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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
add up calculate
carry out execute
find out discover
pass out distribute
ask questions about interrogate
make sense of interpret
pass on distribute

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

1. Historically

An adverb used to indicate a time perspective, especially when describing the background of a given topic.

Example  Historically, solar energy was primarily used for heating purposes.

2. In recent years

A temporal marker emphasizing recent developments, often used at the very beginning of your Introduction section.

Example  In recent years, artificial intelligence has garnered significant attention.

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.

Example  It is widely acknowledged that deforestation impacts climate change.

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.

Example  There has been growing interest in sustainable agriculture.

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.

Example  Preliminary observations indicate a decline in bird species in urban areas.

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.

Example  This study aims to understand the behavioral patterns of dolphins.

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.

Example  Despite its significance, wetland preservation remains underfunded.

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.

Example  While numerous studies have focused on depression, few address its impact on the elderly.

9. The purpose of this research is

A form phrase that directly states the aim of the study.

Example  The purpose of this research is to evaluate the efficiency of electric cars.

10. The question arises (about/whether)

Poses a query or research problem statement for the reader to acknowledge.

Example  The question arises: How will AI influence future job markets?

Best Words and Phrases for Clarifying Information

11. In other words

Introduces a synopsis or the rephrasing of a statement for clarity. This is often used in the Discussion section statement to explain the implications of the study.

Example  The biome is diverse. In other words, it's home to a wide variety of species.

12. That is to say

Provides clarification, similar to “in other words.”

Example  The reaction is exothermic; that is to say, it releases heat.

13. To put it simply

Simplifies a complex idea, often for a more general readership.

Example  The universe is vast; to put it simply, it is larger than anything we can truly imagine.

14. To clarify

Specifically indicates to the reader a direct elaboration of a previous point.

Example  To clarify, not all bacteria are harmful; some are beneficial.

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.

Example  The birds migrated south. More specifically, they headed to Central America.

16. To elaborate

Expands on a point made previously.

Example  The results were unexpected. To elaborate, the experiment did not align with our hypotheses.

17. In detail

Indicates a deeper dive into information.

Example  The author discussed the topic in detail, examining all facets.

18. Namely

Points out specifics. Similar meaning to “specifically” or “especially.”

Example  Certain fruits, namely oranges and lemons, are rich in vitamin C.

19. This means that

Explains implications and/or interprets the meaning of the Results section.

Example  The forest was cut down. This means that many animals have lost their habitats.

20. Moreover

Expands a prior point to a broader one that shows the greater context or wider argument.

Example  The algorithm is complex. To explain further, it involves multiple layers of neural networks.

Best Words and Phrases for Giving Examples

21. For instance

Provides a specific case that fits into the point being made.

Example  Many mammals hibernate, for instance, bears.

22. As an illustration

Demonstrates a point in full or in part.

Example  The economy is improving. As an illustration, unemployment rates have decreased.

23. To illustrate

Shows a clear picture of the point being made.

Example  To illustrate the problem, consider the rising sea levels globally.

24. For example

Presents a particular instance. Same meaning as “for instance.”

Example  Green technologies, for example, solar and wind energy, are sustainable.

25. Such as

Lists specifics that comprise a broader category or assertion being made.

Example  Renewable resources, such as water and sunlight, are abundant.

26. Including

Offers examples as part of a larger list.

Example  There are six noble gasses in the periodic table, including helium, argon, and neon.

27. Notably

Adverb highlighting an important example. Similar meaning to “especially.”

Example  The country made several advancements, notably in the field of biotechnology.

28. Especially

Adverb that emphasizes a significant instance.

Example  The strategy worked everywhere, especially in urban areas.

29. In particular

Draws attention to a specific point.

Example  Some students need additional support–in particular, those with learning disabilities.

30. To name a few

Indicates examples than previously mentioned are about to be named.

Example  The museum houses several masterpieces, like those by Van Gogh, Picasso, to name a few.

Best Words and Phrases for Comparing and Contrasting

31. However

Introduces a contrasting idea.

Example  The data is consistent; however, there are some outliers.

32. On the other hand

Highlights an alternative view or fact.

Example  The drug is effective. On the other hand, it has side effects.

33. Conversely

Indicates an opposing or reversed idea to the one just mentioned.

Example  Urban areas are noisy and busy. Conversely, rural areas are quiet and slow-paced.

34. Similarly

Shows likeness or parallels between two ideas, objects, or situations.

Example  Lions are dominant in the savannah. Similarly, sharks rule the oceans.

35. Likewise

Indicates agreement with a previous point.

Example  The first experiment confirmed the hypothesis. Likewise, the second experiment produced the same results.

36. In contrast

Draws a distinction between two points.

Example  Apples are sweet and crisp. In contrast, lemons are sour and soft.

37. Nevertheless

Introduces a contrasting point, despite what has been said.

Example  The journey was challenging. Nevertheless, it was rewarding.

38. Whereas

Compares two distinct entities or ideas.

Example  Dolphins are mammals, whereas fish are not.

39. While

Indicates a contrast between two points.

Example  While the northern region is arid, the southern part is lush and green.

40. Yet

Signals an unexpected contrast.

Example  The task was simple, yet many failed to complete it correctly.

Best Words and Phrases to use in a Conclusion section

41. In conclusion

Signifies the beginning of the closing argument.

Example  In conclusion, the evidence strongly supports the theory.

42. To sum up

Offers a brief summary.

Example  To sum up, sustainable practices benefit both the economy and the environment.

43. In summary

Signals a concise recap.

Example  In summary, the results indicate a strong correlation between diet and health.

44. Ultimately

Reflects the final or main point.

Example  Ultimately, the success of the project depends on teamwork.

45. Overall

Gives a general concluding statement.

Example  Overall, the study provides valuable insights into climate change impacts.

46. Hence

Indicates a resulting conclusion.

Example  The participants were biased; hence, the results are not generalizable.

47. Thus

Demonstrates a logical conclusion.

Example  The cells were damaged, thus explaining the observed anomalies.

48. Therefore

Connects a cause and its effect.

Example  The sample was contaminated; therefore, the experiment failed.

49. It can be concluded that

Clearly states a conclusion derived from the data.

Example  It can be concluded that meditation reduces stress levels.

50. Taking everything into consideration

Reflects on all the discussed points before concluding.

Example  Taking everything into consideration, urbanization has both merits and demerits.

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.

For more detailed information on using AI tools to write a research paper and the best AI tools for research, check out the Wordvice AI Blog.