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I am trying to fill in the blank in this sentence: "There is a(n) ___ of research on this topic."

Using the word paucity would imply, to me, that I feel there is definitely not enough research and more needs to be done. However, what I am trying to say is that I know some amount of research has been done on the topic, and while there are certainly gaps in the knowledge yet to be filled, there is enough to justify a systematic review of the literature on the topic.

The best word I've been able to come up with is abundance, but I don't think it's quite what I am looking for because I feel it implies that the topic is very well understood and further research is not necessary.

Another possible answer would be "good amount". I think this fits my needs, but doesn't sound formal enough, as this is for an academic paper.

A practical example of what I mean is this: Suppose you are driving on the highway with about 1/8 a tank of gas left and approaching an exit that has a gas station but no restaurant. Your passenger asks if you should stop for gas at this exit or wait for the next one so you can get lunch at the same time. Being away from home, you don't actually know how far the next exit with a gas station is, but because your car gets pretty good mileage and the area isn't extraordinarily rural you assume you have enough gas to get to the next exit and decide to stay on the highway. How could you describe this amount of fuel?

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  • 6
    what's wrong with 'some research'?
    – JeffUK
    Jun 22 at 19:32
  • 2
    @Mitch - e.g. Plethora, abundance, modicum. Basically nothing that was agnostic as to whether the amount was enough or too little.
    – bashtown
    Jun 22 at 19:44
  • 3
    @bashtown "Some" is agnostic as to whether the amount is too much or too little!
    – JeffUK
    Jun 22 at 19:47
  • 8
    In fact, why add another word at all, "There is research on this topic."
    – JeffUK
    Jun 22 at 19:49
  • 3
    The opposite phrase (antonym) is "wealth" - There is a wealth of research on this topic. I don't think that's what you want - you're not looking for an antonym.
    – J...
    Jun 23 at 11:07

11 Answers 11

25

The problem is that you've written a sentence form that appears in many introductions of technical manuscripts with a different meaning: "There was a sparsity/paucity of research in this area[, motivating me to work on it]."

It's a given that more research can be performed; it's not necessary to inform the reader of this. It sounds like you mean something like the following:

The study of A has emerged as a distinct field that now merits a review.

There is now sufficient research on this active topic to review it.

This burgeoning field is now broad enough to usefully review.

An appreciable/considerable/notable amount of work has recently been published in this developing area, prompting this review.

Does this match the intended meaning?

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  • 1
    I am an engineering grad student working to develop flood risk models to predict effects on human health after a flood event. The project I am working on now is a systematic literature review to identify available quantitative findings linking flood events to health outcomes. I have developed a conceptual model based on some foundational papers in the field of disaster-health epidemiology, and I am reviewing subsequent empirical epidemiological research to fill in the quantitative relationships between variables in my model.
    – bashtown
    Jun 22 at 19:31
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    I know there is some research in this area, but not being in the field of epidemiology myself, I don't want to imply that there is or isn't a need for more research in that field, just that I believe there is already enough for me to get started on my work.
    – bashtown
    Jun 22 at 19:35
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    Any of the above four examples meets these requirements. Jun 22 at 19:36
  • 4
    I like your second suggestion because it specifically relates the sufficiency of the amount of research to my needs, not to the topic more broadly.
    – bashtown
    Jun 22 at 19:38
  • 1
    It is indeed the least committal statement (and the closest to the requested template "There is...research on this topic"). Thank you for the upvote! Jun 22 at 19:41
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sufficiency

the state of being sufficient (MW)

adequate body of literature on this topic (to justify this survey)

of a level of quality that meets one's needs or standards (MW)

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  • 1
    Adequate (especially if italicised) gives the best 'most likely good enough, but definitely could be better' definition OP seems to be looking for
    – mcalex
    Jun 24 at 4:39
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    "Reasonable sufficiency" would introduce the idea that the amount existing reasearch is only just adequate.
    – BoldBen
    Jun 24 at 22:44
  • 1
    I have heard "bare sufficiency" on occasion. Jun 25 at 15:05
  • good stuff. hopefully one of these works for OP and others in their situation. Jun 26 at 2:57
13

I would propose limited. Saying,

There is a limited amount of research on this topic.

would imply that, although there is some research that has been done and published on the topic, there isn't very much. There being a limited amount of research doesn't pass judgment on the quality of the research that has been done, and it's entirely possible that, even with a limited amount, some important conclusions can be drawn and a decent understanding of the overall topic can be cobbled together.

This seems to fit your intended meaning quite well.

That said, I would generally opt to go with Chemomechanics's suggestions to reword your sentence entirely, obviating the need for a "single-word request".

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6

If you wanted to fill in the blank exactly as written, you could go with

There is a modicum of research on this subject.

6

"Modicum" expresses that there is a quantity, usually of a desired thing, and implies that more may be desirable; essentially it means "some" or a small amount. For example, a modicum of research has been done in this area.

It may be better to use the more informative sentence that you put after your "what I am trying to say is ...".

5

substantial or significant means more than a little but not necessarily enough. non-trivial is an even more direct antonym of 'sparse/ity' or 'little' or 'paucity', but slightly arch.

But I do not agree with your highway example for 'more than a little but not necessarily enough'. If I think I have enough fuel, even if it's only a little, I'll stay on. If I think I don't have enough fuel, it's not safe to continue, regardless of how small or large that amount is. Plus, with GPS nav I do know both how far the next exit is and whether there's a restaurant -- and maybe even if it's a good one :-)

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  • I've heard "non-trivial" many times in this context for Computer Science. It can be used sarcastically to mean a huge amount, but more often it means "it's trivial. Well, it's more than that, but still trivial. OK, it's even more than that, pushing it into non-trivial territory". Jun 24 at 2:15
4

How could you describe this amount of fuel?

enough

OED

A. adj. (determiner).

I. As much or as many as required or wanted; sufficient in quantity or number.

1934 Butler (Georgia) Herald 16 Aug. 2/6 Heat and cold are cruel things, but man has intelligence enough to overcome them.

2016 Church Times 9 Dec. 11/2 The Archbishop of Mosul, Mor Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, and the Archbishop of St Matthew's..were denied visas..because they did not have enough money.

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    No, I was specifically looking for a word that did not clearly indicate if the amount was enough. You're not certain you have enough to make it to the next exit, but you do know that you have enough gas to continue for some distance beyond the present exit.
    – bashtown
    Jun 22 at 20:20
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    @bashtown: you wrote "you assume you have enough gas to get to the next exit and decide to stay on the highway." There is nothing in your question to suggest that "You're not certain" I note you have accepted sufficient which also does not indicate "You're not certain".
    – Greybeard
    Jun 22 at 22:11
2

I would say, "the research on this topic is inexhaustive", and leave it as a matter of insinuation that I'm not rebuking the research for not being good enough, only that it has not exhausted all the research avenues.

Another possibility is "there is foundational research on this topic". This conveys the idea that the groundwork has been adequately laid, but the topic isn't closed; we could add a qualifier to topic: "there exists foundational research about this open topic".

2

A plain some, as JeffUK suggested in a comment, would fit very well. It acknowledges existence without qualification, perhaps with a hint that it is not complete: "While there is some [existing] research on this topic more work needs to be done."

"Some" can be accompanied to further describe the nature or amount of the research. Some of these examples are from other answers: some initial or basic research, some substantial or considerable research. If it is unsystematic, one could call it some scattered or haphazard research.

A small, uncoordinated effort one could call "a smattering of research".

1

Possibly "ample" works for you.

As per The American Heritage Dictionary

adj. Of large or great size, amount, extent, or capacity: synonym: spacious.
adj. Fully sufficient to meet a need or purpose: synonym: plentiful.

Here, we'd be wanting the 2nd definition. To fit your sentence structure, it would be:

There is an ample amount of research.

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The antonym of paucity is abundance, per Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus.

There is an abundance of research…

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