Sample Education Essay Paper on Systematic approaches to a successful literature review


L2 Language Educational Research is a branch of contemporary educational research that is developing at a rapid rate. It is an interdisciplinary branch that integrates the knowledge of pedagogy and other disciplines, such as linguistics, psychology, anthropology, that are closely linked to the process of acquisition, teaching, and learning a second language. According to Cook (2013), any research conducted within any field involves the systematic process of enquiring, reviewing, and exploring some aspect of concern. Therefore, L2 language educational research involves a wide range of patterns, causes, and facts mostly directed toward developing a platform that can explain different knowledge on theories of second language learning, teaching, and acquisition. It is an opportunity that should provide all stakeholders with an interest in educational practice with more knowledge needed for making better decisions in daily pedagogical events. As far as the L2 language educational research is concerned, researchers have explored different topics in the past decade. Special emphasis has been given to computer-mediated language learning, affective features of learners, and other components of second language proficiency. More topics involving special learners have also been studied to provide a more balanced research in L2 educational practice (Housen, Kuiken, & Vedder, 2012).

L2 language educational research has attracted more attention in the U.S. In the U.S., the number of students seeking to learn a language other than English has been noted to increase annually. The numbers of children who speak a second language are also joining school at a rate considered higher than the school-aged population. Consequently, educators are constantly facing the challenge of helping the students acquire the level of proficiency needed for learning a second language. This demand has also put more pressure on the educators to research for better strategies to leverage learning for the equally diverse student population (Lantolf, 2013). Higher education institutions and specialized research centres have delved into L2 language educational research. This has been a major step toward improving knowledge in educational research.

Most of the L2 language educational research has always been centered on the learners. That is why the L2 language educational research methods have always been derived from the various methods, processes, and procedures of educational research (Gass & Mackey, 2013). The methodology of educational research in second languages provides a wide range of high expertise sources. Since L2 language educational research also incorporates science such as linguistics, psychology, and social studies, its credibility is sustained throughout the research process. However, advanced research has led to the development of more practice-oriented perspectives to L2 language learning and acquisition strategies. Other researchers have also focused more on descriptive and longitudinal approaches with different learners. When the research takes a socio-cultural approach, the aspects of age and qualitative influences to understand the L2 learning environment are reviewed and explored. The approach to research does not stop there as some psycholinguistics have also intervened to explore mental processes in L2 acquisition while also using quantitative methods (Mackey & Gass, 2015). These different researchers tend to focus more on the critical issues affecting the second language learners. However, it must also be noted that other bodies of work also contribute to L2 language educational research. Notably, theoretical linguistics has developed different hypotheses that have helped to further the knowledge in L2 learning. Together with the rest of the bodies of work, the theoretical foundation has contributed significantly to the maturity of L2 language educational research. Much progress has been particularly evident in gaining a clearer understanding of the processes involved in second language research (Plonsky & Oswald, 2014). It is hoped that more research could be conducted to close the remaining gaps involved in the construction and development of L2 linguistic systems that will make for a netter and effective learning.

The Process of Literature Review

Literature Review is very important for our language teaching and learning, especially when writing a thesis or dissertation. Tarone, Gass, and Cohen (2013) state that a methodological review of previous literature is a critical endeavour for any research. Researchers should not underestimate the process of unravelling what has already been known in the body of knowledge before beginning a research study. Several fields of study have been noted to have suffered from inadequate literature reviews in the past. This is a gap that has limited their conceptual and theoretical progress. The field of language and teaching stands to benefit greatly from literature reviews that should strengthen it as a study. According to Tong and Thomson (2015), a large part of significant discoveries usually occur within a context. Despite the fact that discovery is usually at the epicentre of research, anyone who has an interest in gaining more knowledge and understanding on L2 language acquisition and teaching will relish the chance of carrying out a literature review. It is usually the first step toward developing specialised knowledge and exploring the context of an area of interest. A literature review is, therefore, a crucial foundation upon which research is built upon. The process of reviewing literature delivers the building blocks and facilitates a detailed awareness of the underlying nature of data and information. Not only will the process contribute to the comprehensive understanding of literature, but also delivers informed practice for the sake of the study.

A novice researcher may approach literature review as being a process that is no more than a review of summary reports, or an overview of annotated bibliography of numerous research reports. However, in language and teaching as well as in other fields, a meaningful literature reviews involves more than just collecting elaborate research manuscripts. A quality literature review involves a rigorous process in breadth and depth as well as an effective analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of information. The process should entail an explanation of how a piece of literature relates and develops another. It is this flow of literature that a platform for advancing knowledge is developed. Tuckman and Harper (2012) state that an effective literature review is directed toward uncovering more areas where research is required and facilitating theory development in the process. It is in this regard that literature review can be seen to demand a methodological analysis, a foundation to a research topic, and a research methodology that provides a firm foundation. Eventually, the researcher has to show how the proposed research will contribute to the development of anything new to the already present body of knowledge. In other terms, the researcher has to demonstrate that the proposed research has the potential to advance the knowledge base of a research field. A literature review can stand alone, but a review is usually a crucial piece of preparation for a research investigation.

The above aspects have to be considered when focusing on the process of literature review. A special skill of retrieving information is demanded to scan literature efficiently. Below is a systematic process of conducting a literature review.

Conducting the Literature Review

The initial step in the process of undertaking a literature review involves the identification of the main subject. If it is a quantitative study, the researcher might as well have decided how this subject might loo in design. If not, the researcher has to begin with selecting a fitting review topic. However, most researchers make the mistake of selecting a review title is too encompassing to make a review feasible. The challenge with an ambiguous or wide review title is the large amount of data that is generated. Therefore, it is important that the researcher refines the search to have an amount of data that is manageable. For instance, it is important to focus on certain aspects of a topic of interest that are of specific significance to the research. Focusing on what is of particular interest and identifying why it is of interest is a better way of refining the review title. This is because a well-defined review title is central to an effective literature review and search strategy.

Having adequate literature is important to have a sustainable area of research to support the area of inquiry. Therefore, after selecting a topic, the next major step is identifying the related information in a structured way. Most experts prefer a systematic approach because it is more likely to generate reviews that are beneficial in informing say the educational practice. Booth, Sutton, and Papaioannou (2016) state that a comprehensive and relevant approach to literature is what a reviewer should consider more so that a specific topic produces more focused results. It is common to use electronic databases today to provide fast results. However, it is still important to sieve through the various databases which are relevant to the topic of interest. While searching for the relevant literature, focusing on the systematic reviews or existing literature can be an important step in acquiring more data sources. This is the point where the researcher will note what has already been done so that the relevance of the current study can be determined. To extend the search area, journals can also be used to review the extent of previous studies. It is recommended that a maximum period of 5 to 10 years is maintained for the reviewed works with the exception of seminal works. While at ait, the researcher can use the following sources:

  • Primary source
  • Secondary sources
  • Theoretical sources

The search strategy is a time-consuming undertaking, but it provides a glance of what has been covered in the previous years. In a more general sense, journals are rated highly than books although both sources are valuable sources of information. This is because books usually take a longer period to be published compared to journals (Fink, 2013).

2nd Step: Analysing the Literature

By this time, a number of sources of literature will have been gathered. It is only then that the analysis and synthesis process begins by skimming through the searched material to get a glimpse of what they are all about. This is the point where the abstract becomes an important component of the review process because they provide the researcher with the information on whether they should be included in the review. It is advisable that the researcher classifies and groups the articles and books by the type of source. Once this overview is over, the researcher has to return to the sources of data and conduct a critical review of the available content.

There are chances that some papers will be discarded at this point but further questions should be asked of the other remaining sources to determine how useful they will be. A researcher may use an indexing system to where the articles are sorted by the objective, methodology, findings, and outcomes. Using a tabular form, the available sources are listed and their summaries summarised in brief so that the researcher knows what each source discovered in its major findings and recommendations. This initial review process makes it easier for a researcher to locate a reference among the various sources at a later stage. This is a demanding process because the researcher has to go through the selected materials to facilitate further analysis. Riesenberg and Justice (2014) state that the stage where review and evaluation of the sources is conducted is an important step in writing a literature review because a researcher understands the perspective taken by each source. The researcher is also able to determine the objectives of each source and evaluate the significance claims that are made. Therefore, by the end of the evaluation, the researcher will know the quality, accuracy, and credibility of each source before proceeding to write a brief summary of every source noting down that key comments, strengths, and weaknesses. By doing this, a good basis for writing the literature review is formed.

 3rd Step: Writing the Review

This is the stage where the researcher has to focus on the structure of the review. Good writing mechanics will be of great significance at this actual writing process. However, the writing process must start with noting how long the review will be in terms of the word limit. Once this is clear, the researcher must introduce the paper where the purpose of the review is included. The introduction part should also include a brief overview of the problem before the key search words are outlined. Ridley (2012) states that the introduction has to go farther to describe the limits and boundaries that the literature may have and comment on the findings. This is what provides the readers with an insight of how deep and broad the literature is. In short, the introduction should include:

  • Topic identification
  • Discussion on the topic’s significance
  • Importance of the review

The literature review is not only a summary of past research but also a discussion of the previous research. The literature review is also a demonstration of how the researcher has extracted the key points from the literature by analysis and a critical synthesis.

The Body

This is the part where the researcher will present a discussion of the findings from the literature. Different methods can be used to develop the review, but the most popular method is that where a systematic review is carried out. This is a method that divides the man body into different sections. Different themes from the literature are presented for discussion in a way that allows theoretical and empirical literature to be integrated. It is also important to present the literature in a chronological manner to indicate the progress of literature. This is a technique that facilitates a reader’s judgment as to how valid the claims made earlier are in the discussion.  

The researcher must also explore the methodological and theoretical literature. This involves the process of discussing theoretical literature and following through with the methodological literature to give a sense of why a specific design could be more appropriate in researching the topic of interest. Also referred to as the methodology review, this section discusses the interdisciplinary approaches to the chosen topic. Eventually, the researcher should focus on examining the empirical and theoretical literature in different sections.

Regardless of the way the structure has been framed, the literature that is key to the topic of interest must be analysed and assessed in depth. A critical review must also be incorporated when analysing the empirical literature. But the researcher has to be cautious not to focus on describing the various studies in the review. Machi and McEvoy (2016) suggest that the researcher has to use a language that describes the tentativeness of results to avoid making definite remarks. It is also important to refrain from writing opinions because they will limit the objectivity of the research.

Something else that is also important in the literature review is the analysis has to be a critical evaluation of the available information so that the reader sees that results from different sources are compared. A sense of continuity has to be noted as one reads through the different sections so that the review does not seem to summarise the information of various sources.

The Conclusion

The conclusion consists of a summary of the researcher’s findings from the reviewed literature. There should also be an explanation what the analysis and assessment of the different materials leads one to conclude. This is the section where the researcher notes what the material provides and where it lacks. Consequently, the researcher will go on to explain how the future research will fill the gap. In every review, some recommendations for research and practice should be included.


This section lists all the list of materials used in the work in alphabetical order. This means that what is cited in the text has to be noted in the reference section and vice versa. It is important to ensure that the sources are accurate because other researchers may use the work as a source of reference.


Literature review is an important part of the research process in the field of education. It assesses the contribution of current literature to the topic under review and allows researchers to showcase their ability to analyse relevant information. This is the process that allows researchers to identify gaps in research and provide a basis for more discoveries. Similarly, literature review can inspire new ideas while also improving the understanding of a topic. By undertaking a literature review, L2 language educational research can benefit from an analysis of existing information and advance the knowledge to the benefit of educators. Different stakeholders can be involved in increasing the body of teaching knowledge and ultimately improving the practice of education in different settings. However, the process of undertaking a literature review must be systematic to ensure the researcher does not miss out on the valuable information. This is a process that requires a deep analysis of existing literature to inform the future studies. Literature review is central in educational research.


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