The main difference between research gap and research problem is that a research gap identifies a gap in knowledge about a subject, whereas a research problem identifies and articulates the need for research.
Research gap and research problem are two very similar elements of a research study. They are closely related and play a crucial role in research. In fact, a researcher cannot identify a research problem without a research gap, and it’s impossible to conduct a research study without both. A researcher first identifies a research gap (an area that has not been explored in previous literature on the subject) after conducting a thorough literature review. Then he/she formulates a clear research problem from this research gap.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is a Research Gap
– Definition, Features, Function
2. What is a Research Problem
– Definition, Features, Function
3. Difference Between Research Gap and Research Problem
– Comparison of Key Differences
Research Gap, Research Problem
What is a Research Gap
A research gap is a key element in any research study. It’s the center of a research project and determines the area that lacks crucial information. We can define a research gap as a question that has not been addressed or an area of interest that has not been explored in previous literature on the subject. For example, a researcher in the field of health or medicine can research the long-term effects of Covid-19 vaccines, which is a research gap in the existing literature on the subject. To identify the research gap, the researcher has to gather and study all relevant books, reports, and journal articles on the subject. Researchers can usually decide on their research gap once they have conducted their literature review.
A research gap can exist when there are no studies on a new concept or idea. Sometimes, researchers can also find a research gap if the existing research is not up to date and needs modification or updates. For example, research on internet use in 2002 is no longer valid today, and the data needs modification. A researcher can also choose a specific population that has not been studied well.
What is a Research Problem
A research problem is a question(s) the researcher wants to answer through his study. Research problems introduce the readers to the topic that is being discussed. It also places the problem in a particular context, defining the parameters of the investigation. Finally, it provides the framework for reporting the results of the research, reveals what is necessary to conduct the research, and explains how the information will be presented.
A research problem must cover the essential issues at hand and be specific. Moreover, the researcher must present it logically and clearly. The research problem must also ensure that the research is based on actual facts and evidence and not on beliefs and opinions.
There are four general types of research problems:
- Casuist Research Problem – involves the determination of right and wrong in questions of conduct or conscience
- Difference Research Problem – compares and contrasts two or more phenomena
- Descriptive Research Problem – describes the significance of a state, situation, phenomenon
- Relational Research Problem – indicates a relationship between two or more variables
Without a well-defined research problem, a researcher will be more likely to end up with an unfocused and unmanageable research study.
Difference Between Research Gap and Research Problem
A research gap is an area of interest that has not been explored in previous literature on the subject, while a research problem is a definite or clear statement about an area of concern that points to a need for meaningful understanding and deliberate investigation.
First, the researcher has to identify a research gap in the area of interest and then form his/her research problem.
A research gap identifies a gap in knowledge about a subject, whereas a research problem identifies and articulates the need for research.
A researcher identifies a research gap after conducting a thorough literature review. Then he/she formulates a clear research problem from this research gap. Therefore, the difference between research gap and research problem is the order of sequence. A research gap further justifies the research problem.
1. “FAQ: What is a research gap and how do I find one?” Shapiro Library. Southern New Hampshire University.
2. McCombes, Shona. “How to Define a Research Problem | Ideas & Examples” Scribber.
1. “Concept-man-papers-person-plan” (CC0) via Pixabay