Building Your Academic English Vocabulary: From Introductions to Citations

What is your experience with academic English? Have you found it challenging?

When a student starts university it is assumed they understand all of the necessary language. although most terms are easy to learn, it is important that you are fully aware of the correct meanings.

Start with the basics and build up your academic English vocabulary. Definitions, example use in sentences and conversation, and practice exercises help grasp the meanings of words used at university.

Academic vocabulary

  1. academic report
  2. academic presentation
  3. introduction
  4. conclusion
  5. discuss
  6. research
  7. analysis
  8. cite


  • Academic Report: A written document that summarizes research or ideas on a particular topic.
  • Academic Presentation: A way of sharing information about research or a topic in person, usually with the help of a PowerPoint or other visual aids.
  • Introduction: The beginning of a report or paper that provides some background information and sets the stage for the rest of the writing.
  • Conclusion: The end of a report or paper that summarizes the main points and provides a final thought or conclusion.
  • Discuss: To talk about a topic or idea in a detailed and thoughtful way, considering different perspectives and ideas.
  • Cite: To give credit to the sources of information used in a report or paper, typically by including the author’s name and publication information.
  • Research: The process of investigating a topic or idea, often involving reading and analyzing existing information or collecting new data.
  • Analysis: The process of examining and interpreting information, often to identify patterns or relationships and draw conclusions.

Notice that definitions often include other academic terms that you may or may not understand. The new terms used in the definitions are underlined and explained as follows:

  • Investigate – gather and examine the facts
  • examining – to inspect, to look closely at
  • Interpret – explain the meaning
  • draw conclusions – to form an opinion or come to a conclusion based on facts
  • Conclusion – to come to the end / to make a decision

Words can have more than one meaning. A conclusion in an academic report has a specific meaning at university, but generally a conclusion means the end of something or to conclude is to come to an end decision or opinion.

Academic Vocabulary Exercises

Fill in the blanks using one of the 8 academic terms :

  1. The _________ is the first part of an academic paper or report where you introduce the topic.
  2. The _________ is the last part of an academic paper or report where you summarize your findings.
  3. When you _________ something, you provide a detailed analysis or explanation of a given topic or question.
  4. ___________ is the process of investigating a topic in order to discover new knowledge or understanding.
  5. When you _________ something, you break it down and examine it in detail.
  6. I’m going to _________ the topic of climate change in my academic report.
  7. The ___________ is where you explain the purpose and scope of your research.
  8. In my academic paper, I will _________ my sources to show where I found my information.
  9. The ___________ of my research showed that there is a correlation between diet and health.
  10. I will ________ the topic in my ______________.

Answer the questions:

  1. What is the difference between an introduction and a conclusion in an academic paper?
  2. Can you explain an example of plagiarism in academic writing?
  3. How do you analyse a research topic to discover new knowledge?
  4. Can you explain how you cite a source.
  5. When an exam question asks you to discuss, what does this mean?

Past or present, what tense?

  • The most commonly used tense is the present tense.
  • Academic writing is typically focused on describing research or ideas that are still relevant and ongoing.
  • The present tense is used to describe facts, general details, and conclusions that have been reached through research.
  • Sometimes the past tense or future tense may be more appropriate.
  • For example,
    • if you are describing a study that has already been completed, you would typically use the past tense.
    • If you are discussing future research or potential outcomes, you may use the future tense.
  • It is important to be consistent
  • use the appropriate tense for each situation
  • You should also check the guidelines and requirements
  • they may have specific requirements or preferences
Academic Research
  • My reports about my research are in the past tense
  • I describe
    • what I did,
    • what I found,
    • what other have done,
    • what were my results & conclusions

But, if I was writing an assignment about a company

  • It was founded in …  – past tense for events in the past
  • It is based in …  – present tense – current status
    • It has (number) of employees, or, (company) produces (product)
  • Although (company) will be liable for …  – future tense when talking in the future

Different Perspectives

Perspective – a view, different perspectives – different views

  • Cats are better than dogs -this is one person’s view or perspective
  • Cats are easier to keep than dogs, but dogs are more friendly – this shows different perspectives
It important to discuss different perspectives in academic writing
  • It shows that you have done your research
  • and thought about the topic
  • This can help prove your understanding of a topic
  • It helps to show the different views
  • You show your side and other sides, not just your view
  • This shows you know, have read and considered the different views
  • It promotes critical thinking:
    • Helps develop understanding of the topic.
    • It can also help you with further research
    • It adds depth to the discussion:
    • It can help uncover new insights and understandings

Reading Comprehension Exercises

The English for study skills lessons will have a section to improve reading skills. Follow this link to read the reading texts and answer the simple reading comprehension questions.