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Glossary of Academic Terms: Home

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You will meet lots of new and unfamiliar terms at University.  Here you will find commonly used terms and their meanings - 

Academic Terms
General terms you might come across during your study.

Assessment Types
All the different types of assessments which are used across the University.

Instructional Terms
Terms you'll find in assignment questions.

Subject Terms
Specialist terms which you'll find in subject areas.

Getting Help
Learning Development Tutors work with students to help ensure they have the knowledge, skills and confidence to be successful learners.  For more information and to book a tutorial see - Learning Development Tutors.

General terms you might come across during your study - 

Knowledge of how to speak and act within a particular discourse, and the reading and writing that occur within the discipline to facilitate this learning.

A full listing of all the sources cited in your work. It is arranged in alphabetical order by author’s surname or, when there is no author, by title and presented at the end of the document. See - Harvard referencing for further information.

A reference made in the text to a source of information. This can be in the form of a direct quotation, summarising, or paraphrasing. At UCA, we use the Harvard Style of referencing. See - Harvard Referencing for further information.

To work jointly with others on the same piece of work.

Facts that are generally known.

An idea.

A collection of rights that are given to someone who creates an original work of authorship like a literary work, artwork, performance, or film etc. For further information see - Copyright.

An argument offered in opposition to another argument.

Not just accepting what you are told but a willingness to question it, to think it through for yourself. Another way of putting this is to take a challenging attitude to what you read, hear and observe and being able to develop robust and cogent arguments of your own; identifying, evaluating, and analysing evidence to guide decision making. See - Critical Thinking for further information.

Give your judgment as to the value or truth of something. Discuss all the available evidence and examine all the implications. Cite specific instances and arguments as to how the criteria apply in this case. See - Critical Thinking for further information.

A written or spoken communication or debate.

A term used in the Harvard referencing system for works having more than two authors. The citation gives the first surname listed in the publication, followed by et al.

Information, examples and resources used to support your claim or thesis.

The response given by your tutor or peers about your work and performance, which identifies strengths and weaknesses, so as to advise you on how to improve your work (and grade)

A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.

Written work that you contribute to regularly, recording the development of your idea and feelings. Or, a magazine or publication that is published regularly about a particular subject.

Provide a broad outline structure for each topic to be covered. Lectures offer a good way of covering a lot of information and, more importantly, of conveying ideas to many people at once. 

Rationale for the methods you have used for data gathering and data analysis.

A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

A limit or boundary which defines the scope of a particular enquiry, process or activity.

Paraphrasing (or indirect citation) is when you explain another person's ideas in your own words. It should be used for the same reasons as direct quotations, to provide evidence for your discussion. You must attribute the source of the idea if it is not your own by referencing.See UCA's Harvard Referencing guide.

A process used in academic publishing to check the accuracy and quality of a work intended for publication, when the author’s draft of a book or article is read by other experts in the subject, who decide whether it is valid or needs to be corrected.

An assertion or proposition which forms the basis for a work or theory.

Provides an outline of your area of enquiry, methodology and initial bibliography.

Exact phrases or sentences taken directly from your sources. They should be used to underpin an idea or to support your argument and not as a substitute for it.

The justification for an idea or course of action

The full publication details of the work cited.

A list of references at the end of your assignment that includes the full information for your citations so that the reader can easily identify and retrieve each work (journal articles, books, web pages etc.).

The act of thinking about our experiences in order to learn from them for the future. Reflective practice is ‘defined as the process involved in making sense of events, situations, or actions that occur in practice settings; reflection, in this sense, emphasises a thoughtful approach to understanding experience, whether in real time or retrospectively’ (Boros, 2009, cited in Oelofsen, 2012). See Reflective Practice guide.

Generally, much smaller groups than lectures and are an opportunity for students to explore further the topics/theory/concepts introduced in the lecture.  The purpose of the seminar is not just to receive information, but to develop a deep understanding of that information. 

A person, image or document that provides information.

Drawing together ideas, theories, or themes from texts or your own ideas and theories with these texts.

The subject of a talk, piece of writing, exhibition, etc.; a topic or an idea that recurs in a work of art.

A set of connections between ideas.

An individual responsible for creating or using a theory

A set of rules and ideas on which an explanation is based.

Designed to reinforce learning by providing opportunities for discussion and interaction.  Workshops will often be focussed on the application of the theory and knowledge that has been engaged with through the lectures and seminars.  In workshops you will usually engage in individual or group activities led by the tutor/s.

Assessment is the process by which the University evaluates the knowledge, understanding and skills of its students. There are two forms of assessment -

  • Formative Assessment
    Evaluates student learning and compares it against a standard or benchmark to inform learning but is not recorded as a statement of achievement.
  • Summative Assessment
    Evaluates student learning and compares it against a standard or benchmark and is recorded as a statement of achievement.

The following is an indicative list of assessment types used across the university - 

A summary of a book, article or event within a word limit of between 300–500 words.

A newspaper or magazine advertisement giving information about a product in the style of an editorial or objective journalistic article.

A list of secondary and primary sources on a specified topic presented in UCA Harvard style, the annotations evaluate the sources.

Use real or adapted versions of a grant application form to propose a research project.

To make or design an object.

A piece of writing included with others in a newspaper, magazine, or other publication within a specified word limit, usually 500–1000 words.

A summary that describes what you make and why you make it within a specified word limit.

A statement that is written in an informal or conversational style for a web audience, within a specified word limit.

A record of research focused on a particular person, group, situation or event, within a specified word limit of between 1000–2000 words.

A review of a literary or artistic work or production, within a specified time or word limit.

An extended essay exploring in greater depth a specified research question or area of practice, within a word limit of 6,000–10,000 words.

A written outline of a research plan for a dissertation.

A written piece of work in which you present your position on a topic and support that position with evidence.

An outline structure of an essay which allows students to demonstrate how they’d approach an essay task.

A test of learning held under supervision and within a fixed time period.

An assessment of learning and team working, which requires a specified or agreed outcome.

A piece of writing demonstrating knowledge, understanding and critical evaluation of the academic literature on a specified or agreed topic.

A diagram showing visually the relationship between concepts and ideas.

Involves students assessing the work of their peers against a given criteria.

The presentation of a play, concert, or other form of artistic event.

A presentation, usually selling an idea, service or product, designed to persuade an audience.

An audio assessment such as narrative, commentary, or individual or group presentation.

A collection of evidence, with a coherent structure, presented for assessment which includes one or more formats.

A static visual presentation (physical or electronic) which explores a specific question or topic.

An oral speech on a particular question or topic for a specified length of time, often supported by a visual guide and tailored to a particular audience.

A structured meeting to clarify and coordinate all aspects of a performance, create schedules and set deadlines whilst considering the priorities of all roles.

A personal record of students’ work and learning experiences. Mapping development step by step whilst also offering the opportunity to look back across the whole period reflectively - can either be for a specific project or series of projects.

A collaborative activity based on a scripted on non-scripted piece of performance art.

Involves a set scenario whereby participants are asked to adopt a particular role to test communication skills, problem-solving skills and teamwork.

A structured written account of something that has been observed, heard, done or investigated.

A document visually detailing the development of a project or piece of practice.

A series of questions which can be multiple choice, true/false, ranking, free text or file upload.

An oral examination focused on an assignment.

A short reflective film of something that has been observed, heard, done, or investigated.

Development of an online page or series of pages.

Instruction terms are words commonly used in assignment questions. They instruct or direct you in the approach you should take to an assignment. It is important you understand what is required before you start work - 

Explain, clarify, give the reasons for. (Quite different from "Give an account of..." which is more like "Describe in detail".)

Break an issue down into its component parts, discuss in-depth and show how they interrelate.

Make a case, based on appropriate evidence and logically structured for and/or against some point of view.

Consider the value or importance of something, paying attention to positive, negative and disputable aspects, and citing the judgements of any known authorities as well as your own.

State clearly and objectively your opinions on the material or subject in question. Support your views with reference to suitable evidence or explanations

Look for similarities and differences between two or more things

To position an image, text or artefact in context, investigating the situation in which an action or idea took place to discover what has influenced the creation of the subject of study.

Single out and emphasise the differences and dissimilarities between two or more things.

Give your judgement as to the value or truth of something. Discuss all the available evidence and examine all the implications. Cite specific instances and arguments as to how the criteria apply in this case.

Set down the precise meaning of something, giving sufficient detail as to allow it to be distinguished from other similar things.

Show the existence or truth of (something) by giving proof or evidence

Give a detailed and comprehensive account of something.

Investigate and examine by careful argument. Explore the implications and the advantages and disadvantages. Weigh up the arguments and draw conclusions.

Make an appraisal as to the worth of something in the light of its truth or utility; cite evidence and argument in support of your case.

Clarify, interpret, describe and account for.

Explore the case for a stated proposition or explanation, probably arguing for a less than total acceptance of the proposition.

Pick out what you regard as the key features of something, perhaps making clear the criteria you use in doing so.

Make clear and explicit by the discussion of concrete examples.

Clarify or explain something, perhaps indicating how it relates to some other thing or looking at it in a particular way.

Argue a case expressing valid reasons for accepting a particular interpretation or conclusion.

Give the main features or the general principles of a subject, omitting minor details and emphasising structure or arrangement.

Show how things are connected, and how they possibly affect, cause, or resemble each other.

Make a survey of, examining the subject critically.

Present the main points in a brief, clear form.

Give a concise account of the main points, omitting details and examples.

Describe in narrative form the progress, development or sequence of events from some particular point.