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ELI Research Agenda

The following list of imaginary sample term paper titles, research questions, and topics for research is not by any means exhaustive – it is simply intended to stimulate thinking and encourage investigations that would be of immediate assistance to the ELI or directly inform the policy and practice of ELI staff.

Revised December, 2022

Curriculum in general

  • Research on or a survey of existing “modular” curricula in EAP programs
  • What are current developments in curricula in each of the skill areas?
  • Research exploring the differences between integrated-skills courses and separate skill-area courses.
  • Listening/Speaking and Reading – Research on how to help students make connections between strategies and academic needs.

Curriculum– Listening/Speaking

70 = Intermediate-level listening/speaking course
80 = Advanced-level

  • Developing a diagnostic test for 70 & 80
  • Materials review or development of Enriching materials/activities.
  • Supplemental materials for developing listening, especially for 70
  • More activities/materials on: pronunciation
  • Materials/activities for developing discussion strategies
  • Use of materials on the web for developing listening skills
  • Materials for teaching interview skills in 80
  •  Development of model academic presentations
  • Materials which teach spoken pragmatics for EAP

Curriculum– Reading

72 = Intermediate-level reading course
82 = Advanced-level

  • Developing materials for diagnostic tests
  • Materials Development for:
    • Developing students’ academic vocabulary
    • Students to evaluate internet sources
    • Critical reading activities
  • Any other fluency-building or vocabulary-related activities appropriate for 72 (or 82).
  • Research on methods and materials for helping students develop their ability to read beneath the surface
  • Research on reading speed and efficiency

Curriculum– Writing

73 = Intermediate-level writing course for graduate and undergraduate students
83 = Advanced-level writing course for graduate students
100 = Advanced-level writing course for undergraduate students

  • Developing and improving the 73 curriculum
  • Developing separate curriculum “tracks” within 73 for the graduate and undergraduate students
  • A survey/review of existing, recommended alternative materials appropriate for 73 (Intermediate Writing EAP)
  • Research on types of feedback (both teacher and peer feedback)
  • Research on long-term grammar instruction of difficult grammatical aspects (e.g., articles)
  • Research on how students incorporate feedback and their views about the usefulness of different types of feedback on their writing

Curriculum– Online Courses

  • A survey/review of existing online EAP courses/materials similar to those which match the ELI needs.
  • Evaluation of ELI online courses
  • How equivalent are the on-campus ELI courses and the online courses?
  • How can the online teacher more efficiently manage the class?
  • Research on web-based EAP instruction in a university setting.


  • Research on materials for self-study
  • Survey or review of existing EAP materials appropriate for the ELI’s needs
  • How adequate are published materials for the ELI population?
  • What are the advantages of teacher-made materials (if any) in ELI classroom contexts?
  • Research on the use of authentic materials in EAP context

Needs Analysis

  • Overall and skill-area needs analyses, on an ongoing basis
  • How can end-of-term evaluations better serve the needs of students?

NOTE: Many needs analyses, needs assessments, etc., have been done of the ELI population over the years. Consult previous research before proposing more, please.


  • Given the constraints on the ELI, what can be done to raise student motivation?
  • Which courses (or skill areas) are typically more motivating for students?
  • What is it that successful ELI teachers do to motivate students?
  • What can be done to make the ELI a more comfortable, yet also more academically stimulating environment for ELI students?

Testing & Assessment

  • How can we effectively computerize our ELI placement test?
  • How to make the ELIPT more efficient, but remain fair?
  • Does the ELIPT reflect what is done in ELI classes? To what extent can we develop resource-efficient ELIPT components that better fit with students’ needs and ELI courses?
  • To what degree are the individual items on the five ELIPT tests (i.e., the Academic Listening, Dictation, Gap-Filling, Reading Comprehension, & Writing Sample tests) effective in terms of item difficulty and discrimination, and how reliable and valid are the current scores? Also, how should these ELIPT tests be revised and updated to make them more effective and efficient, and how reliable and valid are the scores on the revised tests in terms of ELI placement decisions being made with them?
  • Research on portfolio assessment
  • Research on students’ self-assessment
  • Research on other forms of in-class assessment


  • What makes a successful ELI instructor?
  • Technology? To what extent does learning via technology (and learning how to use the technology) enhance and/or subtract from the kinds of language learning ELI students need?
  • In what ways can instructors use students’ multilingual backgrounds to enhance teaching?
  • Research on group work vs. whole-class work

Teacher development

  • What can the ELI do to help beginning GA instructors? Continuing GA instructors?
  • How can the ELI improve its training for instructors?
  • In what specific ways, and in what areas, does teaching in the ELI assist GAs’ professional development? (How or in what areas could improvements be made?)
  • What are the relations between ELI staff and research? Consumers, producers, transformers…?
  • How can ELI activities help instructors develop their teacher portfolios?
  • How can the end-of-term evaluations better serve the needs of teachers?
  • Research on developing effective mentoring relationships in the workplace.


  • How does ELI students’ performance in university compare with the performance of students who were exempted from the ELI?
  • Development of systems for tracking or monitoring students efficiently
  • How can the end-of-term evaluations better help with administrative decisions?
  • Literature reviews of how many other ELIs have gotten their universities to grant students credit toward graduation for ELI classes, and how they went about it
  • Research on how to go about persuading UHM to grant students credit toward graduation for ELI classes, and/or life-experience credit for their L1s as meeting the foreign-language requirement.

The economics and politics of ESL

  • Is it ethical to staff an IEP primarily with part-time non-qualified staff?
  • Is learning a second language at school in-country still mainly the province of international elites? Or, how middle-class is the ELI?


  • How do issues of anxiety, culture shock, etc., affect our students? Are the ELI’s responses to problems in these areas adequate? What general conclusions (if any) can be drawn for SL learning or for IEPs?

Research on institutional advancement

  • How can IEPs do fund-raising?
  • The role of community connections in IEP support and development