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Find Research Gaps with Litmaps

Here's how to discover potential research gaps using Litmaps.

Marina Kisley avatar
Written by Marina Kisley
Updated over a week ago

Finding research gaps is an essential part of novel research. Identifying gaps can connect disparate fields of research and advance knowledge, as well as enable opportunities for academic growth and success.

Understanding and reviewing scientific literature is essential to spotting these gaps. In this guide, we'll go over how to use Litmaps to find research gaps faster. You'll learn how to:

  • Comprehensively review existing literature

  • See where research does (and doesn't!) connect

  • Find inconsistencies and missing references

What is a research gap?

A research gap refers to any unexplored or unresolved area of research. It can also refer to a disconnections within the research, such as when researchers in different fields don't realize they work is connected, or a paper fails to reference important, related literature.

In the case of the former, research gaps are akin to open questions. Researchers are often eager to find unexplored areas which they can't make a novel contribution to by enhancing our understanding of that unknown topic.

In the case of the latter, many gaps happen simply because there is a huge amount of scientific literature, and even scientists themselves aren't aware of how it is all connected. One example is in how different scientific domains use different terminologies for the same concept. This results in unintentional research gaps. These gaps continue even today, because many researchers rely on keyword search, thus missing out on connections that don't match those "keywords". For example, in religious studies, scholar use the term "moral injury", which in medicine is referred to as "moral distress". Focusing on keywords alone means researchers from one field may miss important discoveries in the other.

Using Litmaps to find research gaps

Litmaps analyzes scientific literature and how it connects by using the citation network. By seeing the actual connections among articles, Litmaps let you observe how fields interact and find research gaps you'd otherwise miss.

How to find Research Gaps with Litmaps

Here's how to use Litmaps to find research gaps, by seeing where articles are and aren't connected.

1. Prepare your literature library

First, identify your topic and relevant articles. Save these articles to a Tag in Litmaps. Here's how to import papers you have into a Tag in Litmaps. If you have different subjects, save them as different Tags to stay organized.

Want to use papers you have already saved in Zotero, EndNote, Mendeley, etc? Here's how.

2. Create a Map

Now that you have your articles in Litmaps, we'll create a Map to visualize how your articles connect. See the image below, or click here to read step-by-step instructions on how to create a Map from your Tag.

Your Litmap shows how your articles are connected via citations and references. At this point, you may already spot some inconsistencies or missing references. If you want toe expand your Map and find even more articles and potential research gaps, continue to the next step.

3. Expand your Map

Now that you've made your Map, you can use Litmaps to discover even more related literature. Litmaps will use all the articles on your Map as an input to the search algorithm, and find other related articles.

To run this search, hit the back buttonat the top left of your Map. Then, click .

Now, you'll see a list of suggested articles on your Map (and in the side-bar). Simply clickto add them to your Map. Then hit to re-run the search with these articles added as search inputs.

By going through your Map, and adding additional articles, you can find related literature on your topic. For each suggested article, you can see how it connects to the existing papers you already know, so you can keep track of what parts of your field are more or less connected.

4. Find disconnected literature

At this point, you've explored your topic and created a collection of connected articles. You may have already discovered new connections and sub-topics you didn't yet know about. However, this search has been largely limited based on connected papers. If you want to find articles you may have missed because they aren't connected at all to your existing literature, you'll need to change your search strategy.

Click at the top of your Map to change your search algorithm. Select to search for similar literature based on the titles and abstracts of your papers.

You'll see a very different Litmap, one that likely shows many entirely disconnected articles. This is a great way to spot papers that fail to cite or reference any you already know.

5. Future-proof your process

Now you've curated a comprehensive set of papers on your topic and spotted any potential gaps in your field. The last step is to ensure your work doesn't go out-of-date.

You can re-run this search process manually at regular intervals, to see what new literature has come out. Or, automate this process by enabling "Monitor" for your Litmap. Litmaps will automatically run your search for you as new papers are published, and let you know about any new articles on your topic.

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