I'm writing my masters thesis in computer science and I haven't found a good source for evaluation criteria of the protocols I'm looking at in my thesis.

What are the requirements before I can say "There is nothing on evaluation criteria in the literature."

Is the fact that I couldn't find any enough? When do I know that I put enough effort into searching?


2 Answers 2


Is the fact that I couldn't find any enough? When do I know that I put enough effort into searching?

Obviously, there is no way to "prove" that something does not exist, so on a fundamental level that you did not find anything has to be enough. Of course, you need to make evident that you searched in a reasonable way. The guidelines of structured literature reviews have some rules on how to do this, but essentially it boils down to (1) searching all reasonable sources, and (2) searching for all the terms that could reasonably be used to describe what you are looking for.

how to phrase it?

The usual phrase is "to the best of our knowledge, this methodology has not been used before to (...)".


In my thesis, my supervisors advised me to put something along the lines of...

Based on the literature review undertaken (see Chapter 2), this is the first analysis of evaluation criteria.

You could also list the search terms you used.

  • Can you point to any examples of works that provide a list of search terms used? That's possibly a thing in some fields, I guess, but I would find that very surprising, not at all convincing, and frankly in pretty poor taste.
    – E.P.
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:22
  • I have seen it in a few papers, usually as a footnote. Unfortunately, I don't remember the papers in question, and it's a difficult thing to search for (ironically) without getting papers that are about searching.
    – mhwombat
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:52
  • 1
    @E.P. Why would it be in poor taste? It illustrates what you searched for and may be helpful to indicate to any readers who are aware of related research why you didn't find it.
    – JAB
    Apr 5, 2017 at 16:36

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