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Masters Dissertation Award

Applications are invited for the ninth BALEAP Masters Dissertation Award. The award aims to showcase and encourage Masters dissertations which make a significant contribution to the field of EAP. The dissertations can involve primary research or be literature-based pieces of work.

Previous winners are listed below.

The competition is open to colleagues who have successfully completed an EAP-related dissertation between September, 2017 and September, 2018. Only dissertations which have been awarded a distinction, an A grade or a first are eligible.

Please do pass on this information to any colleagues and friends who might be interested as the Award is open to all EAP practitioners and researchers worldwide.

The winning writer will be awarded the sum of £250 and a guaranteed presenter’s place and free ticket at a BALEAP event.

The deadline for applications is Monday, November 26th, 2018. The application form is available here.

If you have any questions about the award or application process, please contact John Wrigglesworth at

2017 Winner

The winner of the 2017 BALEAP Master’s Dissertation Award is Anna Murawska. The dissertation is available here.

Title: Can academic reading empower EAP students?

Awarding BodyEdinburgh University


Academic reading has so far unduly played a peripheral role in EAP and the academic literacy research agenda. This work draws on constructivist approaches to reading, and a critical view of literacy to foreground academic reading as a proactive and potentially empowering literacy practice. It employed narrative inquiry (group and individual interviews) with international students enrolled on an EAP course to ascertain whether and how academic reading can be empowering. One participant’s reading story is presented in its entirety to illustrate international students’ complex relationship with academic reading. The data suggests reading has the potential to be empowering, but that although many current practices are disempowering. Suggestions for more empowering practices on the level of EAP curricula and classroom instruction, as well as the wider academic literacy context are made.

2016 Winner

BALEAP is happy to announce that Alasdair Braid has been awarded the BALEAP Dissertation Award for 2016. Access the dissertation here.

2015 Winner

BALEAP is happy to announce that Eilidh Webster has been awarded the BALEAP Dissertation Award for 2016.

Eilidh’s dissertation is entitled Critical thinking and EAP writing: A meta-synthesis of research on teaching approaches to critical thinking in the EAP writing class. It was submitted to the University of Glasgow as part of her MEd in TESOL.

Access the Dissertation here.

Critical thinking is a complex and contested, but clearly important, concept for EAP practitioners and their students. However, there is a notable gap in academic understanding and potential for improvement in classroom delivery. Eilidh’s dissertation reviewed and synthesized a wide range of literature in a way that has practical implications for EAP materials writing and for our students. The panel recognizes the value of systematic reviews and meta-syntheses in supporting evidence-based practice particularly in areas where there are a number of small, qualitative studies. The dissertation goes beyond what has been said before about this topic in EFL and EAP and is written in a clear, straightforward style.


Two dissertations – by Ian Johnson and Karen Schrader – were short-listed and a further eleven are noted for honorable mention. The abstracts of the winning and shortlisted texts are presented below:


Webster, Eilidh (2016). Critical thinking and EAP writing: A meta-synthesis of research on teaching approaches to critical thinking in the EAP writing class. MEd TESOL Dissertation at the University of Glasgow


Critical thinking skills are some of the core skills universities wish their students to develop over their degree courses.  Increasing numbers of international students are choosing to attend university in English-speaking contexts such as the UK and USA who come from educational backgrounds which do not necessarily foster critical thinking skills as practiced in these academic contexts (Tian & Low, 2007; Bali, 2015).  EAP courses should aim to help their students adapt and begin to develop these skills, particularly in the context of academic writing which is the main method of assessment for the majority of students and where being critical in some way is often required (Moore, 2013).  However, the definition of critical thinking and the best ways to approach teaching critical thinking and writing are areas which for teachers are often controversial and ambiguous (Kuhn, 1999).  This study therefore aims to investigate how EAP students and teachers perceive critical thinking and which instructional practices appear to be effective in teaching critical thinking and writing through conducting a meta-synthesis of previous empirical research. 10 articles are analysed using an operational framework for teaching critical thinking (Thomas & Lok, 2015).  The results of the analysis show that many students in the contexts of the studies seem to still hold misconceptions of the meaning of critical thinking and that they may be perceived as lacking the disposition or confidence to think critically because of these misconceptions or cultural differences.  The skills of evaluation and synthesis are perceived as being closely connected to critical thinking and are a focus in writing instruction.  To teach critical thinking and writing effectively the analysis also indicates that sustained content based courses and collaborative learning may be beneficial. Implications for teaching practice and potential directions for future research are also discussed.


Short list

Ian Johnson (2016). ‘He said, she said’: A corpus based comparison of the citation skills of novice Chinese undergraduate students with those of proficient exemplars. MA Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the University of Portsmouth. 


The ability to cite effectively is a cornerstone of entry into U.K. academia. Proficiency affords a safeguard against plagiarism allegations, and the ability to display consultation with literature, whilst simultaneously supporting development of coherent writer argument through a range of citation devices, most notably report verb selection. Previous research into citation practices has focused on expert writer levels and, more recently, high-scoring ergo ‘proficient’ university students. In this study, the novice level is deeply examined via corpus-based analysis of 207,000 words from essays written by Chinese L1 speakers attending pre-sessional English courses, and compared to proficient exemplar conventions in the British Academic Written English corpus. Several divergent practices are evident among novices, illuminating a range of adverse effects. Report verb choices are dominated by ‘say’ and ‘show’, viewed as often representing naïve substitutions for many available alternatives, notably ‘argue’, ‘suggest’ and ‘believe’. Such substitutions are exemplified to show effects on the ability to build authorial argument, through a diversion of the writer stance and coherence of novice essays from that intended. Use of corpus data to familiarise students with the grammatical patterning and semantic functions of a small range of report verbs is posited as a direction for pedagogy.


Karen Schrader (2016). Understanding self- and peer-assessment processes: Developments in an EAP module for academic reading and oral presentation skills. MA Teaching English for Academic Purposes at the University of Nottingham.


Self-assessment (SA) and peer-assessment (PA) in higher education aim to develop the student’s ability for life-long learning beyond the confines of a formalized university setting.  These two types of formative assessment have been found conducive to language learning contexts and can increase student motivation and self-regulated learning through directed self-reflection and collaborative learning situations.  A successful implementation requires critical understanding of the processes.  This action research dissertation explores a group of teachers’ (N=5) collaborative effort to introduce written self-reflection and peer-feedback in a revised English for Academic Purposes reading and oral presentation module.  A mixed-method, action research approach using focus group interviews and questionnaires was used to gather insights into best practices as well as impressions of the benefits, limitations and improvements in oral presentation skills.  The data from the teachers was triangulated with results from a student survey of my two classes (N=31).  The results revealed that both stakeholder groups were overall satisfied with the learning outcomes and felt that the self-assessment and peer-assessment tasks were worthwhile and rewarding.  Further, the findings illustrate that detailed, accessible explanations, adequate training, use of video and awarding marks for the quality of the assignments were processes that led to a smooth and successful implementation of self- and peer-assessment.  However, the teachers found more scaffolding in the form of guiding questions and more emphasis on critical reading and language skills are necessary to complete the learning goals.  I offer recommendations for future improvements to the four phases of the formative assessment process: introduction, training, implementation and follow-up, which can be used as a basis for future teachers.


Previous Award-winning Dissertations