THE LITERATURE REVIEWas background for an empirical study … typically in an MA dissertation or PhD thesis What other sorts of ‘literature review’ are there?
WHEN SHOULD THE LITERATURE REVIEW BE DONE? • Do you agree with this statement by a PhD student? I will set aside the first year of my PhD to complete the Introduction and the Literature review. Then I can forget about that and concentrate on what data I am going to gather.
HOW LONG SHOULD IT BE? • Not more than 1/3 of the whole text
WHAT SHOULD BE IN IT (1)?Range of topics to cover, compared with what should be in other chapters • The data gathered by the researcher later is about Japanese secondary school learners’ success in recognising and producing the English r/l distinction • Which of the following should be in the lit review? • If any of these should not be there, where should they be?
Description and discussion of previous research close to that of the researcher • e.g. other studies of Japanese learners’ performance with r/l • Description of the wider research field into which the research area fits • e.g. acquisition of L2 phonology • Description of the local context which the research is relevant to • e.g. the English teaching/learning situation in Japan at secondary level, especially with respect to pronunciation; what goes on in state school and juku; role of pronunciation in exams… • Discussion of theoretical background to the study, if there is one • e.g. contrastive analysis; theories of L1 transfer in L2 learning • Definitions of key terms e.g. recognition, minimal pair • The research questions and/or hypotheses of the study • e.g. Are Japanese learners able to recognise the English r/l distinction more or less successfully than they are able to produce it? • References to how the researcher’s own study will be carried out • e.g. learners will be asked to read aloud pairs of words differing only in r/l, such as lackrack and the researcher will rate how well they make the distinction
WHAT SHOULD BE IN IT (2)?Relevant parts of the subject matter, compared with what should be omitted • Some examiners take the ‘strong’ view that there should be nothing covered in the lit review that is not referred to again when you have your own results. I.e. it must all be directly relevant. • A more usual view is that some material should be there which concerns the wider research context in which the study is located, but is not directly relevant to the precise study being done. • But at all costs avoid the ‘drunk under the streetlight’ syndrome.
The researcher’s actual study is about the strategies/processes used by Arabic learners of English in Saudi Arabia writing both in Arabic and in English. It has a lit review (ch 2) divided into these four main subsections. • Does it look as if the right topics are being covered? Or should topics be added or deleted? 2.1 Writing 2.2 Research on English L1 writing 2.3 Studies of ESL writing processes 2.4 Studies of EFL writing processes
The study is of student attitudes to the effectiveness of two types of written error correction, ‘full’ and ‘partial’, given by the teacher writing on their scripts. Here are the lit review section headings: Introduction Early researches on error correction More recent researches on error correction Technology mediated error correction • Does it seem to cover the right areas?
Is this the best way of starting the lit review chapter? The researcher’s study in fact is on the effect of prof level and age on guessing and dictionary use strategies The current chapter aims at discussing the wide-ranging definitions and features of language learning strategies. Next, vocabulary learning strategies in L2 learning and some factors affecting the learner’s choice of a strategy will be examined. Furthermore, some studies related to the topic of this dissertation will be highlighted.
BALANCE and COMPLETENESS • Give space evenly to each of a set of points? • This is often said to be desirable, …
A thesis on writing strategies of learners of English has a review of Studies on the sub-processes of writing, which states near the start: The focus of much of the cognitive process research has been on individual sub-processes such as planning, generating, revising, and editing. Hence, this section presents a review of studies dealing with sub-process of writing... <There then follow one and a half pages on planning, half a page on generating, and two and a half on revising> • Is there a problem with that? • How might the imbalance have arisen?
When is it good not to be ‘complete’ or ‘balanced’? • If your study is just about one area within a topic, no need to cover all areas in equal detail • ….but tell the reader why you are doing that • You should be balanced and complete in relation to your research focus, not in relation to ‘all that is there in the literature’
HOW SHOULD IT BE ORGANISED (1)?Overall structure types • There should be a clear structure in the order in which topics are covered • From the above examples…. What two main ways of organising a literature review emerge as possible?
HOW SHOULD IT BE ORGANISED (2)?Sequencing and grouping of sections • There should be a clear structure in the subgrouping by which topics are covered • Section numbering should be logical and not too complex
A study of Greeks learning the English article. Below are the headings of literature review sections in Ch2 • Suggest a suitable numbering for them, showing sensible groupings of the sections
Introduction to the chapter • Second language acquisition • Theories of second language acquisition • Syntax in second language acquisition • Role of mother tongue syntax • Models of syntactic acquisition research • Syntactic theories of the article • The syntax of the English article • The syntax of the Greek article • Studies of article acquisition • Article acquisition by Greek EFL learners • Research questions and hypotheses • Chapter conclusion
2.1 Introduction to the chapter 2.2 Second language acquisition 2.2.1 Theories of second language acquisition 2.2.2 Syntax in second language acquisition 22.214.171.124 Role of mother tongue syntax 126.96.36.199 Models of syntactic acquisition research 2.3 Syntactic theories of the article 2.3.1 The syntax of the English article 2.3.2 The syntax of the Greek article 2.4 Studies of article acquisition 2.4.1 Article acquisition by Greek EFL learners 2.5 Research questions and hypotheses 2.6 Chapter conclusion
This is the index to a literature review of a study of the ways in which teachers give feedback on grammar errors in Saudi learners’ L2 English writing • Some of the section headings are not satisfactory. Say why and suggest improvements • The sequence of sections 2.2 to 2.15 does not really cover 14 topics that are equally distinct from each other. Some belong together in subgroups. Suggest which sections might be put together because they share a common overall theme.
2.1 Introduction 2.2 Teaching writing to Saudi learners 2.3 What is a L2 learner grammatical error? 2.4 Grammar problems encountered by Saudi/Arab students 2.5 Definition of feedback 2.6 The significance of feedback in the EFL context 2.7 Feedback in Saudi secondary schools 2.8 Teacher’s self-evaluation 2.9 The significance of written feedback on grammatical errors 2.10 The importance of written feedback on grammatical errors 2.11 Types of written feedback 2.12 Teachers’ grammatical feedback 2.13 Feedback and marks 2.14 The language of feedback 2.15 Teachers’ methods of providing feedback 2.16 Research questions
The thesis is about dictionary use by university level learners of English, and the later questionnaire asks them about how often they use this and that type of dictionary. Section 188.8.131.52 reviews Different types of dictionary in terms of medium, and is subdivided as follows: • Are the sections suited to the topic? • Is the numbering suitable? • Is the last paragraph appropriate?
184.108.40.206.1 Print dictionary 220.127.116.11.2 Hand-held electronic dictionary 18.104.22.168.3 CD, Internet, PC-based dictionaries <... last paragraph of that third subsection runs...> To sum up, we have seen that different types of dictionary have different features. Print dictionaries are widely used and contain a lot of information. Handheld electronic dictionaries may not have so much information and may not be available to all students because of their high price. The CD, Internet and PC-based dictionaries have enough information but access to these dictionaries depends on availability of a computer. In our study, we will investigate all these types of dictionaries to see which type our students prefer, and use more frequently
SOURCESHow many? • Almost everything in a lit review needs to be referenced… including • theoretical ideas • terminological definitions • results other people got • methods other people used… • How many source references needed? • At least 100 for a PhD normally • Remember to ensure that all sources mentioned in the text are in the list of references at the end • … and not to inflate that list with references not cited in the text!
SOURCESWhich are appropriate? • Clearly the sources chosen need to be good ones connected with the topics that need to be covered. • They need to represent the key figures who have contributed to the field. • They need to be up to date (e.g. not stop three years before the thesis is submitted). • I am not here going to cover how to look for suitable sources to reference.
SOURCESCommon mistakes to spot: Authority of the source • In a thesis on motivation, naturally the definition of the term is covered: Motivation is defined as ‘the activation or energization of goal-oriented behavior’ (Wikipedia, accessed 18/1/10) • In a thesis on the learning of idioms, the term ‘idiom’ is defined: The Oxford dictionary defines an idiom as ‘A form of expression, grammatical construction, phrase, etc., peculiar to a language’
Talking about guessing the meanings of unknown words from context (two errors here): According to Scholfield (lectures Spring 2011), a problem with this strategy is that many contexts do not supply enough information to guess from with any success. • In a thesis about acquisition of the English article system we read (two errors here): According to Krashen (cited in Ellis 1997), learners need comprehensible input in order to acquire language.
Common mistakes to spot: Who is the source? • Any comment on the references here? Richards (2008) argues that the contrast between training and development has been replaced by a reconsideration of the nature of teacher learning, which is viewed as a form of socialisation into the professional thinking and practices of a community of practice. Similarly, according to Lantolf (2000), teacher education is now also influenced by perspectives drawn from sociocultural theory and the field of teacher cognition (Borg 2006) as cited by Richards in his paper and thus he says: ‘Becoming an English language teacher means becoming part of a world-wide community of professionals with shared goals, values, discourse, and practices but one with a self-critical view of its own practices and a commitment to a transformative approach to its own role’ (2008:161).
What is the ambiguity here, which should be avoided? Bialystok (1987) feels that learning strategies are means to exploit available knowledge to improve learning. Hence it is important to teach students such strategies. • And what may well be missing here? Considerable studies on the relationship between strategy use and language test performance have provided useful descriptions and generated taxonomies; however, most of them are neither supported by a firm theory of cognition nor based on powerful statistical methods of analysis (Purpura, 1997)
Common mistakes to spot: Recency • In a dissertation on vocabulary teaching we read: The neglect of vocabulary in language study is borne out by Wilkins who comments that "linguists have had remarkably little to say about vocabulary and one can find very few studies which could be of any practical interest to language teachers" (1972:109) • Talking about the interactive model of reading: This model is quite a recent one, which is proposed by Rayner and Pollatsek (1989).
PRESENTINGinformation FROM SOURCESWhere the source got the information from • It needs to be clear whether what a quoted source says is: (a) based on theory, or (b) giving evidence from someone’s experience/opinion, or (c) a report of empirical research. • These different origins give the information different weight in an argument. Here are some reports of what various sources say about vocabulary learning and group work. • What status (a,b,c) would each statement below have, do you think? Which are not clear? • What methods of reporting what sources say seem to indicate which status?
Swain (1985) proposes that when learners are required to produce language through speech or writing, and receive feedback from peers, their language proficiency may be increased. • Caulk (1994) concludes that the suggestions made by 85% of college ESL students for writing revision are effective. • Johnson, Johnson and Smith (1991) maintain that students can reach their learning goals only if others in the group reach theirs. • Rewarding high-achieving students in a group may result in students either working hard or having feelings of hostility towards the winners (Johnson and Johnson 1994). • Studies show that positive interdependence in a group promotes learning (Gabbert et al. 1986). • According to Harkins and Petty (1982), when individual accountability is not included in group work, some individuals may contribute little effort. • By exchanging knowledge in group work, individual’s learning is promoted (Johnson and Johnson 1994).
Webb (2007) states that when help-givers give detailed explanations in a collaborative learning group, they benefit from clarifying their own ideas. • It was found that a cooperative group with teacher and student processing performs the best (Johnson et al. 1990). • Beck et al. (1987) suggest that a minimum of 12 exposures is required for learners to be able use a word accurately. • Craik and Lockhart’s (1972) depth of processing hypothesis assumes that the more attention learners give to new words, the greater the chance they will remember them. • Two grade 8 learners of French worked together on a writing task and it emerged that learners’ language proficiency may be enhanced through discussion of word forms (Pica et al. 1989). • According to Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, cognitive functions are developed in the social environment though interaction (Vygotsky 1978).
Gal’perin (1967) argues that after an interaction is internalised, it becomes mental activity. • Research indicates that if students do not respond within one second, teachers may repeat or rephrase the question (Rowe 1974). • Every student has his/her own favoured ways of obtaining and processing information (Reid 1995). • As Donato and Lantolf (1990) pointed out, learner’s knowledge building can be observed directly when speakers do problem solving tasks. • Vocabulary learning is heavily influenced by personality differences and a host of other variables (Kojic-Sabo and Lightbown 1999). • Stice (1987) indicates that students can retain 90% of what they say as they do something.
PRESENTING INFORMATION FROM SOURCES THAT REPORT EMPIRICAL STUDIES What to mention about each study? • Except in purely theoretical research, much of a literature review describes and discusses relevant previous empirical (i.e. data gathering) studies. • This inevitably involves giving mini summaries of each study. But what should be in those summaries?
A student is reviewing studies of planning and reviewing for her study of Saudi university level females writing in English. Primarily she wants to report what they found about planning and reviewing. Here are some studies she includes and how she describes them: • Graves and Murray (1980) found that planning includes making notes.... • Flower and Hayes (1981b) found that planning activities occurred when writers paused... • Sommers (1980) randomly chose forty writers, twenty experienced and twenty freshmen or upper-level writers. Four revision operations have been identified… <These are then described> • Stallard (1974) compared the writing strategies of fifteen good senior high school student writers with those of fifteen average writers.... and categorised revisions... <Revision types are then described> • The basic information given about each study varies. What information minimally needs to be given about each study, in addition to what the study found?
TALKING ABOUT SOURCES The problem of ‘undercooking’ • You need to not just list what a lot of sources say about the same topic, but at the very least point out where they agree, where they differ, what the consensus is…. • In a dissertation about anxiety experienced by learners of languages, there is the following review of what causes it: • Any comment?
2.5 The sources of language anxiety Kitano (2001) categorises the sources of foreign language anxiety as: … <6 are listed> However, Ganschow and Sparks (1996) narrow the sources of foreign language anxiety to components of oral performance anxiety… <3 given> In addition Greer (1996) presents seven types of foreign language anxiety sources that prevent FL learners from performing orally in front of their peers……. What causes language anxiety?.... It appears that it can be provoked by both academic and social contexts. There are several sources that can cause language anxiety; for instance…. <4 listed> Writing on the topic, Horwitz et al. (1986 p127) draw attention to three sources of foreign language anxiety…. At last, it seems that communication apprehension, test anxiety, self perception of language ability and fear of negative evaluation are the most common sources of language anxiety. Thus these sources will be discussed in depth. <2.5.1…2.5.4 then cover those four in more detail>
The above example avoided just listing what different sources said because… • It provided a synthesis, stating the consensus. • But… what more could it do to be really ‘critical’?
TALKING ABOUT SOURCESCoherence and logic • One point should follow on from another, there should not be contradictions, unacknowledged repetition etc. • For each of these examples, say what the coherence problem is • How might it have arisen? • How can one solve it?
In a thesis on dictionary use: Hand held electronic (HHE) dictionaries are more portable than a dictionary-sized book and can supply many items and a large quantity of information. Furthermore they can provide antonyms, idioms, synonyms, as well as store dictionaries for several languages (Kent, 2001). <13 lines later in the same paragraph...> Zaher, Gupta and Olohan (1994) criticised HHE dictionaries because they do not exploit fully the computer’s ability to process and display lexical information .... They cannot be modified and offer only limited facilities, usually translations. Another shortcoming is that their small size makes operation difficult,....
In a dissertation on the strategies used by university level learners of English writing both in L1 and in English we read: In a study of six EFL Chinese-speaking graduate students, Arndt (1987) observed that the writing processes of the subjects in L1, Chinese, were similar to those used in L2, English. Each subject wrote one essay in Chinese and one essay in English for the study. .... Arndt's study is very relevant to ours as it compares L1 writing and EFL writing. ..... Arndt found differences between L1 and L2 writing processes for each subject, particularly in the area of vocabulary. She found that the subjects "revised for word choice more in the L2 task than in the L1 task...." (p265).
In a lit review about dictionaries: Barlow (1996) claims that dictionaries do not have enough context to be of any value to language learners. <nine pages later> Wichmann (1995) used corpora to teach German. She did this because, in her opinion, dictionaries do not give enough contextual meaning. <43 pages later> Dictionaries may lack a sufficient amount of context to be of any real use to L2 learners. Barlow (1996) claims that dictionaries do not have a context that is rich enough.
Coherence with common sense expectation • Sometimes a reader who is not a specialist, but brings only general knowledge to the dissertation, finds strange things said • Do the following make sense? • Can they be reworded to make better sense?
Hand held electronic dictionaries are helpful in occasions requiring speed like a test situation. ...the L1's role in L2 writing was viewed as a primary source of content and vocabulary... The students are tested on reading comprehension, recitation of poems, dictation, writing skills, grammar and translation. There is no testing of speaking and listening skills.
TALKING ABOUT SOURCES:Cohesion using overt markers • There are connecters in each of these that seem to convey a meaning that does not make sense. Explain each one. • What would be a better connecter?
The thesis on dictionary use: Most of ESL students prefer to use electronic dictionaries because it is fast, portable and easy to use. It saves time and effort. ........ On the other hand, translation students mainly use HHE dictionaries because it is fast, easy to use, portable, and saves time..... • And again: The study <Tono 1984> found that these users tend to choose the first definition of an entry. Only if the information in the dictionary indicated the inappropriacy of the first definition did they move to the next one. When the second one was also inadequate, they moved to the third one and so forth. .... Furthermore, the subjects seem not to read whole entries but would rather stop searching for the required meaning as soon as possible.
Thesis on learners writing in English, talking about the role of L1 in the writing process: As this section will show, the studies that deal with the writing strategies of EFL students as they write in the native language and English are very few. Hence, researchers have found evidence of the transfer of first language writing skills and strategies to the second language. • Why does the second sentence not quite follow the first? Many studies have shown that readers vary in their awareness of the structural properties of texts (e.g. narrative, expository) and that this affects their comprehension of texts. Another variable that affects readers’ strategic processing of narrative and expository texts is the assigned goals or purposes for reading the texts.
Defining ‘culture’: Robert Lado (1957), a famous linguist, defines cultures as “structured systems of patterned behaviour”. Similarly , Spradley (1980:10), a well known ethnographer, states that culture involves three fundamental aspects of human experience: cultural behaviour (what people do), cultural knowledge (what people know), and cultural artifacts (what things people make and use). Therefore, culture is “the knowledge that people have learnt as members of a group.” Byram (1989) sees culture as the way of life of the foreign country, including its arts, philosophy and ‘high culture’ in general.
TALKING ABOUT SOURCESShowing reasons • A very important kind of connector in a thesis is the sort that connects the reason for something to what is explained. • In the examples below, what reason is given for what? • Are the reasons good reasons?
Foreign language anxiety can be defined as “a distinct complex of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors … arising from the uniqueness of the language learning process” (Horwitz et al. 1986 p128). Therefore it seems that anxiety influences language learning. Second language learners can use corpora through a concordancing program because corpora provide authentic data.