I am currently writing an introduction section, which says "this is an important question but currently there is few (or little?) literature available".

Which one should I use, few or little?

Thank you!

  • 1
    my personal favorite: "... but not yet fully explored in the literature" – Fábio Dias Mar 17 '16 at 20:20
  • 3
    "Few" is literally (!) incorrect, "little" is literally correct, but does sound awkward due to the accidental strong alliteration (!). As @AliJamali suggested, "limited" is literally correct. Or "not much" or "scant". – paul garrett Mar 17 '16 at 20:25
  • 3
    This seems like a question for ELL. – Kimball Mar 17 '16 at 22:28
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is about proper use of mass nouns in English, not about academia as defined in the help center. – JeffE Mar 18 '16 at 2:10

Little literature is common. You could also say "there is a paucity of literature on this problem"; "the literature on this problem is scarce, sparse, or still in its infancy!"; or as @AliJamali and @paulgarret suggested, limited or scant literature.


They both sound strange. I would personally say "limited literature" instead.


It depends on your context, I have heard all three, "Few", "little" and "limited". For your case as suggested by somebody "limited" would be more appropriate. Now, where to use 'few', suppose if you are talking in context of large sample size and out of that few has what you want then use few. E.g. "There are few journals which provides free access."

Now, 'little' If you do not want to consider sample size or considering sample size is not appropriate. E.g. "There is very little information available on that topic." Here number of sources of that information is not that much significant as information itself is very little in all available sources combined.

So, use 'few' when you want to express Number/Counting and use 'little' when you want to express Amount.

little and limited has somewhat similarity, so you can use either one.


"Research" and "literature" are a mass nouns (i.e., it's like water; it's not countable). "Studies", "Papers", "Publications", and "Researchers" are all countable nouns. The choice of adjective depends on whether it precedes a mass or a countable noun.

  • "few": this is suitable for countable nouns but not for mass nouns
  • "little": to my ear, this is not quite the right adjective to describe the amount of "literature";

Examples of acceptable phrases

  • Few studies have ...
  • Few researchers have ...
  • There is limited literature on ...
  • There is limited research on ...

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