Academic Writing Glossary
Have you encountered a term in your module guide or assessment criteria that you're not familiar with? This glossary includes definitions on the words and phrases associated with academic writing and studying at university:
To search for a specific term, press Ctrl + F to find it in this page.
A short summary (usually around 250 words) of a research paper, journal article or dissertation, that includes an overview of the research aims, methods, participants, key findings and conclusions. The abstract should give a concise and accurate description of the key features of a research project, while aiming to capture the reader's attention.
|Academic integrity||The ethical use of information in academic research. The ICAI defines the six values of academic research as ‘honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage’. (International Center for Academic Integrity, 2021)|
|Academic misconduct||Academic misconduct is any action, attempted action or omission that may result in you gaining an unfair advantage over other students in an assessment, where there is evidence to demonstrate that your actions or behaviour arose from an intention to deceive the marker.|
|AI-assisted writing||When artificial intelligence software utilizes existing content to predict, modify or create text based on input that a user supplies it. Certain tools may create novel bodies of text, while others may reword existing text in the case of AI paraphrasing tools. (Turnitin, 2023)|
|AI-generated text||Text created by artificial intelligence based on vast amounts of data of existing content from the internet. (Turnitin, 2023).|
There are two key parts of any analysis in academic writing:
1. Break a complex idea/process/ concept /method into its component parts, in order to focus on the detail of the whole.
2. Consider how these parts then fit back together - which is more important, are there two or more aspects that form an interesting relationship or connection.
For more on this, read our definitions of common terms used in essay questions and assessment criteria.
An annotated bibliography combines short paragraphs summarising the key points from a journal article or research papers with a formatted APA reference. Think of this as a reading list - the summary paragraph gives the reader a clear idea of what to expect from each study, while the APA reference gives all the information they would need to find the source. To see an example of an annotated bibliography, read our guide on literature reviews.
APA (American Psychological Association) is an author/date style of referencing that has two parts:
a. In-text citation - Sources are acknowledged in the body of your writing.
b. Bibliography - A list of the full details of each academic sources used in your writing will be included at the end of the assignment.
|Artificial intelligence (AI)||Any intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. These machines use mathematical models that identify and encode patterns in data sets, which can then perform predictions on new situations which they haven’t encountered before. (Turnitin, 2023)|
A list of all of the evidence and materials used in your writing, included at the end of the essay. Visit the Hallam Library referencing pages to learn how to format your bibliography.
Blackboard is the online home for all of the materials and information for your modules and academic course. You can log in to view all of the resources related to teaching and assessment on your course from the MyHallam homepage. You will find a link to Turnitin, where you will upload your assignments for marking.
Blogs are online websites or webpages often about a specific topic. They may be run by individuals, groups or organisations.
|Books||Books generally deal with a particular topic or subject in detail. Books are a good place to find out about a topic that is new to you, finding background information on a particular topic or an overview of research on a topic.|
A case study is a systematic form of research that investigates a phenomenon, group, person or situation from a clearly-defined context or timeframe. For an introduction to case study research, or to read examples from a range of subject areas, explore the SAGE Research Methods database from Hallam Library.
|Chatbot||A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet (King, 2022 in Lund, B.D. and Wang, T. (2023)|
|ChatGPT||ChatGPT (short for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022. It is a Large Language Model with both supervised and reinforcement learning techniques. ChatGPT can produce a body of unique text from a user’s specific input based on existing content from the internet. (Turnitin, 2023)|
A citation is the information you give the reader in your writing to let them know that your material came from another source. In APA referencing, it is the information in brackets that you inserts after a paraphrase or quotation.
Clinical guidelines are recommendations within healthcare to treat patients.
A critical review, also known as a critique, is a piece of writing that deconstructs a research paper or journal article, identifying key elements of the work and highlighting key strengths or weaknesses. A critical review will generally focus on a single article or source, but you may need to refer to other sources to offer an interpretation of the theories or methodologies used in the text. For more detail on how to write a critical review, visit our guide to literature reviews.
|Critical thinking||The ability to make correct inferences, recognise assumptions, make deductions, come to conclusions and interpret and evaluate arguments. (Sheffield Hallam University Skills Centre, 2023)|
For a definition of this assignment type, see critical review.
Critiquing a journal article or report involves focusing o the details/each part of the document, looking for strengths and weaknesses. Start by focusing on the key components of any article: research design, methodology, sample size, criteria for selecting participants, and findings. You may also wish to discuss how a particular piece of research is limited in terms of its relevance and applicability for your subject/topic of interest.
Remember, a critique is not just negative - you are offering an objective view on strengths as well as weaknesses.
|DALL-E 1||An AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. (OpenAI, 2023)|
|Deep learning||A family of Artificial Intelligence architectures that uses neural networks to encode information, resulting in state-of-the-art performance across a wide array of tasks. Generative AI models are typically examples of Deep Learning.|
|Edited books||Edited books are a collection of chapters written by different authors. An edited book will have a main central topic and each chapter author will write in more detail about an aspect of this topic.|
To evaluate something, you should aim to give an objective view on the relative strengths and weaknesses of your given topic. To do this, decide on your criteria - the way we measure or assess a journal article will be different from how you evaluate your performance in professional practice. For ideas on how to evaluate sources in your academic writing, see our guide on critical writing, or attend our Advanced Critical Writing: Analysis and Evaluation workshop.
Generative AI is a broad label that's used to describe any type of artificial intelligence that uses learning algorithms to create new digital images, video, audio, text, or code. (Turnitin, 2023)
Academic journals are publications that bring together research papers and articles written by researchers from a particular field, subject or discipline. Think of these as magazines for academic researchers - each publication has a theme or title that helps researchers to identify where their research would fit best, with each issue focusing on a different sub-topic within this area.
|Journal article||The individual papers, written by researchers, that report on the findings on research projects.|
Lab reports are written to summarise and analyse a scientific experiment or process carried out by a student or researcher. Lab reports follow a set format and include a standard set of headings, designed to ensure that someone could perform the experiment for themselves using the lab report as an instruction guide. Visit our guides for information on scientific writing and how to structure your lab reports.
Lectures are the largest classes you will attend at university. They are oral presentations, designed to introduce students to new topics that will be explored in more detail in seminar discussions, tutorials and written assignments, and as such do not tend to involve discussion between the lecturer and the students. Notetaking in lectures is one of the key skills you will develop at university - The Skills Centre offer workshops and online templates that focus on effective notetaking and memory techniques.
|Library search||Library Search is a powerful search engine that you can use to find and access high quality academic resources at Hallam Library. With Library Search you can find results from our book collection, our full text journals and many other sources, and return them in one integrated list that can be refined to show just the kind of resource you need.|
A literature review is a structured search and evaluation of the published research in a particular subject area.
When writing a literature review, you should aim to demonstrate that you can:
b. identify points of agreement and disagreement between existing studies, and link these to your own work or research (also known as synthesis).
A literature review is not a list of sources - it is a piece of writing that should show the links and relationships
An umbrella term used to refer to the general research strategy that underpins the methods and practices that form your research project. Often confused with research methods, which refers to the process of collecting data or information.
A research approach that combines collecting data using both qualitative and quantitative methods, for example using focus groups and surveys in the same project.
Another term for a literature review, where the focus is to give a broad overview of a chosen topic or research question, identifying significant trends, discussions and debate in existing research. The aim is to construct a narrative or story of the literature, touching on contextual information, theoretical perspectives and key research themes.
|Natural Language Processing (|NLP)||NLP is a field of AI that involves using algorithms to analyze and interpret human language, such as text and speech, to extract meaning and extract useful information (Manning and Schutze, 1999 in Lund, B.D. and Wang, T. (2023)|
|OpenAI||is a research institute focused on creating and promoting AI technologies that are safe and beneficial to humanity. Founded in 2015 by Elon Musk, Sam Altman, and other prominent individuals in the tech industry, the organization has been at the forefront of cutting-edge research in the field of AI, including the development of advanced language processing systems and reinforcement learning algorithms. OpenAI is committed to advancing the field of AI in a responsible and ethical manner, with a focus on ensuring that its technology is used for the greater good. (Pavlik, 2023)|
|Original research article||
See also 'Research article'. An original research article designs a study to test an ideas, undertakes the required work to test the idea and answers the research question based on the testing and evidence. Original research articles are primary sources.
|Plagiarism||The process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own. (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2023)|
A protocol is agreed guidance to achieve the defined results.
Quantitative research is a systematic, empirical approach to gathering and analyzing numerical data that is often used to study the relationships between variables. This type of research involves using structured methods to collect data, such as surveys or experiments, and analyzing the data using statistical techniques to draw conclusions about the relationships between variables. The goal of quantitative research is to provide a numerical representation of a phenomenon or population, and to generalize findings to a larger population. (OpenAI, 2023)
|Qualitative research||Qualitative research is a type of empirical research that aims to explore and understand social phenomena, behaviors, and experiences through the collection and analysis of non-numerical data such as words, images, and observations. This approach is often used to gain a deep understanding of the meanings and perceptions that individuals or groups ascribe to their experiences. Qualitative research involves collecting data through methods such as interviews, focus groups, and participant observation, and analyzing the data using interpretive and thematic analysis to identify patterns and themes. Unlike quantitative research, which focuses on numerical data and statistical analysis, qualitative research is concerned with gaining insights into the complexities and nuances of human behavior and experience. (OpenAI, 2023)|
In academic writing, a reference gives the information you need to trace a publication, such as the name of the author, the date of publication and the relevant page numbers. In UK English, this term can refer to information you include in-text and in the bibliography.
Reflective writing involves looking back on a previous experience, whether in your professional, personal or academic life, and considering how it might have impact or meaning for your future development. Reflective writing is a very personal process, as it involves questioning your reaction to different situations, and understanding why you may have felt a certain way. Unlike most other forms of academic writing, you are encouraged to use the first person ('I') in reflective writing. Read our online guide to reflection for more information on how you might structure reflective writing, or book a place on one of our face-to-face workshops.
|Research article||Sometimes called an original resarch article. An original research article designs a study to test an ideas, undertakes the required work to test the idea and answers the research question based on the testing and evidence. Original research articles are primary sources.|
The collective term for the set of methods you will use to collect your research data. This generally splits into three categories: quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods.
How you will collect the data or information that will generate your research findings. Some examples include data mining, case-study research, sequential design and semi-structured interviews.
A review article is a journal article themed around a specific topic. The writers review other researchers outputs and answer the research question based on observations from looking at multiple sources. Review articles are secondary sources.
A search strategy is a systematic plan or approach for finding information or data from various sources. It involves a structured process of identifying and selecting relevant sources of information and applying appropriate search terms and techniques to retrieve the desired results. A search strategy may be used in various contexts, such as academic research, market research, or medical research, and typically involves the following steps:
The goal of a search strategy is to efficiently and effectively locate relevant information that can be used to answer the research question or problem. (OpenAI, 2023)
Seminars are small group sessions, led by a tutor or lecturer, structured around discussing topics from lectures and reading in more detail. These are an ideal scenario for asking questions and building your understanding through conversation with other students. Visit our guide to effective reading for tips on preparing for seminars.
In academic writing, synthesis is the process of joining together information from multiple sources or articles, to show that there is a relationship in the existing literature. By creating this link or relationship, you can then decide where your ideas fit, and give an interpretation or conclusion that does not over-rely on a single piece of evidence.
A systematic review applies a set of inclusion or eligibility criteria to identify papers that answer a clearly-defined and specific research question. The process of searching for and refining results must be clearly explained in the review, so that the same search could be reproduced by a reader. You should assess the validity of your search process, highlighting any potential bias or limitations.
Textbooks offer a broad overview and introduction to their topics and are usually written by experts specifically for students. They are usually lengthy and will have graphs and illustrations to help you understand the content.
|Turing test||A test that examines a machine’s ability to pass for a human, specifically in language and behavior. A machine can pass this test if, after being graded by a human, its performance is indistinguishable from that of human participants. This test is named after Alan Turing (1912-1954), a notable English mathematician, computer scientist, and logician.|
Turnitin is an online plagiarism checker that compares your work to other essays and existing publications to check for similarities. Results can identify where your work is similar to existing sources, and pick up on errors in your APA referencing.
Tutorials may be held in very small groups or on a 1-1 basis. While seminars are guided discussion on a theme or piece of reading, tutorials are used as trouble-shooting sessions. They will differ across different departments, but generally speaking tutorials will offer a chance to ask your tutor specific questions and to get feedback on aspects of your work and academic writing.
In statistical research, a variable is a characteristic or attribute that can take on different values, and it is the basic unit of analysis. It can be any measurable characteristic that can vary across different individuals or objects in a population, such as age, gender, weight, height, income, etc.
In statistical research, variables are typically classified into two types: independent variables and dependent variables. The independent variable is the variable that is being manipulated or controlled by the researcher, and it is hypothesized to have an effect on the dependent variable. The dependent variable is the variable that is being observed or measured, and its values are expected to change as a result of the manipulation of the independent variable. (OpenAI, 2023)
The Virtual Learning Environment, also known as Blackboard. A web-based platform where the materials and resources for your modules and academic course can be accessed.