Second Language Studies/ESL Dissertation Fundamentals

The following information pertaining to writing a dissertation Literature Review chapter was kindly shared by Dr. John Bitchener, Professor of Applied Linguistics at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand.


  • A review of the non-research literature that summarizes and synthesizes background and contextual information.
  • A review of theoretical perspectives that underpin or inform your research project.
  • A review of the research literature relevant to your study.
  • A critique that:  (a) identifies arguments for and against issues and controversies related to functions 1-3 above and (b) assesses or weighs up the value of theories, ideas, claims, research designs, methods and conclusions, including an identification of strengths and weaknesses.
  • An identification of gaps and shortcomings in this knowledge and research.
  • A rationale justifying why the gap was important and significant enough to be filled.
  • An explanation of how the design and execution of your research project was informed by steps 1-6 above. This is likely to explain how the literature provided (a) a focus for the research questions or hypotheses that were investigated and (b) guidelines for an appropriate methodology and design.


1. Establish some aspect of the knowledge territory relevant to your research.
A presentation of knowledge claims and statements about theories, beliefs, constructs, definitions.
A statement about the centrality, importance, or significance of the theme/topic.
A presentation of research evidence (e.g. findings, methodologies)
2. Create a research niche/gap in knowledge.
A critique of knowledge claims, issues, problems associated with move 1claims/statement.
A presentation of research evidence in relation to move 2a.
An identification of gap(s) in knowledge and/or research.
A continuation or development of a tradition that has been established but not fully investigated.
A presentation of arguments for introducing a new perspective or theoretical framework (as a result of move 1 claims/statement).
3. Announce how you will occupy the research niche/gap.
An announcement of the aim of the research study.
An announcement of the theoretical position(s) or framework(s).
An announcement of the research design and processes.
An announcement of how you define concepts and terms in your research.

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