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Boatwright Memorial Library

John Swales ~ CARS: Creating a Research Space and Finding the Gap

What does it mean to "find the gap" in literature?

Finding the gap is a way of looking at existing literature and identifying where there might be unanswered questions or ways to take an argument in a different direction. As a scholar, the goal is to create new knowledge or to fix societal problems. Finding the gap is one way to complete that goal.

Organizing your Social Sciences Research Paper, The C.A.R.S Model, USC Libraries

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article in the Sciences and Social Sciences

Original Source: Anatomy of a Journal Article,Dominique Turnbow,San Diego Libraries (url no longer available)

Reading a Scholarly Article

Tips for Reading a Scholarly Article: 

  • Review the article out of order before reading beginning to end: Start with the abstract  - this gives you a general summary of the article. If the abstract seems relevant next move to the conclusion or discussion section of the article to gain a better understanding of the article's main claims. 
  • Read for the Argument. What is the author's research question? What method did the author use to prove their argument? Did the author ethnographically study a population? Did they look at census or health records? Are you able to verbally explain how the author came to their conclusions through the methods?
  • Pay attention to the reference section. References may lead you to other useful resources.Use Google Scholar or OneSearch to see how many times an article has been cited and what other articles cited your original article. This also brings the scholarly conversation forward -- what research has cited the article since it was written? Is it related to the original research questions?
  • Think about your research question's scope. The article may have been extremely interesting but it may not fit within your scope. If your topic is food deserts and the article you found is about food growing practices in Peru, it may not be helpful. However an article on community activism related to community gardens may fit within your scope.