Common errors in writing a literature review by tvm12882


									Common errors in writing a literature review

Purpose of task within the course:

To heighten awareness of what makes for a good and a bad literature review.

Research context:

The task:
Read each example below. Since literature reviews are by their nature focussed on the specific
content of the research of particular studies it is difficult to choose examples that are general
enough for everyone to follow who has no special knowledge of the content area. However the
ones below I hope are accessible to anyone without specialist knowledge of EFL writing,
vocabulary research etc....

    For each example, say what you think the supervisor's comment was. Note that the
      comments range from really serious points to small details. In some examples you may
      find more than one comment to make

   Can you see good as well as bad points?

    Suggest an improved version.

Overall structure/sectioning
1) A dissertation on the strategies used by Arabic learners of English in Saudi Arabia writing
both in Arabic and in English has a lit review (ch 2) divided into these four main subsections:

       2.1 Writing

       2.2 Research on English L1 writing

       2.3 Studies on ESL writing processes

       2.4 Studies on EFL writing processes

2) A dissertation on Taiwanese students' speaking provides a review of literature .... under the
following subtitles: (1) background information of language learning strategies which this
research is relied on, (2) background information of speaking strategies derived from language
learning strategies, (3) background information of communication strategies, (4) What makes a
good language learner?, and (5) summary.
It later relies for its data on a questionnaire which, after gathering some background information
about the participants, asks them questions in two major headed sections: a) Your problems and
how you solve them while speaking in conversation, b) Things you do on your own to improve
your speaking proficiency.

3) 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 reviews Different types of dictionary in terms of medium, and is subdivided as
      Print dictionary

      Hand-held electronic dictionary
      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.... From
       my point of view, print dictionaries are still the best choice for L2 learners for many
       reasons. Firstly, HHE dictionary does not have enough information. Furthermore they are
       not available to all students because of its high price........ The CD, Internet and PC-based
       dictionaries have enough information but access to these dictionaries is not available to
       the students every time since they need to have computer... In our stud y, we will
       investigate all these types of dictionaries to see if the Saudi students use such kinds of
       dictionaries and which type they are familiar, prefer, use more frequently.

1) A thesis on writing strategies of learners of English has a review of Studies on the sub-process
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-processes of writing...

<There then follow one and a half pages on planning, half a page on generating, and two and a
half on revising.>

Cohe rence

1) In a thesis on dictionary use referring to handheld electronic dictionaries:

       The HHE dictionaries are more moveable than a dictionary-sized book and can supply
       many items the 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 ability to process and display lexical information .... They cannot be
       modified and offer only limited facilities, usually translations. Another shortcoming is
       that compact units make for tedious operation,....

2) In a dissertation on the strategies used by university level female Saudi learners of English
writing both in Arabic 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 so relevant to ours as it compares L1 writing and EFL writing. .....
       Arndt found differences in 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 L2
       task than in the L1 task...." (p.265).

3) The thesis on dictionary use again:

       Print dictionary lends itself to learning more words of the same family at the low "cost"
       of memorizing on meaning. Printed dictionaries give the students much information
       (Koren, 1997). Furthermore, print dictionaries enable the users to see a whole page with
       other words form the same family, plus idioms, common phrases.....

<views of Kent and Schmitt and McCarthy are reported, then 12 lines later, in the next

       Koren (1997) argues that retention vocabularies of words are likely to be better with a
       print dictionary. Print dictionaries provide a series of examples per headword, numerous
       example sentences, and allow users to view word families....

1) 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.....
2) 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.
3) Thesis on non-natives 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
Common sense on holiday?

1) Thesis on dictionary use:

       HHE dictionaries are helpful in occasions requiring speed like a test situation.

2) In a dissertation on the effect of learning style on how a vocabulary learning task is
       Perceptual (sensory) learning styles
       This learning styles model is named differently by researchers, for example, Tamblin and
       Ward (2006) call it VAKT (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Tactile) and Dornyei (2005)
       calls them 'Sensory Preferences'; however, in this study they will be called sensory
       learning styles, to avoid confusion....... However, this study will consider kinaesthetic and
       tactile learners linked because the instrument used to measure the participants' sensory
       preference does not distinguish between the two.

3) Thesis on Saudis writing in English, talking about the role of L1 in the writing process:

       ...the L1's role was viewed as a primary source of content and vocabulary...

Work done
1) In a dissertation where motivation is a major variable and needs reviewing, the writer is
providing a review of definitions of motivation:

       Some definitions ... are discussed below with the aim of reaching a working definition of
       motivation for the purpose of this study.

       According to Gardner (1985: 10) the term motivation refers "to the extent to which the
       individual works or strives to learn the language because of a desire to do so and the
       satisfaction experienced in this activity". Here motivation encompasses three aspects: a
       goal, an effort, a desire to achieve a goal, and a favourable attitude towards the activity in

       Brown (1987: 114) defines motivation as "as an inner drive, impulse, emotion, or desire
       that moves one to a particular action..."....

       Keller (1983, cited by Crookes and Schmidt, 1991:481) gives a simple definition of what
       motivation is by saying "the choices people make as to what experiences or goals they
       will approach or avoid and the degree of effort they will exert in that respect"...

       Deci and Ryan ..... (Ryan and Deci 2000: 54) argue that "To be motivated means to be
       moved to do something. A person who feels no impetus or inspiration to act is thus

       Ames and Ames (1989) regard motivation as the impetus to create and sustain intentions
       and goal-seeking acts....

.... < and so on, to the end of the section>

Choice and exploitation of sources

1) In a dissertation on vocabulary teaching we read:

       The traditional 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"

2) A student is reviewing studies of writing for her study of EFL university level females writing
in English... 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
       Sommers (1980)... randomly chose forty writers, twenty experienced and twenty
       freshmen or upper- level writers.... four revision operations have been identified…
       Stallard (1974) compared the writing strategies of fifteen good senior high school student
       writers with those of fifteen average writers.... and categorised revisions...

3) In the same lit review:
        Raimes reports.... but our study does not confirm this finding.

1) In a dissertation on vocab learning:

       Some learners are very successful at learning vocabulary on their own, but others can
       only achieve success through instructions.

PJS... work in progress Oct 08

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