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International Students/ELICOS: Academic Glossary

A library research guide for international students.

Academic Glossary

The first thing to do before attempting to write an assignment is to study the question (or statement) and determine what you are being asked to do.

Most questions will contain a key word to guide you in your approach.

Some key words and their meanings are listed below:

Analyse                 Separate or break up a whole into its parts so you may discover their nature, proportion, function, relationship etc.

Argue                    Systematically support or reject a position by presenting reasons and evidence in a rational and objective way.

Bibliography          A list of the materials used or consulted by a writer in preparing a particular piece of writing e.g. assignment,  
                              thesis, report, research, etc.                

Citation                  A short note recognising a source of information or of a quoted passage.

Comment               Make critical observations.

Compare                Find similarities and differences between two or more ideas, events, interpretations etc.

Contrast                  Describe dissimilarity between two or more ideas, events, practices, etc. Check whether there are any other clues 
                               in the question as to which aspects of the items would be most appropriate to contrast.

Database                A collection of information stored in a computer system that is organised so that its content can be easily 
                               accessed, managed and updated.

Describe                 Recall facts, processes or events. You are not asked to explain or interpret. Try to provide a thorough description, 
                               emphasising the important points.

Discuss                    Present a point of view. This is likely to need both description and interpretation. Your opinion must be supported by carefully
                               chosen and authoritative evidence.

Evaluate                  Present a judgement of an issue by stressing both strengths and advantages, and weaknesses and limitations.

Explain                     Interpret the facts along the lines of a particular topic. Do not be trapped into describing events or summarising the plot. 
                                Your main focus should on the "why" of a particular issues, or on the "how", with the aim of clarifying reasons, 
                                causes and effects. You are being assessed on your capacity to think critically, to exercise perception and discernment.

Illustrate                  This asks for an explanation; you may clarify your answer to a problem by presenting a figure, picture, diagram
                                or concrete example.

Interpret                  Explain the meaning of something and give your own judgement of a situation using your knowledge of the topic.

Outline                    This asks for an organised description. Give the main points and essential materials but leave out minor details. 
                                Present the information in a systematic arrangement.

Periodicals              A general term that is applied to any publication e.g. magazine, journal, newsletter, or newspaper that is issued on a 
                                regular basis e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.

Plagiarism               The unauthorised use or close imitation of the language or thoughts of another author and the representation of 
                                them as one's original work. Plagiarism comes from a latin verb meaning 'to kidnap'. 

Reference                A source mentioned in a piece of work to indicate the use of another source of information.

Review                     Re-examine, analyse and comment briefly, in an organised sequence, on the major points of an issue.

Source                    The place from which information is obtained.

Summarise              Provide a brief statement or an account covering the main points; leave out details.



Using paraphrase in your writing

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