ACADEMIC VOCABULARY

 
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Learning Academic Vocabulary

Here are some suggestions about using the AWL Highlighter and the AWL Gapmaker to help you expand your academic vocabulary.

1. Find a text that interests you. For on-line sources, look at the links page. Copy and paste, or type it into the AWL Highlighter; process it and print it. You will see the academic words highlighted in bold.

2. Read the text through a couple of times so that you understand the main ideas.

3. Select the academic words you want to learn. Study them carefully. For example:

"The plans include planting trees and hedges to protect crops from grazing animals and wind erosion."

Use the context:

  • to try to get an idea of the meaning:
    It's necessary to protect crops from erosion, so erosion has a negative meaning.
  • to consider other words it is used with
    erosion is used in the phrase wind erosion
  • to consider the grammar of the word
    erosion is used in the singular, with no article, so erosion is an uncountable noun

4. To see more examples of the word in different contexts, use an English-English dictionary, for example try the Cambridge On-Line Dictionary or use concordance lines.

5. When you feel you have a good understanding of the academic word and how it is used, create your own sentence. Use the word in a sentence about yourself, your family, your country or your studies. For example:

"Soil erosion is a problem for the farmers in my region."

6. When you have studied several words and written your own sentences for them, paste or type your sentences into the AWL Gapmaker. Print the gapped sentences, without the key. One week later use these gapped sentences as an exercise to test yourself.

Alternatively, choose a paragraph or two from the text to make a gapfill exercise.

You can exchange tests with your classmates. To make it easier for them, add the key.

7. The AWL Highlighter can also be used to help you improve your writing. Process an academic essay you have written. If there are only a few academic words, you will know that you need to add more. Look at Sublist 1 of the AWL: can you find a way to add some of the words that you know to your essay?


 
 
© Sandra Haywood, University of Nottingham