A study of the organisational structure and phraseology of Algerian engineering MSc dissertations with reference to their American counterparts

  • Fares Rezoug

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


While the world is producing far more dissertations written in English than ever, studies on research-process genres remain heavily focused on research articles. To cast more light on this under-explored genre, this pedagogically-motivated study compares Algerian MSc dissertations in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with their American counterparts, at the structural and phraseological levels.

Two corpora were developed for this study: the Algerian Corpus of Engineering (ACE) which consists of 70 dissertations, and the United States Corpus of Engineering (USCE) which consists of 109 dissertations. As a first step, the context in which the Algerian MSc dissertations were produced was explored through a set of interviews with Algerian English lecturers, MSc supervisors and their supervisees. The knowledge obtained fromthese interviews is used to inform the background chapter and ascertain the participants’ attitudes towards MSc dissertation writing.

A second phase involved using a qualitative research method to analyse all 179 dissertations in their entirety from the abstract to the conclusion to identify their macro and micro-structure, with reference to typical linguistic features of each stage. Neither group of dissertations was found to follow the Introduction, Methodology, Results and Discussion (IMRD) structure. Almost all the Algerian MSc dissertations were found to have the same structure: Abstract, Introduction, Theory, System Design and Conclusion (AITSC). This is in line with the general responses of the interviewees. Although the American dissertations had more structural variations, most of these were derivative forms of AITSC.

In its third phase, a quantitative research method was used to explore the phraseology of all 179 MSc dissertations with a focus on lexical bundles (LBs) using the structural and functional classification models developed by Biber et al. (1999) and Hyland (2008). LBs were compared across both corpora (ACE and USCE) and across the four sub-disciplines represented in ACE: Power, Control, Computer and Telecommunication. The LB analysis revealed interesting differences in frequency, grammatical structure and function between the two groups of dissertations and the four sub-disciplines. LB differences were also found to be directly related to the structure of MSc dissertations.

It is anticipated that the findings from this thesis will be of value to those interested in developing local materials to teach Engineering dissertation writing in Algeria, thus supporting the spread of English medium higher education in the region.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorHilary Nesi (Supervisor) & Benet Vincent (Supervisor)

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