Academic Phrasebank

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Major Sections
Introducing work
Reviewing literature
Describing methods
Reporting results
Discussing findings
Writing conclusions

 

General Functions
Being critical

Classifying and listing
Compare and contrast

Defining terms
Explaining causality
Expressing caution
Describing trends
Describing quantities
Giving examples
Writing about the past
Preview and transition

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Referring to Literature

One of the distinguishing features of academic writing is that it is informed by what is already known, what work or research has been done before, and/or what ideas and models have already been developed. Thus, academic writers frequently make reference to external sources. In some cases, where the individual author is important, the author’s name will be the main subject of the sentence; in other cases, the source may only  be mentioned in brackets ( …. ) or via a number notation system (e.g. footnotes and endnotes). The 'author as subject' style is less common in the empirical sciences and more commonly used in the humanities. The verbs and verb phrases typically used for referring to sources are listed below. Note that different referencing systems are used in different disciplines. In the examples given here, the Harvard in-text referencing system has been used.

The Literature Review: it is the purpose of the literature review section of a paper or dissertation to show the reader, in a systematic way, what is already known about the research topic as a whole, and to outline the key ideas and theories that help us to understand this.  As well as being systematic, the review should be evaluative and critical of the studies or ideas which are relevant to the current work. For example, you may think a particular study did not investigate some important aspect of the area you are researching, that the authors failed to notice a weakness in their methods, or that their conclusion is not well-supported.

A note on verb tenses: For general reference to the literature, the present perfect tense (have/has + verb + ed) tends to be used. For reference to specific studies carried out in the past, the simple past tense is most commonly used. This is always the case where a specific date or time in the past forms a part of the sentence. When referring to the words or ideas of writers, the present tense is often used if the ideas are still relevant, even if the author is no longer alive. The examples given below reflect these general patterns.

General descriptions of the relevant literature

A considerable amount of literature has been published on X. These studies ....
There is a large volume of published studies describing the role of ....
The first serious discussions and analyses of X emerged during the 1970s with ....
The generalisability of much published research on this issue is problematic.
What we know about X is largely based upon empirical studies that investigate how ....
During the past 30 years much more information has become available on ....
In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of literature on ....
A large and growing body of literature has investigated ....
Over the past decade most research in X has emphasized the use of ....


General reference to previous research/scholarly activity (usually more than one author)

Many historians have argued that .... (e.g. Jones, 1987; Johnson, 1990; Smith, 1994).
There is a consensus among social scientists that ....(e.g. Jones, 1987; Johnson, 1990; Smith, 1994).
Numerous studies have attempted to explain .... (for example, Smith , 1996; Kelly, 1998; Johnson, 2002)
Traditionally, it has been argued that .... (Smith, 1982; O'Brien, 1984)

Recent evidence suggests that .... (Smith, 1996; Jones 1999; Johnson, 2001)
Recently, in vitro studies have shown that X can .... (Patel et al., 1997; Jones et al., 1998).
Surveys such as that conducted by Smith (1988) have shown that ....

Several attempts have been made to .... (Smith, 1996; Jones 1999; Johnson, 2001)
Several studies have revealed that it is not just X that acts on ..... (Smith, 1996; Jones ....
Several biographies of Harris have been published. Smith (2013) presents .....
Several studies investigating X have been carried out on ....
Data from several sources have identified the increased X and Y associated with obesity.

Previous studies have reported .... (Smith, 1985; Jones, 1987; Johnson, 1992).
Previous research has indicated that various X indicators have a positive impact on .... (Al-Masry, 2008)
Previous research findings into X have been inconsistent and contradictory (Smith, 1996; Jones 1999, ....
A number of studies have found that .... (Smith , 2003; Jones, 2004).
A number of studies have examined X (e.g. Smith, 2003; Jones, 2005), but has investigated ....

Twenty cohort study analyses have examined the relationship between ....
At least 152 case-control studies worldwide have examined the relationship between.....
Other studies have considered the relationship ....

The relationship between X and Y has been widely investigated (Smith, 1985; Jones, 1987, ....
The causes of X have been widely investigated (Jones, 1987; Johnson, 1990; Smith, 1994).
The geology of X has been addressed in several small-scale investigations and ....
Factors thought to be influencing X have been explored in several studies.

Xs have been identified as major contributing factors for the decline of many species (1).
X has also been shown to reverse the anti-inflammatory effects of Y in murine-induced arthritis (11).

It has been suggested that levels of X are independent of the size of the Y (Smith et al., 1995)
It has conclusively been shown that X and Y increase Z (Smith et al., 1999; Jones, 2001 ....
It has been demonstrated that a high intake of X results in damage to .... (Smith, 1998; ....

Reference to current state of knowledge

A relationship exists between an individual's working memory and their ability to ...... (Jones et al.,1998).
GM varieties of maize are able to cross-pollinate with non-GM varieties (Smith, 1998; Jones, 1999).
There is an unambiguous relationship between X and Y (Rao, 1998).
X is one of the most intense reactions following CHD (Lane, 2003).
X has been found to oppose the anti-inflammatory actions of Y on Z (Alourfi, 2004).

Reference to single investigations in the past: researcher(s) as sentence subject

Smith (1999)
found that as levels of literacy and education of the population rise ....
showed that reducing X to 190oC decreased .... (see figure 2) .
demonstrated that when the maximum temperature is exceeded ....
Jones et al. (2001)

investigated the differential impact of formal and non-formal education on ....
analysed the data from 72 countries and concluded that ....
reviewed the literature from the period and found little evidence for this claim.
interviewed 250 undergraduate students using semi-structured questionnaires.
studied the effects of X on unprotected nerve cells.
performed a similar series of experiments in the 1960s to show that ....
carried out a number of investigations into the ....
conducted a series of trials in which he mixed X with different quantities of ....
measured both components of the ....
labelled these subsets as ....
examined the flow of international students ....
identified parents of disabled children as ....
used a survey to assess the various ....

Wang et al. (2004) have recently developed a methodology for the selective introduction of ....

Reference to single investigations or publications in the past: time frame prominent

In 1975, Smith et al. published a paper in which they described ....
In 1990 Patel et al. demonstrated that replacement of H2O with heavy water led to ....
Thirty years later, Smith (1974) reported three cases of X which ....
In the 1950s, Gunnar Myrdal pointed to some of the ways in which …. (Myrdal, 1957)
In 1981, Smith and co workers demonstrated that X induced in vitro resistance to ....
In 1990, Al-Masry et al. reported a new and convenient synthetic procedure to obtain ....
In 1984, Jones et al. made several amino acid esters of X and evaluated them as ....

Reference to single publication: no time frame

Smith has written the most complete synthesis to date of ....

Reference to single investigations in the past: investigation prominent

Preliminary work on X was undertaken by Abdul Karim (1992).
The first systematic study of X was reported by Patel et al. in 1986.
The study of the structural behaviour of X was first carried out by Rao et al. (1986).....
Analysis of the genes involved in X was first carried out by Smith et al (1983).

A recent study by Smith and Jones (2012) involved ....
A longitudinal study of X by Smith (2012) reports that ....
A small scale study by Smith (2012) reaches different conclusions, finding no increase in ....
Smith's cross-country analysis (2012) showed that ....
Smith's comparative study (2012) found that ....
Detailed examination of X by Smith and Patel (1961) showed that ....
Brown's (1992) model of X assumes three main ....

In another major study, Zhao (1974) found that just over half of the ....
In a study which set out to determine X, Smith (2012) found that ....
In a randomised controlled study of X, Smith (2012) reported that ....
In an analysis of X, Smith et al. (2012) found ....
In an investigation into X, Smith et al. (2012) found ....
In a large longitudinal study, Smith et al. (2012) investigated the incidence of X in Y.
In one well-known recent experiment, limits on X were found to be ..... (Al-Masry, 2013)

Reference to single investigations in the past: research topic as main focus

Classical conditioning was first demonstrated experimentally by Pavlov (Smith, 2002). In his seminal study ....
The electronic spectroscopy of X was first studied by Smith and Jones in 19701
The acid-catalyzed condensation reaction between X and Y was first reported by Smith in 1872
X formed the central focus of a study by Smith (2002) in which the author found ....
X was originally isolated from Y in a soil sample from .... (Wang et al., 1952).
The way in which the X gene is regulated was studied extensively by Ho and colleagues (Smith et al. 1995).
To determine the effects of X, Zhao et al (2005) compared ....
To better understand the mechanisms of X and its effects, Al-Masry (2013) analysed the data from ....

Reference to what other writers do in their text (author as subject)

Smith (2013) identifies X, Y, and Z as the major causes of ....
Rao (2013) lists three reasons why the English language has become so dominant. These are: ....
Smith (2013) traces the development of Japanese history and philosophy during the 19th century.
Jones(2013) provides in-depth analysis of the work of Aristotle showing its relevance to contemporary times.
Smith (2013) draws our attention to distinctive categories of X often observed in ....
Perez (2013) draws on an extensive range of sources to assess ....
Smith (2013) defines evidence based medicine as the conscious, explicit and judicious use of .....
Rao (2013) highlights the need to break the link between economic growth and transport growth .....
Smith (2013) discusses the challenges and strategies for facilitating and promoting ....
Toh (2013) mentions the special situation of Singapore as an example of ....
Smith (2013) questions whether mainstream schools are the best environment for ....
Smith (2013) considers whether countries work well on cross-border issues such as ....
Al-Masry (2013) uses examples of these various techniques as evidence that ....

Drawing on an extensive range of sources, the authors set out the different ways in which ....
By drawing on the concept of X, Smith has been able to show that ....
In Chapter 2, Smith provides us with a number of important ....
In the subsequent chapter, Smith examines the extent to which ....

Some analysts (e.g. Carnoy, 2002) have attempted to draw fine distinctions between ....
Other authors (see Harbison, 2003; Kaplan, 2004) question the usefulness of such an approach.

In her major study,
In her seminal article,
In her classic critique of ....,
In her case study of ...,
In her review of ....,
In her analysis of ....,
In her introduction to ....,'

Smith (2012) identifies five characteristics of .......

Reference to other writers' ideas or position (author as subject)

According to Smith (2003), preventative medicine is far more cost effective, and therefore ....
As noted by Smith (2003) X is far more cost effective, and therefore ....

Smith (2013) points out
argues
maintains
claims
concludes
suggests
that

preventative medicine is far more cost effective, and therefore better adapted to the developing world


Smith (2013) argues for
offers
proposes
suggests
an explanatory theory for each type of irrational belief.

Synthesising sources

Almost every paper that has been written on X includes a section relating to ....
This view is supported by Jones (2000) who writes that ....
In the same vein, Smith (1994) in his book XYZ notes ....
Smith argues that her data support O'Brien's (1988) view that ....
Similarly, Nicoladis (2006) found that X ....
Al-Masry's (1986) work on X is complemented by Smith's (2009) study of ....

Conversely, Wang (2010) reported no significant difference in mortality between X and Y.
In contrast to Smith, Jones (2013) argues that ....
A broader perspective has been adopted by Smith (213) who argues that ....
Unlike Smith, Jones (2013) argues that ....

This relationship has been demonstrated in X (Brown, 1976) and in Y (Smith and Green, 1989).

Smith argues that ....

Al-Masry (2003) sees X as ....

Similarly, Jones (2013) asserts that ....

Likewise, Wang (2012) holds the view that ....


Several biographies of Kitchener have been published.

Smith (2010) presents an X account,

While Smith (2008) focusses on X,

 


whilst Jones (2011) ....

Jones (2009) and Brown (2010) are more concerned with issues relating to Y.



Some writers (e.g. Smith, 2002) have attempted to draw fine distinctions between ....

Some authors have mainly been interested in questions concerning X and Y (Smith, 2001; Jones, 2011).

Others (see Jones, 2003; Brown, 2004) question the usefulness of ....

Others have highlighted the relevance of ....


Zhao (2002) notes that ....

Smith (2013) found that X accounted for 30% of Y.


However, Jennings’ (2010) study of Y found no link between ...

Other researchers, however, who have looked at X, have found .... Jones (2010), for example, .

Some ways of introducing quotations

In the final part of the Theses, Marx writes: 'Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point ....'
Sachs concludes: 'The idea of development stands today like a ruin in the intellectual landscape…' (Sachs, 1992a: 156).
As Smith argues: 'In the past, the purpose of education was to ....' (Smith , 2000:150).
As Carnoy (2004: 215) states: 'there are many good reasons to be sceptical'.
Commenting on X, Smith (2003) argues: '....'

As Smith

reminds us: '.... .... .... .... .... '
observes: '.... .... .... .... .... '
notes: '.... .... .... .... .... '
points out: '.... .... .... .... .... '
argues: '.... .... .... .... .... '

(Smith 2003: 23)

Note the use of single quotation marks in these examples. Double quotation marks may also be used, but single quotation marks are more common.

Summarising the review or parts of the review

The studies presented thus far provide evidence that ....
Together, these studies outline that ....
Collectively, these studies outline a critical role for...
In view of all that has been mentioned so far, one may suppose that ....
Together these studies provide important insights into the ....
The evidence presented in this section suggests that ....
Overall, there seems to be some evidence to indicate that ....
Overall, these studies highlight the need for ….

 

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Last updated: 15 April, 2014