Sussex Centre for Language Studies

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The Glossary

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A list of terms and definitions which are of relevance to academic writing. Definitions are taken from Macmillan Dictionary unless stated otherwise.

See also the University of Sussex Skills Hub A-Z of university jargon and terms

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Academic freedom
The conviction that the freedom of inquiry by faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy as well as the principles of academia, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.

Academic Integrity
Honesty and responsibility in scholarship. Students and faculty alike must obey rules of honest scholarship, which means that all academic work should result from an individual's own efforts.
You can watch the university of Sussex Academic Integrity videos here.

Alternate views or perspectives
Your argument is stronger when you acknowledge other points of view and explain why you are not persuaded by them (see also Counter argument).

The ability to analyse and evaluate information.

To put notes in a piece of writing in order to explain parts of it.

A discussion or debate between people with different views, opinions etc.
- We can win this argument if we present the facts clearly.
- The party is involved in an argument over economic policy.

A reason or set of reasons that you use for persuading other people to support your views, opinions etc
- The Court of Appeal rejected her arguments.
- His main argument is stated in the opening chapter.

To give reasons why you believe that something is right or true.
Successful economies, she argues, are those with the lowest taxes.

To discuss something with someone who has a different opinion from you.
The programme gives people a chance to argue their ideas.

A paper in an academic journal (see journal)

To carefully consider a situation, person, or problem in order to make a judgment.
We tried to assess his suitability for the job.

To calculate what something costs or is worth.
Our agent will assess the value of your property.

Assessment Criteria
The standards for an assessment task that are used for judging the quality of submitted work.

Attachment theory
A psychological model that attempts to describe the dynamics of long-term and short-term interpersonal relationships between humans.

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A list of the books, articles etc that someone has used for finding information for a piece of work they have written.

Bibliographic entry
A single item (or entry) including the details of a book, article etc. listed within a bibliography.

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Careful thought before accepting something as true
Scientists have advised caution in interpreting these results.
treat something with caution: The evidence of police informants needs to be treated with caution.

The feeling of being completely sure about something
with certainty: I can’t tell you with any certainty what the outcome of the operation will be.

Chicago is a referencing style with two formats: 1) Notes and Bibliography (NB) 2) Author-Date.
In this guide, we will be using the Chicago NB system which uses footnotes and endnotes and is common in the humanities, including literature, history, and the arts.

Definite and easy to understand, recognize, or make a decision about.
The situation wasn’t as clear-cut as he’d have liked.

In which all the different parts fit together in a sensible or pleasing way
The writer presents this complex character as a coherent whole.

The state of being coherent.

A relationship between sentences or parts of a piece of writing that is shown by particular words or phrases.

To make something such as a list or book by bringing together information from many different places
The database was compiled from statistics published by the Tourist Board.

One of the different parts that a machine or piece of equipment consists of.
Car components.

An individual quality or feature of something.
Try breaking the problem down into its separate components.

To agree with someone or something.
We strongly concur with the recommendations of this report.

Describes two or more things that cannot all be right or cannot all happen at the same time.
The two men gave conflicting statements to the police.
We have to balance the conflicting demands of making high quality but low cost products.

To think about something carefully before making a decision or developing an opinion.
She paused and considered for a moment.
An important factor to consider when choosing a school is...

Controlling idea
A thesis statement is a sentence or two that outlines what you will be arguing and shows the reader what your position is in relation to the title. It is the controlling idea in the essay, and everything you say will be dictated by it.

A disagreement, especially about a public policy or a moral issue that a lot of people have strong feelings about.
The election ended in controversy, with allegations of widespread vote-rigging.

To communicate ideas or feelings indirectly
A good photograph can often convey far more than words.
These results will enable us at least to convey a sense of progress.

The legal right to have control over the work of a writer, artist, musician etc. If you own the copyright on something, it is your intellectual property, and other people must pay you to broadcast, publish, or perform it.

Core collection
The Core collection is a set of resources held in the Library. Items are due back the following day at 23:59, this includes Saturday and Sunday. Books can be renewed once after one 24hr period, after which they need to returned and re-issued.

To be the same as something else, or very much like it
If their statements correspond, we’ll have no trouble.

Counter argument
An argument or set of reasons put forward to oppose an idea or theory developed in another argument.
The obvious counterargument to that dire prediction is that the recession has depressed earnings.

Something that produces a different effect from something else, especially in an interesting or attractive way.

Information about a range of things, for example in a book or course of education.
The course offers good coverage of the subject.

Able to be believed; convincing.

A standard that is used for judging something or for making a decision about something.
Everyone whose qualifications meet our criteria will be considered.

Consider something carefully and deciding what are the good and bad aspects
In his book, Laurence takes a critical look at modern life.

Critical analysis
Considering and evaluating the claims made by the theorists, “experts”, official bodies, journalists etc that you have read, asking yourself if the basis of these claims is sound and whether they apply or are relevant to the situation you are examining.

Critical thinking
The analysis and assessment of information about a subject in order to reach an objective judgement.
Employers want people who use critical thinking skills at work.

To select items from among a large number of possibilities for other people to consume and enjoy; applied to many areas including music, design, fashion, and especially digital media.
Recapp wants to make it more convenient to read sports news curated around your favorite sports and teams.

Happening or existing now.
Production is likely to remain at current levels.
There are several reasons for the current political situation.

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Facts or information used for making calculations or decisions: can be followed by a plural verb in scientific English, in which case the singular is datum.
The analysis was based on data collected in the field.

To describe clearly and exactly what something is.
No one has defined the scope of the project.
The responsibilities of each team member need to be clearly defined.

To explain the meaning of a word.
Defining the word ‘love’ can be very difficult.
Manual work is broadly defined as work that you do with your hands.

To be a feature or quality that shows exactly what someone or something is like.
It is his work that really defines him.
The high winds that define a storm as a hurricane.

A directive word in an essay title is a word which tells you to do something; e.g. analyse, discuss, evaluate.

A subject that people study, especially at a university.

Discursive essay
A piece of formal writing which discusses a particular issue, situation or problem.

To talk about something with someone.
We’re meeting to discuss the matter next week.

To write or talk about a subject in detail.
The causes of stress have already been discussed in Chapter 3.

To refuse to accept that something might be true or important
The minister dismissed claims that he had accepted bribes.
We should not dismiss these ideas just because they are unfamiliar.

Domain extension
Extensions are categories of Internet domain names. There are several of them to choose from: .com represents the word "commercial," and is the most widely used extension in the world. Most businesses prefer a .com domain name because it is a highly recognized symbol for having a business presence on the Internet.

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Abbreviation of for example.

A book published on the Internet.

Abbreviation of etcetera, meaning "and other things", or "and so forth".

Used for saying what the situation really is, although its appearance or official description might be different.
With Australia 24 points ahead at half-time, the game was effectively over.

Scholarly journals or intellectual magazines that can be accessed via electronic transmission.

To give more details or information about something.
elaborate on: The police refused to elaborate on the circumstances of the arrest.

Based on real experience or scientific experiments rather than on theory.

To attract and keep someone’s interest or attention.
A good radio script should be able to engage the listener.

et al.
Used after a name to mean ‘and other people whose names are not mentioned’, especially people who have written a book together.

To think carefully about something before making a judgment about its value, importance, or quality.
The performance of each employee is evaluated once a year.
The study will evaluate the long-term effects of exposure to radiation.

Facts or physical signs that help to prove something.
Evidence shows that global warming is definitely occurring.

Said or explained in an extremely clear way, so that you cannot doubt what is meant
an explicit statement/warning/threat
explicit instructions/directions

To examine or discuss a subject, idea etc thoroughly.
We are exploring the possibility of taking legal action against the company.
It is worth exploring other ways of dealing with this problem.

Transfer (data) in a format that can be used by other programs.
The information can be exported to a database.

In a way that is clear and definite.
The students were expressly forbidden to use the Internet for their research on this occasion.

For a particular purpose.
She came expressly to see you.

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Comments about how well or how badly someone is doing something, which are intended to help them do it better.
Marks and comments on assignments provide feedback to students.

First draft
A version of something written or drawn (as an essay, document, or plan) that has or will have more than one version
I finished the first draft of my report.

A way of talking or thinking in an easy natural way, without any pauses or difficulties
flow of: She kept up an easy flow of conversation throughout the journey.
The phone rang, interrupting the flow of his thoughts.

The structure and design of a written document, for example the size and type of the letters and the width of the written area of the page.

Formative feedback
Feedback 'for' learning to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments: help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work.

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Globalisation The idea that the world is developing a single economy and culture as a result of improved technology and communications and the influence of very large multinational companies.
The globalization of western culture.
Critics of globalization staged a large demonstration.

Glossary A list of the difficult words used in a piece of writing or subject, with explanations of their meaning.

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The use of words and phrases that make what you are saying less certain or definite
There is no hedging in Mrs. Doel’s language – no ‘if’ or ‘perhaps’ or ‘seems likely.

Higher Education Education at a university or at a college of a similar level. Education at colleges that train people for particular jobs is further education.

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Abbreviation of id est, and means in other words.

To recognize something and understand exactly what it is.
Several key problems have already been identified.

To show what something is like, or to show that something is true.
The following examples illustrate our approach to customer service.
Miriam quoted three case studies to illustrate her point.

Not connected to or influenced by one particular person or group.
Judges need to be impartial.

To add or include something as a part of something else, for example as a part of an arrangement or a document.
incorporate something into/in something: The Government incorporated this principle into the 1977 law.

Independent learning
When an individual is able to think, act and pursue their own studies autonomously, without the same levels of support you receive from a teacher at school.

To express an intention, opinion, or wish in an indirect way.
Both sides indicated a willingness to solve the problem.

To show that something will happen, is true, or exists.
A survey indicated that 89 per cent of people recycle paper.

An opinion that you form about something that is based on information you already have.
It’s impossible to make inferences from such a small sample.

Things that are interdependent are related to one another in such a close way that each one needs the others in order to exist.
An increasingly interdependent global economy.

To explain the meaning of something
We’ll need some help to interpret all this data.

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Special words and phrases that are only understood by people who do the same kind of work.
Medical/legal/computer jargon.

Journal A magazine containing articles relating to a particular subject or profession.
A scientific journal.

A written record of your experiences in which you write about what happens every day.

Form an opinion or conclusion about.
A production can be judged according to the canons of aesthetic criticism.

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Key text
The main body of a printed or written work as distinct from commentary, notes, illustrations, etc.
A book prescribed as part of a course of study.
The topic or subject of a discussion or work.

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If something important or useful is lacking, it does not exist or is not available.
Concern for passenger safety has, up till now, been sadly lacking.

Library Search
Library Search is an online discovery tool. It is an extremely powerful resource which provides a single interface for finding all the information you need - books, ebooks, journals, articles, digital media and other types of resources. Library Search will be searching everything in the Library: all of the books and journals, plus the content available through the Library’s databases and a huge index of article-level content, from ejournals, conferences, newspapers and more.

Line of reasoning
A course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating a truth or falsehood; the methodical process of logical reasoning.

Books or other printed information about a subject.
Recent literature on cancer emphasizes the importance of diet.

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Large-scale; overall.
The analysis of social events at the macro level.

Extremely small: used with some nouns and ajectives.

Mind map
A visual representation of hierarchical information that includes a central idea surrounded by connected branches of associated topics.

Make (something bad) less severe, serious, or painful.
Drainage schemes have helped to mitigate this problem.

Lessen the gravity of (an offence or mistake).
He would have faced a prison sentence but for mitigating circumstances.

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Abbreviation for nota bene (‘note well’). Used for saying you should pay particular attention to the information that follows.

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Something that you plan to achieve, especially in business or work.

Objective of: I’m not sure I understand the objective of this exercise.
Main/primary/principal objective: The principal objective of the department is to identify market opportunities.
Achieve an objective: The team has been successful in achieving challenging objectives.

Office hours
Designated hours in which a tutor is available to students to have a conversation.

The quality of being new, interesting, and different from anything that anyone has created before.
Musical compositions of great originality.

The amount of money that you must spend in order to buy something or to start a new business or project.
An initial outlay of over £300,000.

To be more important, useful, or valuable than something else.
The possible benefits outweigh the risks involved.

Overuses To use something so much that it is no longer effective

A description of the main features of something.
Overview of: The book gives an overview of the period of French rule.

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A section of a piece of writing that begins on a new line and contains one or more sentences.

To express what someone else has said or written using different words, especially in order to make it shorter or clearer.

To make someone believe that something is true.
Their argument failed to persuade me.

Good at making people agree to do or believe what you want them to.
a persuasive argument/case
He can be very persuasive.

An event or situation that can be seen to happen or exist.
Violence in society is not a new phenomenon.

Someone or something that is very impressive or surprising.
Her new book is a publishing phenomenon.

An idea or opinion among a number of others.
I disagree with you on a couple of important points.

An opinion about an important issue.
No one was sure of his position on any issue.

The way that something is placed.
I dragged myself into a sitting position.

Very common in a particular place or among a particular group.
This negative attitude is surprisingly prevalent among young boys.

The aim that someone wants to achieve, or that something is intended to achieve.
I use my boat mainly for leisure purposes.

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To add something to a statement in order to change it slightly or state the situations in which it is not true.
I welcome the positive approach – perhaps I should qualify that by saying ‘the largely positive approach’ – adopted by the government.

To become a member of a particular profession after a period of training or study.
Andrew qualified as a teacher in 1995.

A question that you ask because you want information or because you are not certain about something.
We have a number of queries regarding delivery.

Words from a book, play, film etc that you mention when you are speaking or writing.
A famous quotation from the Bible.

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The set of reasons that something such as a plan or belief is based on.
What is the rationale for this approach to teaching reading?

To say or write something again or using different words in order to emphasize it or make it clearer.

Thought about and expressed in an intelligent sensible way.

A statement showing or saying that something is not true. When discussing the counter-argument in a discursive essay it is important to provide a rebuttal

Referencing styles
There are very many different referencing styles used in academic study. They vary by discipline and Schools and departments at Sussex will expect you to use a recommended style. Although most styles require you to include the same information, depending on the style you have to present that information in different ways. On the Foundation Year the following referencing styles are recommended:

- Chicago footnotes for History
- MLA for literature
- Harvard style for MFM, Business and Social Sciences
- APA for Psychology

See the University of Sussex Skills Hub for details of each one.

To mention someone or something when you are speaking or writing.
She referred to the subject several times during her speech.

Reflective writing
An analytical practice in which the writer describes a real or imaginary scene, event, interaction, passing thought, memory, form, adding a personal reflection (serious and careful thought) on the meaning of the item or incident, thought, feeling, emotion, or situation in his or her life.

Having a particular quality when compared with something else.
There was relative calm after the violence of the previous night.

Considered in comparison with other similar things.
The parents were discussing the relative merits of the local schools.


Relevant (adjective)
Directly connected with and important to what is being discussed or considered
Once we have all the relevant information, we can make a decision.
Ignore that comment. It’s not relevant.

Relevance (noun)
The quality of being directly connected with and important to something else.
I don’t see the relevance of what you are saying.

Reliable information can be trusted to be accurate.
How reliable are these statistics?
There turned out to be no reliable evidence of Mardell’s guilt.

Reporting verbs
A writer's academic voice, or argument, is made evident in the way they introduce and interpret the evidence that supports their points. One way you can do this is by selecting the verbs you use to introduce your sources with care. ‘Reporting’ verbs differ in terms of their strength; for example, 'to suggest' is much weaker, and more tentative, than 'to argue'. The two verbs convey very different pictures about how your chosen author sees his/her materials and research.

Something that you can use to help you to achieve something, especially in your work or study.
The Internet has become a valuable resource in schools.
We have launched an appeal to set up a new library and resource centre.

Reverse outline
Reverse outlining is a two-step, repeatable process to help you edit/revise your work:
1.In the left-hand margin write down the topic of each paragraph using as few words as possible. These notes should tell you if each paragraph is focused and clear.
2. In the right-hand margin write down how the paragraph topic advances the overall argument of the essay. These notes allow you to follow the logic of the essay, making it easier for you to analyse or discuss later.

The process of changing, improving, or making additions to something such as a plan, law, or piece of writing.
He intends to undertake a major revision of the constitution.

The work of studying for an examination.
I can’t go out – I’ve got to do some revision for my exams.

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Sentence outline
A plan for your essay. Instead of being in note form, a sentence outline generally consists of full sentences.

very important
Davis was one of the most significant musicians of the last century.
There’s been some significant progress.

In a presentation, words and phrases that tell the listener what has just happened, and what is going to happen next to guide the listener

Skills hub
A website showing you all the resources at Sussex that can help you to develop your skills -

A person, place, or thing that provides something that you need or want.
Books, journal articles, websites are sources of evidence to support the argument you are making in your essay.

A way of considering something.
From a saver’s standpoint, high interest rates are a good thing.

Statistical sample
Any function of observed data, especially one used to estimate the corresponding parameter of the underlying distribution, such as the sample mean, sample variance, etc Compare estimator, parameter.

Subject Guide
Key resources relating to your specific discipline.

To provide evidence that proves something.
They were unable to substantiate their claims of government malpractice.

Expressed in a very short but clear way.
A succinct set of instructions.

Supporting evidence
For every claim you make in your writing, you will be required to prove your point. Your opinions and generalisations will need factual detail (evidence) to support them. Those supporting details may come from a number of different types of sources.

A word that has the same meaning as another word. For example ‘scared’ is a synonym for ‘afraid’.

Having the character of synonyms or a synonym; equivalent in meaning; expressing or implying the same idea.

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Target audience
A particular group at which a product such as a film or advertisement is aimed.
His stated target audience is children.

The process of organizing similar things, especially living things, into groups or types.

Not definite, or not certain.
A tentative agreement/deal

A word or phrase used for referring to something.
A technical/medical/legal/scientific term.
Darwin originally coined the term ‘natural selection’.

One of the periods of time into which the year is divided for students.
What classes are you taking this term?
How many weeks is it till the end of term?


Based on theories or ideas instead of on practical experience; relating to theories or ideas.
The course is designed to be practical rather than theoretical.

Thesis statement
This is a sentence or two (often in the introduction) that outlines what you will be arguing and shows the reader what your position is in relation to the title.

A subject that you write or speak about.
There has been little research on this particular topic.
She tried to think of another topic of conversation.

Topic sentence
A sentence that expresses the main idea of the paragraph in which it occurs.

Turnitin is the name of the software used at the University of Sussex for providing marks and feedback and checking for originality on text-based assessments.

For more information, see the University guidance webpages for e-submission and e-feedback.

A member of teaching staff, including Teaching Fellows, Lecturers, Associate Tutors and Professors.

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(of a quotation, story, or work of art) not ascribed to any source; of unknown or unpublished provenance.

To be an important basic part of something, allowing it to succeed or continue to exist.
The assumptions and beliefs that underpin our whole lives.

Without anyone or anything intervening or acting as an intermediate; direct.
History is not some unmediated story of events. It is a construct.

Lacking originality.
An uninteresting and unoriginal essay.

To explain something complicated or confusing by dividing it into separate parts and looking at them in detail.

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Able to be done, or worth doing.
The present system is simply no longer viable.

Compared to or relating to someone or something.
Our students’ marks are quite good vis-à-vis the national averages.

Very important, necessary, or essential.
He played a vital role in setting up the organization.

The opinion or attitude (of the writer/speaker)
The writer's voice is clearly discernible in their examination of the causes of the riots.

The right or opportunity to express your opinions and influence what happens
The apartheid system left the majority of the population without a political voice. have a voice (in something): Parents should have a voice in any changes to the school curriculum. give voice to something (=express something publicly): Her article gave voice to the anger felt by many local people.

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Weigh up
To consider the good and bad aspects of something in order to reach a decision about it.
Before buying weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Wikipedia can be a useful starting point in your research. It is often worth following the links on a Wikipedia page to see if they lead you to other, potentially more reliable sources.

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