Academic English

Academic EnglishEnglish for Academic Purposes

Academic vocabulary

Academic English has its own vocabulary and you will encounter certain words at university or in other academic contexts that are not seen elsewhere.

Using the correct type of academic English can feel daunting to non-native speakers as this language is more formal than regular English.


Academic vocabulary

Here are some examples of academic vocabulary and words related to academic study and writing:

  • Essay, dissertation, thesis, theses, references, bibliography, referencing system, Harvard system, footnotes
  • Appendix, appendices, introduction, main body, conclusion, argument, thesis statement, paragraph,
  • Submission, deadline, extension, module, finals
  • Degree, bachelors degree, Masters degree, doctorate, PhD
  • Lecturer, researcher, professor, tutor
  • Lecture, seminar, halls of residence, students’ union
  • Semester, term

When using the English language for academic purposes it is more important than ever to ensure grammar, spelling, punctuation and style are all correct.

Academic writing uses formal language and academic essays follow a special pattern in structure, in addition to using particular kinds of referencing.

Academic English Writing

Academic writing is always formal in style. Do not use idioms, colloquial phrases, constricted versions of words using apostrophes (for example: don’t, didn’t, haven’t) or informal words, phrases or slang.

Academic English writes words in full and normally structures sentences within paragraphs and paragraphs within longer bodies of work, such as essays and dissertations.

academic writing

Essays, Dissertations and Theses

Academic English written work will normally be heavily structured to display your argument.

Arts, Humanities and Social Science subjects will normally use essays, while Natural Science subjects may use reports. Here is an example of basic academic essay structure:



An academic essay will always begin with an introduction. This is a paragraph (or multiple paragraphs for a longer academic piece) that introduces your topic and the main themes that it will cover.

The introductory paragraph/s always end with your thesis statement, that is, the research question that you are going to be examining in the essay.

This statement will tell the reader exactly what you will be trying to find out or explore in your essay.

Literature Review

In a longer piece of academic research, after the introduction comes the literary review. The literary review is a review of the important literary that has already been published on your subject.

The main points that have already been discovered and the most important writers writing about you topic should be included here.

You should also state how your work will fit into existing research, complement it and expand current knowledge on the subject.

academic books

Main Body 

If your academic essay is shorter, your literary review will be shorter or you may assess other work within the main body of you essay, which is the next part.

The main body of your essay is where you start to examine your ideas in relation to other work and really get into developing your argument.

The length of this main section will depend on your exact assignment and the aims of your research. It could range in length from three or four paragraphs to many chapters.

Each paragraph in the main body should build on the previous paragraph and keep relevant to your thesis statement, each section addressing different issues that relate to the main focus of the essay: your thesis.



The conclusion will summarise the findings in your essay and relate them back to your introduction, explaining how you have succeeded in your aims and answering (if an answer is possible) your original thesis statement/question.

Often, an essay will not have an answer as such, and your conclusion instead will simply bring together your findings and offer some kind of closure. The closure may even simply pose another related question or the conclusion that no answer is possible.

unsure conclusion


The appendix (or appendices if there is more than one) is where you put all of your supporting materials.

These materials could include interview transcripts, graphs, charts and any further information that is relevant to your essay or dissertation but not included in the main body.

You will also normally want to reference your academic work, using the appropriate style guide. Read more about academic referencing and essay writing.

Share your thoughts on academic English

Do you find any academic expressions confusing?

Do you have any tips on learning academic English?

Let us know your thoughts on academic English in the comments.


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