When writing for academic purposes, you are contributing toward a larger conversation taking place among scholars. Therefore, you need to place your thoughts and input within that larger conversation. What do others have to say about this topic and how does your contribution relate to, and extend, this larger conversation?

Establishing this conversation is the purpose of including a literature review in a paper. But you must do more than simply review what others have stated; you must then contribute to this conversation in a meaningful and significant way. Luckily, there are a number of “moves” that can be made in order to enter the ongoing conversation related to your chosen topic. It is in the beginning of your paper where you will use these introductory moves to create a research space in which your paper will exist.

Writing experts and scholars, John Swales and Christine Feak (2009) created a list of moves that can be followed when writing graduate papers and scholarly articles:

Move I: Establish a Research Territory

  • Show that your research area is of importance, is interesting, problematic, or relevant in some way. Why should your audience care about your research area?
  • Introduce and review the previous and current research in your chosen research area. This is where you are showing the larger conversation taking place and what you are, therefore,  responding to in your paper.

Move II: Establish a Niche

  • Point out a gap, raise questions about, or extend the knowledge in some way of the previous and current research.

Move III: Occupy the Niche

  • State your project or your research question and hypothesis.
  • Forecast for your reader what you plan to include in your paper. That is, briefly explain your outcomes or results and why they are significant.
Adapted from Swales, J. M. and Feak, C. B. (2009). Academic writing for graduate students. Ann Arbor: U. of Michigan Press.

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