The story behind the book
I first felt the need for a book like this back in 1998, when I did my MA in Applied Linguistics at Lancaster University (UK).
Whenever I started a new assignment, I usually knew exactly what I wanted to write and had no trouble organizing my ideas. What I lacked was a wider repertoire of sentences like “A cursory glance at […] reveals that […]” or “[…] is beyond the scope of this paper.” Without that kind of language, I feared I would never truly belong to that kind of discourse community.
So here’s what I used to do: After each and every scientific article I read, I made a list of useful phrases and sentence “templates” that I could include in my own writing. This turned out to be a wise move. When I eventually wrote my dissertation, I was able to use at least 25-30% of the hundreds of sentences I’d compiled.
Fortunately, I never deleted that list.
Back in 2013, as I was purging some old files, I stumbled upon the original Word document and wondered if other people might find my list useful. So I handpicked 70 sentences and turned them into a blog post, which, at the time, I hastily dismissed as a novelty no one would pay attention to. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
To my surprise, those 70 sentences went on to become my most popular post to date, with an average of 700 daily visits. It definitely looked as if I was on to something.
One day, I had a crazy idea: What if that blog post became a mini book?
So, in January 2015, I started compiling a brand new list, which forced me to read hundreds – and I mean literally hundreds- of academic papers beyond the field of Applied Linguistics. I read lab reports, medical experiments, doctoral theses on urban planning, literature reviews on quantum physics, you name it. By December, I had amassed nearly a thousand sentence templates. But the book was still far from finished, of course.
The next step was to organize those sentences logically, check them for naturalness/frequency against corpus data, trim the list down to 600 items and write language tips that both native and non-native speakers might find useful.
And this is where my expertise as textbook writer and teacher of English as a foreign language came into play: I was able to identify potential problems and provide easy-to-understand solutions relatively easily – more so, perhaps, than people who have always worked in a monolingual setting and/or who have no idea what learning another language is like.
After all, academic English is, in many ways, a foreign language, even if you’re a native speaker of English.
70 useful sentences for academic writing
Here are 70 sentences extracted and adapted for from the original compilation, which ran for almost 10 pages. This list is organized around keywords.
Before you start:
1. Pay close attention to the words in bold, which are often used in conjunction with the main word.
2. [ ] means “insert a suitable word here”, while ( ) means “this word is optional.”
3. Keep in mind that, within each group, some examples are slightly more formal / less frequent than others.
a. Along similar lines, [X] argues that ___.
b. There seems to be no compelling reason to argue that ___.
c. As a rebuttal to this point, it could be argued that ___.
d. There are [three] main arguments that can be advanced to support ___.
e. The underlying argument in favor of / against [X] is that ___.
f. [X]’s argument in favor of / against [Y] runs as follows: ___.
a. In this [paper], I put forward the claim that ___.
b. [X] develops the claim that ___.
c. There is ample / growing support for the claim that ___.
d. [X]’s findings lend support to the claim that ___.
e. Taking a middle-ground position, [X] claims that ___.
a. The data gathered in the [pilot study] suggest that ___.
b. The data appears to suggest that ___.
c. The data yielded by this [study] provide strong / convincing evidence that ___.
d. A closer look at the data indicates that ___.
e. The data generated by [X] are reported in [table 1].
f. The aim of this [section] is to generalize beyond the data and ___.
a. [X] has encouraged debate on ___.
b. There has been an inconclusive debate about whether ___.
c. The question of whether ___ has caused much debate in [our profession] [over the years].
d. (Much of) the current debate revolves around ___.
a. In this section / chapter, the discussion will point to ___.
b. The foregoing discussion implies that ___.
c. For the sake of discussion, I would like to argue that ___.
d. In this study, the question under discussion is ___.
e. In this paper, the discussion centers on ___.
f. [X] lies at the heart of the discussion on ___.
a. The available evidence seems to suggest that ___ / point to ___.
b. On the basis of the evidence currently available, it seems fair to suggest that ___.
c. There is overwhelming evidence for the notion that ___.
d. Further evidence supporting / against [X] may lie in the findings of [Y], who ___.
e. These results provide confirmatory evidence that ___.
a. I will now summarize the ground covered in this [chapter] by ___.
b. On logical grounds, there is no compelling reason to argue that ___.
c. [X] takes a middle-ground position on [Y] and argues that ___.
d. On these grounds, we can argue that ___.
e. [X]’s views are grounded on the assumption that ___.
a. This study is an attempt to address the issue of ___.
b. In the present study, the issue under scrutiny is ___.
c. The issue of whether ___ is clouded by the fact that ___.
d. To portray the issue in [X]’s terms, ___.
e. Given the centrality of this issue to [my claim], I will now ___.
f. This [chapter] is concerned with the issue of [how/whether/what] ___.
a. [X] is prominent in the literature on [Y].
b. There is a rapidly growing literature on [X], which indicates that ___.
c. The literature shows no consensus on [X], which means that ___.
d. The (current) literature on [X] abounds with examples of ___.
a. The main theoretical premise behind [X] is that ___.
b. [X] and [Y] share an important premise: ___.
c. [X] is premised on the assumption that ___.
d. The basic premises of [X]’s theory / argument are ___.
e. The arguments against [X]’s premise rest on [four] assumptions: ___.
a.This study draws on research conducted by ___.
b. Although there has been relatively little research on / into [X], ___.
c. In the last [X] years, [educational] research has provided ample support for the assertion that ___.
d. Current research appears / seems to validate the view that ___.
e. Research on / into ___ does not support the view that ___.
f. Further research in this area may include ___ and ___.
g. Evidence for [X] is borne out by research that shows ___.
h. There is insufficient research on / into ___ to draw any firm conclusions about / on ___.
a. The consensus view seems to be that ___.
b. [X] propounds the view that ___.
c. Current research (does not) appear(s) to validate such a view.
d. There have been dissenters to the view that ___.
e. The answer to [X] / The difference between [X] and [Y] is not as clear-cut as popular views might suggest.
f. The view that _____ is in line with [common sense].
g. I am not alone in my view that ___.
h. [X] puts forward the view that ___.
i. [X]’s views rest on the assumption that ___.
How to buy the Book
If you found this list useful, check out The Only Academic Phrasebook You’ll Ever Need, which contains 600 sentences, as well as grammar and vocabulary tips. E-book and paperback available on Amazon.