70 useful sentences for academic writing

Back in the late 90s, in the process of reading for my MA dissertation, I put together a collection of hundreds of sentence stems that I felt could help me with my academic writing later on. And they did. Immensely. After the course was over, I stacked my sentences away, but kept wondering if I could ever put them to good use and perhaps help other DELTA / Trinity / MA / PhD students who know exactly what they want to say, but might have trouble finding the best way to say it.

ABC portable typewriterSo here are 70 sentences extracted and adapted from the original compilation, which ran for almost 10 pages. This list is organized around keywords (rather than functions / discourse categories) so I can explore each word’s ecosystem better, highlight common collocations and so on.

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. Bear in mind that, within each group, some examples are slightly more formal / less frequent than others.
4. I am not claiming, by any stretch of the imagination, that these are the most common ways to use each word. These are just examples of academic discourse that I collected randomly in the late 90s.

Argue
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 might be (convincingly) 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: ___.

Claim
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 ___.

Data
a. The data gathered in the [pilot study] suggests / suggest that ___.
b. The data appears / appear to suggest that ___.
c. The data yielded by this [study] provides strong / convincing evidence that ___. (yielded = generated)
d. A closer look at the data indicates that ___.
e. The data generated by [X] is / are reported in [table 1].
f. The aim of this [section] is to generalize beyond the data and ___.

In modern usage, data can also be treated as a mass / uncountable noun, like information. Before you submit your work, check whether the institution you’re writing for / on behalf of prefers data + plural verb.

Debate
a. [X] has fostered debate on ___. (fostered = encouraged)
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 ___.

Discussion
a. In this section / chapter, the discussion will point to ___.
b. The foregoing discussion implies that ___. (foregoing = that came before)
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 ___.

Evidence (Remember: Evidence is uncountable.)
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 corroborating the notion that ___. (corroborating = confirming)
d. Further evidence supporting / against [X] may lie in the findings of [Y], who ___.
e. These results provide confirmatory evidence that ___.

Ground
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 ___.

Issue
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 ___. (clouded = made less clear)
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] ___.

Literature

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 ___.

Premise
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: ___.

Research
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 ___.

View
a. The consensus view seems to be that ___.
b. [X] propounds the view that ___. (propound = put forward for consideration)
c. Current research (does not) appear(s) to validate such a view.
d. There have been dissenters to the view that ___. (dissenter = someone who disagrees) 
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 (very much) 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 ___.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Comments

  1. Hi Luiz!

    This is incredible! Many, many thanks! I’ll start putting these into use immediately in my DipTESOL assignments.

    =)

  2. Great list, Otávio! Thank you!

  3. Thanks, Luiz! This list is gonna be so useful!

  4. What a marvelous list. Thanks for your generosity.

  5. Ricardo Barros says:

    Really nice, Luiz. I particularly like ‘yielded’. I’ll definitely try to put them to good use during my next assignment.

  6. Ramgopal CANCHERLA says:

    Wonderful Listing Dear Brother :)
    Why were some alphabets left out ? Sure there would have been a GR8 reason !
    Am converting this into a ppt and share it for many to more to access – hope no problems brother ….
    LOL n Laughter all the way from Mumbai, INDIA

    • Luiz Otávio says:

      Ramgopal,
      Thank you for dropping by. You can share the list with as many people as you like, of course. Please do acknowledge the source, though, ok? Maybe this will encourage more people to visit the blog.

  7. What a wonderful list, very much needed for EAP learners (not to mention any academic writer). I’ll definitely make use of it. Thanks. :)

  8. Dora Berry says:

    Obrigada Otavio,
    This is a great source and I will definitely use it in my current literature review class. My professor provide us with your Blog. I am very glad for two reasons, your Blog is a great source, and I think you are Brazilian ? I am from São Paulo, and as an International student I struggle written in English.

    Muito… muito obrigada pelas dicas.

  9. Such a great work! It helps me to improve my English…Keep It Up.

  10. Dr. Pedro Cevallos says:

    Data is the plural of datum. Therefore, it should read “The data appear…”

    • Luiz Otávio says:

      Hi, Pedro
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Both usages are correct. If one treats “data” as a singular / mass noun, a singular noun should be used. Here’s what the Oxford Dictionary has to say:
      “In Latin, data is the plural of datum and, historically and in specialized scientific fields , it is also treated as a plural in English, taking a plural verb, as in the data were collected and classified . In modern non-scientific use, however , despite the complaints of traditionalists, it is often not treated as a plural. Instead, it is treated as a mass noun, similar to a word like information, which cannot normally have a plural and which takes a singular verb. Sentences such as data was (as well as data were ) collected over a number of years are now widely accepted in standard English.”
      So I think it ultimately depends on the stylistic constraints of the piece of writing at hand and on the norms adopted by the academic institution you’re writing for / on behalf of. But if history is anything to go by, I think very soon “datum” will be as rare as, for example, “agendum.”

  11. christine says:

    What a wonderful list: thank you for sharing. I’m going (with your permission) to use it with my EAP class. I have other lists (including from the Manchester phrase bank) but this is a list of phrases that have been used rather than could be used.

    • Luiz Otávio says:

      Christine, I appreciate your kind words. Of course you can use it! If you feel that your audience would profit from any of the stuff on this blog (aimed at teachers of English as a foreign language), please just say where the sentences were taken from, ok? Every little thing than can increase traffic helps! And you’re so right about the “what people do say” vs. “what people could say” dilemma. Before I put this list together, I made a point of googling each one to check its approximate frequency. This alone sifted out at least half of my original list. Best regards from São Paulo, Brazil.

  12. Jéssica Viana says:

    Thank you, Luiz!

    These are invaluable, and they’ll be put to immediate use in ICELT tasks.

    Thanks a million!

  13. Thanks a zillion for sharing, Luiz! Assessors worldwide will be amazed at how much the quality of candidates’ writing has improved! hehehe

  14. Very useful Christine and thanks for sharing.

  15. What a fabulous resource for international students as well! Thank you.

  16. Just great! Thanks for sharing it.

  17. Patricia Spezzano says:

    Thanks for sharing. Definitely I will use some ideas for my TEFL essay.

  18. Chris Bohlander says:

    Courageous, generous and much appreciated.

  19. Denise Labelle says:

    Bonjour, English is not my first language and the information contained on this page helps me to construct proper essay sentences. Obrigada !

    • Luiz Otávio says:

      Bonjour, Denise. As a non-native speaker myself, I know the feeling and I’m glad I was able to help!
      Merci!

  20. nicorobin says:

    thank you for this! it helps me tremendously :)

  21. You seriously saved my life when I was writing a paper due the very next day. I have bookmarked it and it will be my go-to blog for future writing assignments! Thank you for your contribution.

  22. Thank you for this- it is fabulous!

  23. Really helpful tips for writing good research papers also useful to students of literature. Great tips indeed. I think these tips must be shared with every student of literature as there are lot many things they have to know.

  24. Thanks a lot!!!! What an incredible work!! I will use it with my students :)

  25. Incredible! Senor Barros, thank you for sharing. I’ve never seen something like this before–good prompts for writing.

    Ken (ESL Teacher from Thailand)

  26. These sentences are Fantabulous…!!! (Thumbs Up For You)
    (y)

  27. Luizo, it was really generous of you to have shared such a useful collection. English is my third language and was I having difficulty writing my dissertation. Hopefully your gift will help. I cannot thank you enough. I hope one day I too can help by uploading something this useful, free. You are a saint.

  28. It’s awesome for me to have a web site, which is helpful
    designed for my experience. thanks admin

  29. Sweet blog! I foumd it while browsing on Yahoo News.
    Do yoou have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!

    Appreciate it

  30. thanks baby
    your sentences are great I am going to use them as much as possible

  31. Нighly descriptive post, I lіked that a lot. Will there
    be a part 2?

  32. 10000 times thanks

  33. Thank you a lot for sharing these useful and practical verbs and phrases !
    Best wishes
    Habib

  34. Nice Work! Exactly what I was looking for classroom debates!

  35. Honestly, I would seriously LOVE to see the original 10 page list!!!!

  36. Nice list. Thank you.

  37. Estelle Evans says:

    Thank you so much – you have just saved me hours of trying to make my Masters assignment sound convincing!

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  39. Tohid Asadi says:

    Sorta cool!
    Thanks for what you’ve done Luiz…

  40. Tohid Asadi says:

    And give a try at updating the list, if possible.

  41. Thank you alto, this is a great list. I prepare for TOEFL but my writing is awful, I hope by using this list it improve. Can I send my writing to you?

  42. laxmidhar panda says:

    The list is really wonderfully helpful for any teacher or student in writing a dissertation.

  43. A. Lucero D. Velazquez says:

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  54. This is an awesome collection dude!
    I was looking something like this for my writing in TOEFL test!

  55. Paolo Annunziato says:

    Thanks for the list! It’ll really give me a boost for my future works!

  56. Thank you very much. It is very helpful

  57. thank you for the list, most helpful. Luella

  58. Check my youtube videos out, i am teaching grammar for brazilian learners – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJYiXH9kKoLD5AK2BomhMmw

  59. i been using these for a yr and my grades incresed dramatically now i have got an op 2 i can’t thank u enough for these thank u

  60. This is very useful. IF I rate it I will 10. But I hope u will also common phrases that commonly use in school reporting. Btw, I am a filipino.

  61. This is brilliant! thanks!

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