Finding the gaps and absences



I started a part-time PhD last October in the area of contested illnesses and developing new psychosocial methodologies. Up to now I have been reading across the area and following up where this reading leads. My I have written to articles for my supervisor so far and now she wants me to write a 5000 word piece sumarising the gaps and absences in the literature. Trouble is: I CAN'T FIND ANY! Or at least they aren't apparent to me. What does a gap or an absence look like? What I have done is synthesied my key obervations and then from this suggested what next directions in research might be, but these are broad and undefined as this is what my work is ultimately going to be about! So circles I will be going around in.
Any advice??

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taks a step back for a minute. Try and think about describing all the research you have read briefly to your mum/dad/little sister etc. and see if your 'simple' explanation provides any insight.

Often I find I 'overthink' things, and the answer is there in my face, waiting for me!

Think about methodological gaps e.g. has this area been examined used X technique?

Are there techniques from other fields of research that provide insight, but haven't been combined in a particular way with your field?

A PhD is much more focused than you may think, so it doesn't necessarily have to be this huge cave of a gap that hasn't even been touched, it could be as simple as adding an extra variable to an existing piece of research and seeing what the results are!


Have you try "mapping" out what you've learned so far from the existing literature in a spider diagram/mind map (looks like this: It helps organise your thoughts when you have read a lot, but not sure how to relate them to your thesis yet.

I'm not an expert in illness/psychosocial methodologies but one way of identifying gaps and absences may be to look at psychosocial methodologies used in other illnesses and discuss how they (or aspects of them) might be useful if applied in the illness of interest, but have not been done yet? I'd think you'd also be expected to criticise existing methodologies - why they aren't good enough and what are the issues that make designing the "perfect" methodologies difficult.

Good luck!


Hey there. Well if you have found what the next directions in research might be then in one sense you have found the 'gap' in the literature. With a lit review normally one writes about the existing literature in an effort to synthesize it and make some sense out of it, and then use this to look for directions for future research. This kind of sounds like what you have done, so you are probably along the right lines. I guess the main thing is to try to be critical about existing research and see the holes in it/limitations- the authors may even have highlighted these themselves. It is often these 'holes' that need filling and which provide scope for further work. Best, KB


Some other possible gaps could be with regard to the groups which have been studied in literature related to "contested illnesses" - for instance, I bet that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) individuals have been marginalised in existing studies and similar thing might be happening for BME population, on a related note, another gap could potentially be absence of comparative studies.


Hi Luke - what area of psychosocial studies are you in, is it more the health psychology side or the critical psychology side? I'm sure you've already done this and I'm not suggesting anything new to you, but have you looked into narrative-based methodologies, or possibly Q-methodology?


Hi All

Thanks for the advice; reassuring to hear that I seem to be doing some of those of things already.

The area of psychosocial i'm in is to do with developign the unconscious-disocurse divide; I'm using the contested illness nit
to ground the thinking.

Must admit that I feel compelled to look for the big cave of a gap rather than the little bits and pieces and new slants on old methods.


Hi Luke - I am only at MSc level (psychosocial studies) and I find the debate between discursive and biographical narrative methods really interesting, actually just used it as part of an essay, hopefully showed some understanding of it! I know what you mean about the massive gap rather than the more subtle disparities - I guess you've read the Frosh and Baraitser paper? Also have you looked into any of the more philosophical approaches - my tutor is very into those, pm me if you want some references.


Just a quick question from someone who has looked at far too much philosophy in his life: does absence exist, or is it non-existence? If it's non-existence, a gap or absence doesn't look like anything - it is somethign you are able to think of that has yet to be done.


Yeh that's the thing with philosophy: you got to keep it as grounded as possible or all it all gets out of hand. Like a Rottweiler with a

What is this Frosh/ Baraitser paper? I have read Frosh here and there but can't recall Baraitser. Can you put up the title if possibile, so I can hunt it down????