Vocabulary and academia
Academic vocabulary refers to the words and phrases used in academic contexts, such as scholarly articles, reports, and lectures/seminars.1 While general academic words are usually learnt through exposure to academic texts,2 navigating the world of global scholarly literature and academic discourse necessitates a certain level of proficiency in English. This is because English remains the lingua franca of the global research community, whose main modes of academic outreach are research papers and journal articles.
Unlike fiction and general writing, drafting a research paper in English could present some hurdles for researchers with English as a second language. A global English readership, a niche audience—mainly comprising fellow researchers—and the need for a formal and academic tone are some of the hurdles one may face. Moreover, research papers, across most journals and subject areas, are largely rigid in their vocabulary expectations. Authors, therefore, are limited when it comes to introducing a lot of word choice variations in their papers. Inevitably, this leads to the issue of redundancy and monotony in academic vocabulary and literature.
A thought experiment
Consider the following sentences that establish the importance of a research topic:
- X is fundamental to…
- X is important for…
- X is pivotal to…
- X plays a vital role…
- X plays a critical role…
All the above phrases present the same idea but with different word choices.
Now, imagine having to search for the synonyms of 100 words in a 5,000-word research paper that you are drafting. A dictionary/thesaurus is usually the best place for this task.
At first glance, it seems like a simple task, right?
However, could you be certain that the synonym you chose is preferred in academic writing and literature and that it is widely accepted in the academic English vocabulary? Perhaps, like most researchers, you may diligently search for that specific synonymous word in an academic corpus like Google Scholar, PubMed, Web of Science, etc. And based on the number of hits for that word, you may either choose to use that synonym or search for another one.
Conservatively, assuming it takes about 3 tries (dictionary search + corpus search) to find the right synonym for a given word and each search takes about 5 minutes, it adds up to a ridiculous amount of time and effort spent just finding one set of synonyms to use in a research paper. Now multiply this by 100 and you can immediately see how finding appropriate academic synonyms could be frustrating for already busy researchers.
Making the right choice: Contextual synonyms in Paperpal
Which of the synonyms would you use for “premature” within the academic context in a reproductive biology paper?
Make the mistake of using “inopportune, unseasonable, untimely, incomplete, immature, early on, etc.” and you are certain to get a reviewer comment on word choice!
What then could be a solution?
At Paperpal, we live by the motto of helping every researcher write better. We have therefore integrated a solution for this tedious problem right into our AI-based academic editing tool.
Our contextual academic synonym checker is a proprietary, one-click solution, which is integrated into Paperpal for Word and Paperpal for Web. Upon selecting a word, our sophisticated algorithm retrieves contextually relevant synonyms for that word from a large multidisciplinary corpus of published research papers and ranks them based on frequency and usage. As a researcher, all you need to do is select a word; Paperpal then automatically searches through high-impact articles to see how that word has been used in previously published manuscripts/academic corpus, ranks the results, and presents you with multiple relevant academic word choices for your target word.
A general-purpose dictionary lacks information about whether and how a word has been used in broader academic vocabulary and how a word ranks in terms of its popularity in the academic corpus. At Paperpal, we understand this limitation presented by generic dictionaries which is why we designed this contextual synonym checker for researchers, keeping in mind scholarly literature and academic vocabulary.
How does our solution help researchers?
Better word choices confer better academic vocabulary. It obviates the need for future English corrections, especially for errors in academic English vocabulary. Our solution ensures that your choice of synonymous word is tailored to academic literature and allows you to validate its usage based on how it is used in previously published papers.
Say goodbye to multiple tabs; no more unnecessary dictionary searching and no more academic corpus referencing for synonymous words! Selecting the word of your choice…that’s all it should take to improve your academic vocabulary and find the right word choice. So search for academic synonyms for research papers on-the-go with Paperpal. Optimize your academic writing, try Paperpal now!
1. Academic vocabulary. EAP Foundation. Available online at: https://www.eapfoundation.com/vocab/academic/ [Accessed: October 20, 2022].
2. Lawrence, J.F., Knoph, R., McIlraith, A., Kulesz, P.A., and Francis, D.J., 2022. Reading comprehension and academic vocabulary: Exploring relations of item features and reading proficiency. Reading Research Quarterly, 57(2), 669-690. https://ila.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/rrq.434