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Academic Language: Academic Vocabulary

Typical language in academic writing

Academic writing is a form of communication used by scholars and researchers to convey ideas and findings to an audience. As such, it is characterised by a specific style and language that is meant to convey a level of authority, precision, and clarity. In general, academic writing is more formal than other forms of writing, with a focus on using language that is objective, clear, and concise. Academic writing often involves the use of technical terminology and jargon, which is used to communicate specialised concepts and ideas. Additionally, academic writing typically follows a specific structure and format, with an introduction, body, and conclusion, and includes citations to support the arguments presented. Understanding the typical language used in academic writing is essential for anyone who wishes to communicate effectively in this context.

It is useful to read widely in your subject area to get an appreciation of the academic language that is commonly used. Keywords will crop up frequently and should be studied carefully (highlight and learn). These ‘keywords/threshold concepts’ are important to understand for a critical appreciation of a subject area. 

Check out the Academic Writing section of the Academic Skills Hub where you can find more information and guidance on planning, structuring and building an argument.

Useful techniques and tools

One of the most important areas to develop when studying a course is the vocabulary used by specialists to talk about a subject area. This subject vocabulary can be added to a personal vocabulary notebook, along with definitions and examples of how you might use the word in a sentence. Keep on the lookout for high frequency, but unknown vocabulary in the texts that you read as part of your studies. These words can be highlighted and added to your vocabulary list.

Top Tips
  • Purchase a lined notebook / create a folder
  • Add the words that you have highlighted to the relevant section of your notebook (date /weekly lectures / theory / journal articles
  • Review the vocabulary at regular intervals in order to memorise typical language in the field of study
  • Learn to recognise (meaning) and to produce (use in a sentence – written / spoken)
  • Practise pronunciation (online dictionary)
  • Notice the other words that the vocabulary item goes together with (collocation)
  • Make visual maps to show word families
  • Make lists of useful phrases to include in different sections of your essay

An academic phrasebank is a collection of commonly used academic phrases and expressions that are used in academic writing, research papers, and other academic materials. These phrases are intended to help writers express their ideas more clearly and effectively, and to help them sound more professional and scholarly.

Academic phrase banks are typically organised by topic or theme, and may include phrases and expressions related to research methods, data analysis, literature reviews, and more. They may also provide examples of how these phrases can be used in sentences or paragraphs, as well as tips for when and how to use them appropriately.

Academic phrasebanks can be useful tools for students and researchers who are new to academic writing or who are looking to improve their writing skills. By incorporating these phrases into their writing, they can enhance the clarity and sophistication of their work, and present their ideas more effectively to their readers.

The University of Manchester has published a useful Academic Phrasebank with key vocabulary and structures that can be considered when writing sections of academic assignments.