Writing the literature review: Two Mexican novice writers’ challenges

Hilda Hidalgo, Rosa Maria Funderburk Razo


Writing a thesis or dissertation is not an easy task (Bitchener, 2009; O’Connell and Jin, 2001; Meloy, 2002,); this may represent a particularly difficult endeavour when it comes to non-native speakers of English given not only the particular nature of the genre but also the characteristics of its discourse and cultural characteristics. Due to the importance of this genre or sub-genre and in relation to the relevance for the success or failure of undergraduate and graduate students in completing their studies, Paltridge (2002) argues that “recent years have seen increased attention being given to thesis and dissertation writing in the ESP (English for Specific Purposes) literature. Few of these studies, however, have made the discourse structure of theses and dissertations the focus of their investigation and those that have, have only looked at particular sections of theses and dissertations” (p.126). Yet, the literature review (LR) as one of the sections which represents a major difficulty for students when writing their theses has received little attention (Boote and Beile, 2005; Bruce, 1994; Meloy, 2002). Among the difficulties, to mention some, is the need for evaluating previous authors and studies that support the research. That said, the aim of this paper is to analyse the various ways in which Mexican undergraduate students evaluate (in terms of engagement and stance) what they read when writing the LR in English. The study adopts a mixed model approach as it involves interviews with undergraduates who have completed their theses as well as the qualitative-quantitative analysis of the LRs in these undergraduates writing. The findings suggest that the participants in this study not only face difficulties derived from the nature of the LR, but also point to an apparent absence of epistemic evaluation.


evaluation, stance, engagement

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