Dissertation Topic: Establishing a Gap

Literature Review
Topic Development

It is often really easy to find a problem or a general dissertation topic on which to center your study. Many students choose topics that they encounter in the field on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that is not enough of a reason to justify your study by your school’s standards. And while that may be frustrating, it is a reality that is best dealt with as early in the dissertation process as possible.

The good news is that the answer to this dilemma is in the literature. It will take a bit of digging, but a thorough look through recent (within the last two years for a really solid reference), similar studies can provide you with all of the backup that you require to justify your study. Pour over the discussions, conclusions, and recommendations for future research sections in these recent studies. In these sections, you will be able to determine the detail that sets your study apart from the others that are out there and how your study fills the gap in the literature. Perhaps your particular niche is a certain demographic, or that your study is qualitative when previous studies have only been quantitative. The more recent studies you find that support the need for your topic, the better off you are.

There is one additional point of concern, though. There is a chance that you will find a study or two that have already done what you are hoping to do. This does put you in a bit of a jam. However, this does not necessarily spell doom for your study. You can tweak an aspect of your study, such as a demographic, an industry, or a geographical region that has not previously been studied. The gap is there, you just need to find and identify it.


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