?What is your research Contribution Gap

Doing a PhD in England, usually takes 3 years for full time student. The first year is dedicated to better understand your research, form your ideas and probably shape the following two years of your PhD in conducting and justifying your work.

Therefore, the essence of the PhD in the management field, if not all fields, lies into large extent on your first year. Personally the main question that I need to think and reach an understanding in was: What is your research contribution? What gaps in the literature you try to fill? It took me longer than other students, to finally identify the gap, and such my progress was delayed I am currently in my 4th year.

But the main reason to share my experience and possibly suggest tips, that worked for me, because I noticed that some students were stuck at this stage for 2-3 years, which means they will be stuck in their PhD for an extra 3 years. So what’s a research gap and what tips might help you to identify it?

1-    What does “research gap” means?  

The research gap ‘your contribution’ could be anything of added value to the current literature. However, the trap that students usually fall in is the “contextual Gap”. For example I had the below conversation with Mike, my supervisor:

Me: “Mike, finally found the gap current papers are mainly published in US and Anglo-Saxon countries, yet the PhD is taking place in Saudi.”

Mike: “Okay, so, what’s different about Saudi?”

Me: “Muslim, rich developing Muslim country plus limited or no published work in Saudi”.

Mike: “ So how about is Saudi different that any other Muslim Rich developing country?

Maybe it wasn’t word for word, but this is what the conversation roughly went like, then I was unable to justify why not UAE or another under-researched country. Unless you manage to collect enough evidence about the contextual gap then don’t fall into this trap. A gap emerges from your core literature; and the gap is what makes your research unique.

رحلة الدكتوراه


2- Strategies might lead to the “research gap

2.1- Read

a-    Identify the top 5 academic journals in your general field, Then 5 in        your precise field. For example in my   case would be top 5                  academic journals in management then the top 5 journals in human        resource management
b-    Identify the related articles to your field in the past 10 years
c-    Start your reading from the latest published article going backwards
d-    Narrow down the articles to the most related, and most important          in your research area
e-    Go back with a fresh mind and reread the limitation and future              research section at the end of these article
f-     Make a list of the limitation and suggestions related to your                  research, and finally find your interest
g-    You may like to write an explanation of your research idea in 100          words maximum

2.2   Supervisor- Student communication

A common mistake that students usually do is to show that they are in top of everything in their research, while the case might be different. Managing your relationship with your supervisor is one of the most important and essential elements in your PhD. The comment I hear from students usually is: “My supervisor lacks the knowledge about my research”.

What students miss is that their supervisor must have done his/her PhD, and went through the same process, and still does with his/her current research. This means your supervisor knows the rules of the game and will help you to play it well.

In the case of gap identification, after you had a clear idea about your field, identified your gap and decided in an overall strategy of how to are you planning to fill this gap, meet your supervisor with an open mind get some feedback and end the meeting by agreeing an action plan with your and a date for your next meeting.

Hope this helps, and wish you all a fun and smooth PhD ride, also please note that the above is purely my opinion, thoughts and things that helped me personally to progress in my PhD, it doesn’t mean that this might fit or work with all students at all situations with all PhD supervisors.


Lamees Al-Haidari

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