EAP and Writing Development: the expression of criticality in Literature Review chapters in PhD writing for medical and health sciences

  • Mary Finn

Student thesis: Phd


This is an EAP study in writing development that investigates the expression of criticality in the writing of doctoral students’ Literature Review chapters, in medical and health sciences PhD theses. The study focuses on two disciplines, one from medical sciences and one from health sciences, chosen for their contrasting scientific research paradigms. Cardiovascular Sciences (CV) is a laboratory-based discipline; and Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work (NMS), grouped together as one discipline in this study, is a patient-facing discipline that explore ways of contributing to health care. Two 30,000-word unique corpora were constructed from student writing for analysis in this study. Theses from 2013-2017 were selected and prepared for sampling and eight samples from CV Literature Reviews and seven samples from NMS were chosen. The annotation tool used was brat v1.3 (Stenetorp et al., 2020), an open source annotator available online. Textual investigation of the dimensions of knowledge types, source use and epistemic certainty levels was carried out. Quantitative data from the annotated corpora were reported on and examined in context in order to reach a qualitative interpretation of the findings. Findings show that writers use an interplay of the dimensions examined to present themselves as having developed a scientific critical faculty and as having a disciplinary voice. The thesis compares and contrasts the extent to which CV and NMS employ these dimensions. This comparison shows differences in the extent of the use of the different dimensions in each corpus, and this is linked to epistemological differences in the two disciplines. The study suggests that the meta-analysis approach used is replicable and has wider applicability beyond the aspects of writing analysed in this study. The study proposes a pedagogical framework to bridge the space between descriptions of criticality in EAP and the disciplines and the way this knowledge is expressed in writing, as a contribution to EAP writing pedagogy, and to a support system for all involved in thesis writing.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlexander Baratta (Supervisor) & Steven Jones (Supervisor)


  • writing a Literature Review
  • writing for medicine and health
  • voice and stance
  • knowledge description
  • student thesis writing
  • writing development
  • English for Academic Purposes
  • the expression of criticality

Cite this