50 Useful Academic Words & Phrases for Research
Like all good writing, writing an academic paper takes a certain level of skill to express your ideas and arguments in a way that is natural and that meets a level of academic sophistication. The terms, expressions, and phrases you use in your research paper must be of an appropriate level to be submitted to academic journals.
Therefore, authors need to know which verbs, nouns, and phrases to apply to create a paper that is not only easy to understand, but which conveys an understanding of academic conventions. Using the correct terminology and usage shows journal editors and fellow researchers that you are a competent writer and thinker, while using non-academic language might make them question your writing ability, as well as your critical reasoning skills.
What are academic words and phrases?
One way to understand what constitutes good academic writing is to read a lot of published research to find patterns of usage in different contexts. However, it may take an author countless hours of reading and might not be the most helpful advice when faced with an upcoming deadline on a manuscript draft.
Briefly, “academic” language includes terms, phrases, expressions, transitions, and sometimes symbols and abbreviations that help the pieces of an academic text fit together. When writing an academic text–whether it is a book report, annotated bibliography, research paper, research poster, lab report, research proposal, thesis, or manuscript for publication–authors must follow academic writing conventions. You can often find handy academic writing tips and guidelines by consulting the style manual of the text you are writing (i.e., APA Style, MLA Style, or Chicago Style).
However, sometimes it can be helpful to have a list of academic words and expressions like the ones in this article to use as a “cheat sheet” for substituting the better term in a given context.
How to Choose the Best Academic Terms
You can think of writing “academically” as writing in a way that conveys one’s meaning effectively but concisely. For instance, while the term “take a look at” is a perfectly fine way to express an action in everyday English, a term like “analyze” would certainly be more suitable in most academic contexts. It takes up fewer words on the page and is used much more often in published academic papers.
You can use one handy guideline when choosing the most academic term: When faced with a choice between two different terms, use the Latinate version of the term. Here is a brief list of common verbs versus their academic counterparts:
|Common Verbs (Phrasal Verbs)||Latinate (Academic) Verbs|
|ask questions about||interrogate|
|make sense of||interpret|
Although this can be a useful tip to help academic authors, it can be difficult to memorize dozens of Latinate verbs. Using an AI paraphrasing tool or proofreading tool can help you instantly find more appropriate academic terms, so consider using such revision tools while you draft to improve your writing.
Top 50 Words and Phrases for Different Sections in a Research Paper
The “Latinate verb rule” is just one tool in your arsenal of academic writing, and there are many more out there. But to make the process of finding academic language a bit easier for you, we have compiled a list of 50 vital academic words and phrases, divided into specific categories and use cases, each with an explanation and contextual example.
Best Words and Phrases to use in an Introduction section
An adverb used to indicate a time perspective, especially when describing the background of a given topic.
2. In recent years
A temporal marker emphasizing recent developments, often used at the very beginning of your Introduction section.
3. It is widely acknowledged that
A “form phrase” indicating a broad consensus among researchers and/or the general public. Often used in the literature review section to build upon a foundation of established scientific knowledge.
4. There has been growing interest in
Highlights increasing attention to a topic and tells the reader why your study might be important to this field of research.
5. Preliminary observations indicate
Shares early insights or findings while hedging on making any definitive conclusions. Modal verbs like may, might, and could are often used with this expression.
6. This study aims to
Describes the goal of the research and is a form phrase very often used in the research objective or even the hypothesis of a research paper.
7. Despite its significance
Highlights the importance of a matter that might be overlooked. It is also frequently used in the rationale of the study section to show how your study’s aim and scope build on previous studies.
8. While numerous studies have focused on
Indicates the existing body of work on a topic while pointing to the shortcomings of certain aspects of that research. Helps focus the reader on the question, “What is missing from our knowledge of this topic?” This is often used alongside the statement of the problem in research papers.
9. The purpose of this research is
A form phrase that directly states the aim of the study.
10. The question arises (about/whether)
Poses a query or research problem statement for the reader to acknowledge.
Best Words and Phrases for Clarifying Information
11. In other words
12. That is to say
Provides clarification, similar to “in other words.”
13. To put it simply
Simplifies a complex idea, often for a more general readership.
14. To clarify
Specifically indicates to the reader a direct elaboration of a previous point.
15. More specifically
Narrows down a general statement from a broader one. Often used in the Discussion section to clarify the meaning of a specific result.
16. To elaborate
Expands on a point made previously.
17. In detail
Indicates a deeper dive into information.
Points out specifics. Similar meaning to “specifically” or “especially.”
19. This means that
Explains implications and/or interprets the meaning of the Results section.
Expands a prior point to a broader one that shows the greater context or wider argument.
Best Words and Phrases for Giving Examples
21. For instance
Provides a specific case that fits into the point being made.
22. As an illustration
Demonstrates a point in full or in part.
23. To illustrate
Shows a clear picture of the point being made.
24. For example
Presents a particular instance. Same meaning as “for instance.”
25. Such as
Lists specifics that comprise a broader category or assertion being made.
Offers examples as part of a larger list.
Adverb highlighting an important example. Similar meaning to “especially.”
Adverb that emphasizes a significant instance.
29. In particular
Draws attention to a specific point.
30. To name a few
Indicates examples than previously mentioned are about to be named.
Best Words and Phrases for Comparing and Contrasting
Introduces a contrasting idea.
32. On the other hand
Highlights an alternative view or fact.
Indicates an opposing or reversed idea to the one just mentioned.
Shows likeness or parallels between two ideas, objects, or situations.
Indicates agreement with a previous point.
36. In contrast
Draws a distinction between two points.
Introduces a contrasting point, despite what has been said.
Compares two distinct entities or ideas.
Indicates a contrast between two points.
Signals an unexpected contrast.
Best Words and Phrases to use in a Conclusion section
41. In conclusion
Signifies the beginning of the closing argument.
42. To sum up
Offers a brief summary.
43. In summary
Signals a concise recap.
Reflects the final or main point.
Gives a general concluding statement.
Indicates a resulting conclusion.
Demonstrates a logical conclusion.
Connects a cause and its effect.
49. It can be concluded that
Clearly states a conclusion derived from the data.
50. Taking everything into consideration
Reflects on all the discussed points before concluding.
Edit Your Research Terms and Phrases Before Submission
Using these phrases in the proper places in your research papers can enhance the clarity, flow, and persuasiveness of your writing, especially in the Introduction section and Discussion section, which together make up the majority of your paper’s text in most academic domains.
However, it's vital to ensure each phrase is contextually appropriate to avoid redundancy or misinterpretation. As mentioned at the top of this article, the best way to do this is to 1) use a grammar checker, AI paraphrasing tool or AI proofreader while you draft to enhance your writing, and 2) consult a professional proofreading service like Wordvice, which has human editors well versed in the terminology and conventions of the specific subject area of your academic documents.