my impression is that "research gap" or similar terms are indeed used in papers, as well. They do not appear as a section title, but in the running text of your paper, you could, for example, write something like: "We have noticed a gap in related approaches concerning XYZ." Example, example, example. Nov 3, 2015 at 10:13
  • knowledge gap, maybe?
    – Our
    Jun 15, 2021 at 12:20

7 Answers 7


"Literature review" would be a good term. It refers to the section in a paper where you review the existing literature and show where your new piece of research fits in.

Don't confuse this with a "review article", which summarizes and integrates a large number of previous publications, typically far more publications than you'd review for an original article. A review article typically only does the synthesis, and does not add any original research of its own, although it may well point out gaps in existing research for subsequent investigations.

In you want to draw specific attention to the fact that the question you will investigate has not been covered in previous research, you could call it "open questions".

  • I have wrote the "Literature review" and come out with a conclusion in its' end, in this conclusion I draw a tree figure combining all previous researches, now in the next chapter which is "Research Design" I would like to point to the research gap clearly in a separate section. What should I call it while I already have a complete "Literature review" chapter. Nov 3, 2015 at 8:40
  • 1
    @IsmailAl-Jubbah: I added a possibility. Nov 3, 2015 at 8:46
  • 1
    @yo' "Mise en scène"? in what field is that?
    – Cape Code
    Nov 3, 2015 at 9:07
  • 1
    @CapeCode In my field (TCS/dynamical systems), where many people are French, so everybody thinks that using French is cool :-)
    – yo'
    Nov 3, 2015 at 9:08
  • 1
    @CapeCode arxiv.org/abs/1410.0331
    – yo'
    Nov 3, 2015 at 12:31

The standard phrase is "a gap in the literature."

  • thank you, I had googled it and it perfectly fit, I will use "a gap in the literature." Nov 3, 2015 at 14:29
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    @IsmailAl-Jubbah: I agree with Noah Snyder that this is the standard phrase, but I would avoid using it to describe your work. One reason is that it sounds unambitious, like you are saying you add something minor to complete an otherwise well-explored topic, and this is not the image you want to project for your dissertation. (It's true for some dissertations, but not all, and in any case it's not something to emphasize.) Nov 3, 2015 at 15:17
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    A second reason is that there's a common joke about filling a much-needed gap in the literature (which looks like a compliment, but it's an insult since it's the gap that is much needed, not the paper that fills it). Maybe I'm off base about this, but my impression is that this joke is widespread enough that many people will see a comment about a gap in the literature and immediately think of the joke. That's not a serious problem, but it makes the phrase "gap in the literature" a little less useful than it was before it got humorous associations. Nov 3, 2015 at 15:22
  • @AnonymousMathematician I got your point I gonna use term, it would be more academic. Nov 3, 2015 at 15:33

Open problem, unsolved problem, need for research, unexploted potentials, areas not covered by previuos research, questions not asked in previous reseach,


I found out a gap in the previous researches and would like to point it out in my thesis, in order to explain where my work would fit.

Should I call this section research gap, or there are a better scientific terms usually used?

There are two parts to this.

First is the literature review, or summary of existing literature. These are short summaries of the 40 papers you have researched and descriptions of their key points.

Second, you might want to have a section called research questions or research issues. This can take the form of statements like, "existing literature does not appropriately address X, Y, or Z" or "existing literature presents weaknesses for addressing A, B, C" types of things. Basically building the case for why your thesis exists. What problems with existing literature are you trying to solve?

  • I'm writing a master thesis about Test Automation in Web Applications, research questions or research issues is a good suggestion, but I found "a gap in the literature" is perfect fit. Nov 3, 2015 at 14:39

"Knowledge gap" is another way to express that there is something missing from the literature.



This would also work as a (sub-) section heading. I prefer it to "research gap/lacuna/desideratum" etc., because it focuses on what your research does to close the "gap".


The meaning of differentiation in [dictionary.cambridge.org][1]is given as :

"the act of showing or finding the difference between things that are compared".

So I suggest you may use the phrase "The research differentiation". [1]: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/

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