The Rhetorical Structure of Literature Reviews in Egyptian-Authored English Research Articles in Linguistics

Main Article Content

Hend Rabie
Deena Boraie


The present paper seeks to examine the rhetorical structure of the literature review (LR) sections of English research articles (RAs) written by Egyptian researchers in the field of linguistics. For this purpose, a sample of ten LRs was selected from RAs published in local and international English-medium journals in linguistics between 2013 and 2019. The study deployed hybrid techniques and approaches for data collection (random/non-random sampling) and data analysis (genre-based/corpus-driven and qualitative/quantitative). Findings showed rhetorical variation in the LRs written by both groups, especially concerning Move 2 and Move 3 that were used more frequently in the international sample than in the local one, where the focus was on Move 1. In addition, some new steps emerged. The findings also shed light on the problems within the rhetorical structure of the LRs published locally, implying that the lack of rhetorical knowledge is one of the major reasons that hinder writing professional LRs. This paper contributes to a better understanding of the generic structure of RA LRs by proposing a modified version of Kwan's (2006) model. It has pedagogical implications for teaching Egyptian and apprentice researchers how to write more effective RA LRs. Future studies on a larger corpus of complete RAs written by Egyptian and international researchers in soft and hard sciences are needed to provide more generalizable findings.

Article Details

How to Cite
Rabie, H., & Boraie, D. (2021). The Rhetorical Structure of Literature Reviews in Egyptian-Authored English Research Articles in Linguistics. Asian Social Science and Humanities Research Journal (ASHREJ), 3(1), 55-72.
Author Biographies

Hend Rabie, Faculty of Arts, Fayoum University

Hend Rabie is an assistant lecturer at Fayoum University, Egypt. She completed an MA in Applied Linguistics. She is now completing a PhD on academic writing. She has taught EAP and ESP courses for several years.

Deena Boraie, The American University in Cairo

Deena Boraie is Professor of Practice, vice president for student life at AUC, Past President of the TESOL International Association, and a language testing expert. She has taught research methods at Cairo University for many years. She has published several papers and book chapters on assessment literacy and English as a lingua franca.


Amnuai, W. (2019). Analyses of rhetorical moves and linguistic realizations in accounting research article abstracts published in international and Thai-based journals. SAGE Open, 9(1), 1-9.
Amnuai, W., & Wannaruk, A. (2013). Investigating move structure of English applied linguistics research article discussions published in international and Thai journals. English Language Teaching, 6(2), 1-13.
Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., … Wittrock, M. C. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives (abridged ed.). New York: Longman.
Anthony, L. (2017). AntFileConverter (Version 1.2.1) [Computer Software]. Tokyo, Japan: Waseda University. Retrieved from
Badenhorst, C. M. (2018). Graduate student writing: Complexity in literature reviews. Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, 9(1), 58-74.
Baker, P. (2010). Sociolinguistics and corpus linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Basturkmen, H. (2009). Commenting on results in published research articles and Masters dissertations in language teaching. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 8(4), 241-251.
Basturkmen, H. (2012). A genre-based investigation of discussion sections of research articles in dentistry and disciplinary variation. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 11(2), 134-144.
Bhatia, V. K. (1993). Analysing genre: Language use in professional settings. London: Longman.
Bhatia, V. K. (1997). Introduction: Genre analysis and world Englishes. World English, 16(3), 313-319.
Bhatia, V. K. (2012). Critical reflections on genre analysis. Ibérica, (24), 17-28.
Biber, D., Connor, U., & Upton, T. (2007). Discourse analysis and corpus linguistics. In D. Biber, U. Connor, & T. Upton (Eds.), Discourse on the move: Using corpus analysis to describe discourse structure (pp. 1-20). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Boote, D. N., & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6), 3-15.
Bunton, D. (2002). Generic moves in Ph.D. thesis introductions. In J. Flowerdew (Ed.), Academic discourse (pp. 57-75). London: Pearson Education.
Chen, T. Y., & Kuo, C. H. (2012). A genre-based analysis of the information structure of Master’s theses in applied linguistics. Asian ESP Journal, 8(1), 24-52.
Cooper, H. M. (1985). A taxonomy of literature reviews. The Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The Literature Review: Knowledge Synthesis Activities in Education and Psychology (pp. 1-46). Chicago: National Inst. of Education.
Cotos, E., Huffman, S., & Link, S. (2017). A move/step model for methods sections: Demonstrating rigour and credibility. English for Specific Purposes, 46, 90-106.
Denney, A. S., & Tewksbury, R. (2013). How to write a literature review. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 24(2), 218-234.
Farnia, M., Baratizade, S. (2020). Genre analysis of the method sections in applied linguistics research articles: A cross-linguistic study. Asian ESP Journal, 16(6.1), 214-248.
Feak, C. B., & Swales, J. M. (2009). Telling a research story: Writing a literature review. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Fink, A. (2014). Conducting research literature reviews from the internet to paper (4th ed.). London: Sage Publications.
Flowerdew, J. (2001). Attitudes of journal editors to nonnative speaker contributions. TESOL Quarterly, 35(1), 121-150.
Flowerdew, J., & Wang, S. H. (2016). Author’s editor revisions to manuscripts published in international journals. Journal of Second Language Writing, 32, 39-52.
Friginal, E., & Mustafa, S. S. (2017). A comparison of U.S.-based and Iraqi English research article abstracts using corpora. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 25, 45-57.
Gil-Salom, L., & Soler-Monreal, C. (2014). Writers' positioning in literature reviews in English and Spanish computing doctoral theses. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 16, 23-39.
Habibie, P. (2019). To be native or not to be native: That is not the question. In P. Habibie & K. Hyland (Eds.), Novice writers and scholarly publication: Authors, mentors, gatekeepers (pp. 35-52). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ho, D. (2020). Notepad++ (Version 7.8.6) [Computer Software]. Retrieved from
Hsiao, C. H. (2016). Genre analysis of low-rated and high-rated literature reviews by EFL postgraduates. International Journal of English Language Teaching, 3(1), 1-19.
Hsiao, C. H., & Yu, H. Y. (2012). Knowledge presentation in thesis writing—Examining move use in reviewing literature. English Teaching & Learning, 36(3), 133-179.
Hsiao, C. H., & Yu, H. Y. (2015). Move distribution and configuration of literature reviews at four levels. Taiwan International ESP Journal, 7(1), 51-77.
Huang, P., & Zhang, X. (2016, August). Analysis of thematic progression pattern in LR part of economics doctoral thesis through genre. Paper presented at the Joint International Conference of the 8th International Conference on ESP in Asia & the 3rd International Symposium on Innovative Teaching and Research in ESP in Japan, Tokyo (Vol. 1, pp. 28-35). Tokyo: UEC IGTEE Research Station. Retrieved from
Inoue-Smith, Y. (2020). How to help students excel in reviews of the literature. In Y. Inoue-Smith & T. McVey (Eds.), Optimizing higher education learning through activities and assessments (pp. 328-346). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Jahangard, A., Rajabi, A., & Khalaji, K. (2014). A comparison of moves in conclusion sections of research articles in mechanical engineering and applied linguistics. International Journal of Language Learning and Applied Linguistics World, 5(2), 346-359.
Jian, H. (2010). The schematic structure of literature review in research articles of applied linguistics. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 33(5), 15-27.
Jomaa, N. J., & Bidin, S. J. (2017). Perspectives of EFL doctoral students on challenges of citations in academic writing. Malaysian Journal of Learning and Instruction, 14(2), 177-209.
Kafes, H. (2017). Citation practices among novice and expert academic writers. Education and Science, 42(192), 441-462.
Koester, A. (2010). Building small specialized corpora. In A. O’Keeffe & M. McCarthy (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of corpus linguistics (pp. 66-79). London: Routledge.
Kurniawan, E., & Lubis, A. H. (2020). A comparative move analysis on the qualitative and quantitative findings and discussion sections written by EFL undergraduate students. Asian ESP Journal, 16(6.1), 137-162.
Kwan, B. S. C. (2006). The schematic structure of literature reviews in doctoral theses of applied linguistics. English for Specific Purposes, 25(1), 30-55.
Lewin, B. A., Fine, J., & Young, L. (2001). Expository discourse: A genre-based approach to social science research texts. New York: Continuum.
Lim, J. M.-H. (2011). 'Paving the way for research findings': Writers' rhetorical choices in education and applied linguistics. Discourse Studies, 13(6), 725-749.
Lin, L., & Evans, S. (2012). Structural patterns in empirical research articles: A cross-disciplinary study. English for Specific Purposes, 31(3), 150-160.
Liu, Y., & Buckingham, L. (2018). The schematic structure of discussion sections in applied linguistics and the distribution of metadiscourse markers. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 34, 97-109.
Loi, C. K., & Evans, M. S. (2010). Cultural differences in the organization of research article introductions from the field of educational psychology: English and Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(10), 2814-2825.
Lu, X., Casal, E., & Liu, Y. (2020). The rhetorical functions of syntactically complex sentences in social science research article introductions. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 44, 1-16.
Lu, X.,Yoon, J., & Kisselev, O. (2021). Matching phrase-frames to rhetorical moves in social science research article introductions. English for Specific Purposes, 61, 63-83.
Maulid, W. O. (2017). The moves and steps in the literature review and discussion sections in the four Master’s degree theses. Journal of English Education, 2(1), 51-58.
McEnery, T., & Hardie, A. (2012). Corpus linguistics: Method, theory, and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McGrath, L., & Kuteeva, M. (2012). Stance and engagement in pure mathematics research articles: Linking discourse features to disciplinary practices. English for Specific Purposes, 31(3), 161-173.
Nhat, T. N. (2019). Insights into international publication: A synthesis of move-based literature on the research article genre. VNU Journal of Foreign Studies, 35(1), 84-98.
Parodi, G. (2010). Rhetorical organisation of textbooks: A "colony-in-loops"? In G. Parodi (Ed.), Academic and professional discourse genres in Spanish (pp. 143-169). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Peacock, M. (2011). The structure of the method section in research articles across eight disciplines. Asian ESP Journal, 7(2), 99-124.
Pho, P. D. (2013). Authorial stance in research articles: Examples from applied linguistics and educational technology. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rewhorn, S. (2018). Writing your successful literature review. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 42(1), 143-147.
Samraj, B. (2002). Introductions in research articles: Variations across disciplines. English for Specific Purposes, 21(1), 1-17.
Sheldon, E. (2011). Rhetorical differences in RA introductions written by English L1 and L2 and Castilian Spanish L1 writers. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 10(4), 238-251.
Soler-Monreal, C. (2015). Announcing one’s work in PhD theses in computer science: A comparison of move 3 in literature reviews written in English L1, English L2 and Spanish L1. English for Specific Purposes, 40, 27-41.
Soler-Monreal, C., Carbonell-Olivares, M., & Gil-Salom, L. (2011). A contrastive study of the rhetorical organisation of English and Spanish PhD thesis introductions. English for Specific Purposes, 30(1), 4-17.
Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, J. M., & Lindemann, S. (2002). Teaching the literature review to international graduate students. In A. M. Johns (Ed.), Genre in the classroom: Multiple perspectives (pp. 105-119). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Tankó, G. (2017). Literary research article abstracts: An analysis of rhetorical moves and their linguistic realizations. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 27, 42-55.
Tewksbury, R., & Mustaine, E. E. (2012). Cracking open the black box of the manuscript review process: A look inside justice quarterly. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 23(4), 399-422.
Thompson, P. (2009). Literature reviews in applied PhD theses: Evidence and problems. In K. Hyland & G. Diani (Eds.), Academic evaluation: Review genres in university settings (pp. 50-67). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Tseng, M.-Y. (2018). Creating a theoretical framework: On the move structure of theoretical framework sections in research articles related to language and linguistics. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 33, 82-99.
Wu, X., Mauranen, A., & Lei, L. (2020). Syntactic complexity in English as a lingua franca academic writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 43, 1.13.
Xie, J. (2017). Evaluation in moves: An integrated analysis of Chinese MA thesis literature reviews. English Language Teaching, 10(3), 1-20.
Yaǧiz, O., Ӧtügen, R., Kaya, F., & Aydin, B. (2014). A literature review analysis of the Turkish scholars' research articles in ELT and applied linguistics. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 158, 389-393.
Yang, R., & Allison, D. (2003). Research articles in applied linguistics: Moving from results to conclusions. English for Specific Purposes, 22(4), 365-385.
Zamani, G., & Ebadi, S. (2016). Move analysis of the conclusion sections of research papers in Persian and English. Cypriot Journal of Educational Science, 11(1), 9-20.