the literature


Hey all,

can you ever be certain that you have read all that there is to read on your chosen topic? What if you believe you did, but may have actually missed some works? My whole dissertation rests on a topic which I believe is under-researched and lacks empirical analysis. I think I may have covered what there is to cover in terms of the literature (in English only!) but imagine I later find out that some author used a different keyword to refer to the phenomenon I am studying and has actually carried out an empirical investigation? My thesis will be nullified!!! :( The problem is that because we understand phenomena differently, not everyone will use the word currently used in the literature to refer to it. Yet, this will be a problem for me.
Please advise friends.



Its pretty much impossible to be certain 100% that you haven't missed something. All you can do is do very thorough searches, talk to others in the field to see if they know of any papers, and be careful in how you word things in your writing. I doubt your thesis will be nullified if there are 1 or 2 studies out there you have missed. There will still be very few empirical studies published, and they will never be *exactly* the same as yours, so your work will still be a novel contribution. Yes it will be very uncomfortable if someone points out a study you missed, and you want to avoid this happening, but you should be able to rewrite and adjust if it does happen. If the existence of another similar study really will nullify your work, then you should probably adjust your research questions a bit if possible, because even if there is no study out there now, one could be published before you finish yours. I think this is something a lot of people worry about, me included, and all I can say is read, read a lot, and check the reference lists of the papers you read for other relevant papers. If you can't find any similar study, and no one else in your field has cited one, chances are it doesn't exist, or at least your reviewers won't have found it either!