A Blog of Writing Resources from The University of Scranton's Writing Center

Tag: Tools for Building Vocabulary

Academic Word Lists

Academic Word Lists

Most freshmen find out the hard way that academia feels like a whole new language, and while it’s technically still English, the scholar-specific vocabulary may be unfamiliar and difficult to navigate. Terms that are common topics of conversation in college classrooms—like ideology, cognitive, intrinsic, longitudinal, seminal, and salient—may pose barriers. It may be even more difficult for students to adopt this academic language into their own writing. For that reason, we recommend you check out this webpage. Try not to get overwhelmed when you click the link, because it has several word lists and it may feel like you’re scrolling forever.

However, there’s two portions of the page you should check out and explore the links:

  • Academic single word lists: general purpose
  • Academic multi-word lists: general purpose

Here you will find multiple lists of frequently used academic terminology as well as phrases, transitions, connectors, idioms, formulaic expressions, and words that are commonly used together in academic settings. It’s a wealth of knowledge, and though the webpage can be a little hard to navigate, it’s worth exploring. These terms can help you feel more comfortable with academic discourse, and they can elevate your academic writing when you weave them into your own work.

Here’s the webpage.


Using Discipline Specific Word Lists to Improve Vocabulary

In order to become a professional in your desired field, your core coursework will continuously expand not only your knowledge, but your vocabulary, so that you can comfortably navigate technical jargon and apply terminology to future settings. However, sometimes the unfamiliar terms can serve as a barrier to student success.  This is particularly true when reviewing scholarly articles or trade-literature for a research paper; a limited vocabulary can make it difficult to understand the research of others, which can in turn make paraphrasing especially difficult. Considering this, one quick way to improve your writing and reading in your core coursework is to browse the EAP’s field specific Word Lists. You can then make word banks to use as you craft sentences or you can study unfamiliar terms.

This webpage is a compilation of Word Lists organized by discipline, including Business, Economics, Chemistry, Nursing, Medical, Science, and Engineering.  At the very bottom of the page, there are also multi-word lists, which feature discipline specific phrases. Each entry has information about the researcher who developed the list, the year it was developed, and sample words.

Now, most of these entries link out to the specific word list, but others need to be searched in our library’s databases with the author’s information due to copyright laws.

Check it out! https://www.eapfoundation.com/vocab/wordlists/overview/

For your convenience, we’ve transposed some of the word lists here:

The Science Word List https://www.eapfoundation.com/vocab/academic/other/swl/
The Medical Word List https://www.eapfoundation.com/vocab/academic/other/mawl/
The Chemistry Word List https://www.eapfoundation.com/vocab/academic/other/cawl/
The Economics Word List https://www.eapfoundation.com/vocab/academic/eawl/
The Computer Science Word List https://www.eapfoundation.com/vocab/academic/other/csavl/


Reading and Rewordify

by: Eamonn X. Wizeman

As writers we face many struggles. Every time we start typing, we may start asking questions like: How do I say what I mean? What adjective best describes an object? Is this argument strong enough? Does my analysis make sense? These questions sneak up on everyone, and you’re not alone when you ask them. We’d all prefer that we could just write without these problems facing us at every turn, and while we cannot completely avoid them, the remedy to writer’s block often comes before we even start to think about what we write.  

Reading is a vital skill for everyone, a fact that people often forget. We cannot write without the ability to understand what we are writing about. However, this comes with its own problems. As one’s academic career progresses it may be common to find journal articles or textbooks with confusing language. Perhaps it is too wordy or there are words that you do not yet know. Whatever the problem may be, there are tools to help.  

One of these tools is a website called RewordifyRewordify allows you to copy and paste a paragraph that you are having trouble comprehending and will break down words that are difficult to understand. For example, a sentence that uses the word “defamation” will be replaced with the phrase “saying lies that hurt someone else’s reputation.” This defines what defamation is but does so in a manner that fits it into the text. By breaking down bigger words, Rewordify can help a reader understand lengthy articles about topics that have a lot of vocabulary that they are not familiar with. Further, Rewordify will generate vocabulary quizzes for students looking to expand their horizons. This can help students improve their lexicon, which in turn improves their writing.  

A tool like this can be useful for people, such as myself, who often find themselves re-reading the same paragraph several times. Reading comprehension is the first step in writing and is an integral part to the formation of ideas on any topic. If you cannot understand what an article, book, or study is about, Rewordify is a mechanism that can help you comprehend confusing text, which is a skill that is vital to pristine writing.

Check it out: Rewordify 



Visual Dictionaries

Listed below are the links to free online visual dictionaries.  Visual dictionaries use images rather than blocks of text to define words. When you type in a word, the platform will pull up webs of related words and indicate how each word should be used (like as a noun, a verb, an adverb, etc.) based on the color of the lines.  You can hover your mouse over any word and a quick, one-sentence definition pops-up. You can also move and manipulate the web by dragging words around. It’s a great way to make abstract concepts more concrete and visible. Kinesthetic learners might enjoy manipulating the webs. It’s also a good way to learn new words by seeing the words that are associated  with the new word, and the webs do a great job at illustrating how the words are related.

Check it out!

  1. https://www.lexipedia.com/
  2. https://visuwords.com



A Quick Tool for Building Your Vocabulary and Eliminating Redundancy

We all have our favorite phrases and “go-to” words.  I often find myself repeating these words multiple times in a single paragraph:

Thought Reversals: “however,” “although,”

Thought Extensions: “also”, “and it states”

Interpreting Statements: “so”, “this means that”

On my first draft, the repetition doesn’t matter, but when I start revising, I have to rethink each of those sentences so that I’m not redundant—I want to show that I can articulate my thoughts in a variety of ways to keep my reader engaged.

I’ve found that most college freshmen struggle with building their vocabulary and minimizing the usage of their “go-to” words and phrases.  Your vocabulary will grow naturally as you read and become familiar with expressions in your discipline.

However, if the paper is due tomorrow, you may not have that sort of time.  You need some tools to expedite that process.

One my favorite tools to eliminate redundancy is https://www.wordhippo.com/. 

Here’s why  . . .

  1. You can pull up synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples of usage, and the most common forms of usage by searching for a single keyword.
  2. The synonym search works well: it’s broken down by the possible definitions of the original word, and it generates several synonyms on each search.
  3. You can search for both words and phrases, though it works better with just words.
  4. Everything is hyperlinked! If you find a new word that’s a synonym, you can click on it to check the definition so that you’re using the new word correctly in your context.
  5. If you want to use a word that’s unfamiliar to you,  you can click to have the word pronounced correctly for you.
  6. There’s a “See Also” section that further explains how to use the word in grammatically correct formations.
  7. Are you taking a poetry writing class? Or maybe you want to embellish a paper with some poetics? This site will generate rhymes for your words and phrases, too.

However,  this website is ultimately just a machine pulling up prewritten data—keep that in mind.  That means it doesn’t give you the connotations for the specific keyword (so if you are replacing a negatively charged word like “stuffy,” you may accidently insert a positively charged word like “cozy”. ) It also doesn’t say if the synonym has any slight differences from the original word on the landing page, and that could lead to using words that don’t express exactly what you mean.  Last, it doesn’t work well with field-specific vocabulary.

Still, I’d recommend this resource for eliminating word-choice redundancy, and you’ll find that as you search for more and more words, you’ll acquire more and more words.


Transition Words and Phrases

It’s time to abandon the simple “First” , “Second”,  “Finally,” and  “In conclusion” transition words from high school. It’s no longer acceptable to have “and” twice in a single sentence or “also” twice in the same paragraph. You instead need words, phrases, and constructions that not only transition your thoughts, but that reflect the relationships between your ideas.  Listed below is my favorite list of transitions sorted by the relationships they express.

The Best Quick List of Transitions and Conjunctions Sorted by Type

This next list is another one of my favorites. It’s less colorful, but significantly more extensive. It also includes more academic transitions,  and it has longer transitional phrases. It’s three full pages of transitions by type.  Just be sure to look up sample constructions–not all of these words can just be inserted into a sentence. For example “embark” is used very differently in a sentence than “commencing with”

The Best Extensive List with Some Uncommon Transitions Sorted by Purpose

This next resource is a chart of common transitions in the “word” form and in the “phrase” form with examples of how to use them effectively in sentence constructions. All of these words are included in the previous two worksheets, but  this particular resource  is useful if you need to convert a one-word transition into a phrase to emphasize a point. Sometimes writers use full phrases to transition between larger ideas (or paragraphs) and single word transitions to move between little ideas (like individual pieces of evidence).  It doesn’t provide a lot of examples, but it shows how to use each in a sentence correctly with punctuation, which is beneficial.

Samples of Word Transitions Converted to Phrase Transitions with Examples 


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