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academic writer: organization: introductions: research gaps

Research gaps
If you are working on original research, you will want to identify a need for your research somewhere close to the beginning of your paper. Why? Because you will want to show the reader that you are not duplicating existing research. In other words: this paper is worth reading! This is best done by surveying the current research and then identifying a gap that you are going to fill.
A common sequence for introductions in an academic journal article is-
1. Establish the field: Identify the broad problem and state its importance
2. Summarize previous research: State what is significant in what has already been written.
3. Create a research space: Describe the gap you propose to fill in the existing research literature. This then creates an opportunity for you to make a contribution to the research in the area.
4. Introduce your research project: Establish your research thesis or questions.
(The above headings derive from a scheme proposed by Swales, 1981, quoted in Bruce, 1995).

EXAMPLE In the following example notice how the writer pays a complement to existing work ('There have been a number of valuable studies of self-employment...') and then identifies the gap ('However, none of these studies provides...')
Research Gap identified: A study of the changes over the last decade.

There have been a number of valuable studies of self-employment using cross-section data (Rees and Shah, 1986; Blanchflower and Oswald, 1993; Taylor, 1996), all of which present evidence on a number of employment and personal characteristics on the sector. However, none of these studies provides a picture of the changes over the last decade or forecasts the trends in self-employment as the recession of 1990 took hold.

EXAMPLE
Research Gap identified: The effects of pit closure on women's lives.

While there has been some research on the general impact of female unemployment (Coyle,1984; Popay,1985), little has been written about the effects of pit closure on women's lives.

EXAMPLE
Research Gap identified: A research-based model for the evaluation of self-access language learning centres.

Evaluating a self-access language learning centre
In education in general, evaluation has played a vital role for more than one hundred years (Madaus et al, 1983). In English Language Teaching also, evaluation has been a major concern for over twenty years (Strevens, 1976; Stern, 1983; Lynch, 1996). In contrast, it is only recently (Star, 1994; Gardner & Miller, 1999) that attention has been paid to the evaluation of learning outcomes in self-access centres. However, if we are to argue that such centres provide an effective and efficient alternative to other existing modes of language learning, it remains a matter of serious concern that there is no research-based model designed for their evaluation.
This paper will suggest four key issues which need to be addressed when considering the development of such an evaluation model...

Find out about other types of Introductions

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