August, 2022 Newsletter

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Academic Word Profiler

A new vocabulary learning tool
Sheldon Smith
August 2022

The following is a guide to the academic word profiler, a new tool I've developed for profiling single words (as opposed to whole texts), giving rich detail about frequency in different sub-corpora (academic, fiction, spoken and news) of the 4 million word Baby BNC corpus, as well possible academic synonyms, and much more.

The following information is adapted from a more detailed guide to using the academic word profiler, which you can find on the website.

Want to jump right in? Use the link below. Want to find out more first? Read on.


Once you have selected the options you want and searched for a word, you will see different types of information. The first is frequencies of the word in each of the four sub-corpora. Below is an example for the word academic. This word is much more frequent in the academic corpus than in the others (144.14 words per million, compared to below 20 for the other three), making it a good word to study for academic English.


The second section shows information about different forms of the word (if any) as well as more detailed information about each. Below is the graph for the two forms of academic. It is clear that the adjective form is used much more often than the noun form, making that a more important form to study. wordforms1

There is much more information besides this, but let's keep things simple here. Check out the guide to using the academic word profiler if you want to know more.

The next (and especially unique) section gives possible academic synonyms. It uses the Wordnet database to find synonyms, then cross-references the information with data from the Baby BNC to identify synonyms which are academic, based on the following criteria:
  -  Frequency: at least 10 per million words in academic corpus;
  -  Range: occur in at least 8 texts (out of 30) in academic corpus;
  -  Ratio: occur at least 50% more in academic than fiction texts.

Below is an example for the word study. This word has nine synonyms which meet the criteria: six for the noun form (survey, work, report, discipline, subject, field), and three for the verb form (analyse, examine, consider).


This section is especially useful if searching for a word which is not academic, and you want to find an academic alternative.

The next section shows information on word lists the word appears in. Below is information for the word study.


There is also information on which of the BNC/COCA lists the word appears in. This can be helpful in making judgements about whether the word is useful for study, based on whether it is high-frequency, mid-frequency or low-frequency. The example below shows that study is a high-frequency word.


Identifying collocations

Although the academic word profiler is used for single words, it is always important to study word combinations. The final section identifies any collocations from the Academic Collocation List (ACL) the word appears in. Below are some examples for the word study.



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I'll be using this tool very soon in some new videos for the EAP Foundation YouTube channel. If you haven't already, don't forget to...

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Sheldon Smith

Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 04 September 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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