Phrasebank, an interesting tool to improve your academic writing.

Writing a research paper is not easy! It is a skill that takes time to master. Luckily, most research papers follow more or less the same structure. In previous blog posts, I have given an overview of how to write the different sections of a research paper with several articles such as (1) keeping it simple, (2) choosing a good title , (3) the abstract, (4) the introduction (5) the bibliography, (6) equations in resarch papers (7) how to improve your research papers? and (7) errors to avoid in research papers!.

In this blog post, I will talk about a great resource that can help to improve your academic writing. It is a website, called the Academic Phrasebank created by Dr. John Morley from the University of Manchester. This website, also published as a book, contains lists of sentences that are commonly used in research papers, each categorized according to its functions and the section of the paper where it appears. This bank of common sentences is very useful for authors who don’t know how to express their ideas, or would like to get some inspiration or find different ways of writing their ideas.

Below, is a screen shot of the main menu of the website:

There are six categories corresponding to the different sections of a typical research paper. Consider the first category, which is called “Introducing Work“. Lets say that we click on it to find out about common sentences to be used in the introduction of a paper. Then, some sub-categories are shown such as:

  • Establishing the importance of the topic for the world or society
  • Establishing the importance of the topic for the discipline
  • Establishing the importance of the topic as a problem to be addressed
  • Explaining the inadequacies of previous studies
  • Explaining the significance of the current study
  • Describing the research design and the methods used

Then, lets say that we choose the first sub-category. This will show us a list of common sentences for establishing the importance of a research topic. Here are a few of those sentences:

  • X is fundamental to …
  • X has a pivotal role in …
  • X is frequently prescribed for …
  • X is fast becoming a key instrument in …
  • X plays a vital role in the metabolism of …
  • X plays a critical role in the maintenance of …
  • Xs have emerged as powerful platforms for …
  • X is essential for a wide range of technologies.
  • X can play an important role in addressing the issue of …
  • Xs are the most potent anti-inflammatory agents known.
  • There is evidence that X plays a crucial role in regulating …
  • … and many others…

I will not show more examples but you can try the website to have a look at other categories

My opinion: I think that this website is quite rich and useful. I write many research papers and tend to always use more or less the same sentence structures. But by looking at this phrase bank, it gives me some ideas about how I could try using other types of sentences as well. I think that this can help improve my writing style a bit in future papers!

That is all for today. I just wanted to share this useful resource for academic writing!


Philippe Fournier-Viger is a full professor working in China and founder of the SPMF open source data mining software.

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