Continuing her occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams reflects on what it means to find a gap when writing your literature review.
The fact that doctoral research must be original and fill some kind of ‘gap’ in the literature is trotted out all the time, particularly to PGRs in their first year or so of study who may still be grappling with all the existing research on their topic. But how do you search for an absence? How do you identify something that isn’t there?
It can feel like a somewhat impossible task, especially if there are reams of articles, chapters and books that have been written on your topic. One answer could be changing the parameters of your research slightly; focusing on a specific and under-researched angle might tick that ‘originality’ box in a field that is saturated with research. However, if this isn’t practical, or you’re already fairly set on what research you want to carry out, it might be that you need to try to record your reading in a way that makes that gap more obvious.
In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF.
In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF). Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.
Synthesis has a number of meanings in the OED, but the one that is relevant here is “the putting together of parts or elements so as to make up a complex whole”  and being able to put together parts and elements from the research literature and create a complex whole is a critical skill in literature review. It’s relatively straight-forward to write a summary of the literature in your research area, but a proper literature review goes further and uses the existing literature to create a “complex whole” where new knowledge or understanding has been created. Continue reading “Spotlight on the RDF: “Synthesising””