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Word ListsGSL, AWL, ACL... the list goes on!

There are many word lists for general and academic English study. This page describes the most important ones, first giving information on why word lists are important, then giving an overview of the different types of word list, and finally giving a more detailed summary of individual lists. The summary contains links to other pages on the site which have more detail of each list and (often) a complete copy of the list itself.


[Note: Links to other pages are in blue, links to other parts of this page are in red.]


Why are word lists important?

One reason word lists are important is they enable learners to narrow the focus of what to study. English is estimated to have around 1 million words, with around 170,000 words in current use. The average native speaker knows between 20,000 and 35,000 words. These are daunting totals for learners of English. However, some words are more frequent than others. Some general word lists cover 80-90% of words in texts, using under 3000 words. Word lists therefore provide students with an efficient way to focus on the vocabulary they need in order to understand or produce texts.


Word lists are also important since they provide a clear starting point, and enable students (and teachers) to set goals and measure vocabulary growth. Learning of vocabulary in many classrooms is incidental, that is, occurring by chance, without a clear plan. Word lists, especially academic ones, provide a clear, concrete list of suitable words that students can study systematically.


Academic word lists are also important since these words may be new and challenging for students, but may not be taught by subject teachers. This is in contrast to technical words, which, because of their importance and specialist nature, are likely to be explained by teachers.


Word lists are also important for teachers, since they enable them to analyse texts, for example using word list highlighters, modify texts for classroom use, and design suitable courses.


In short, word lists allow students to:

  • narrow the focus of what vocabulary to study;
  • know where to start studying;
  • set vocabulary learning goals;
  • identify important words which may not be taught;
  • assess vocabulary knowledge and growth.

In addition, word lists allow teachers to:

  • analyse texts;
  • modify texts for classroom use;
  • design courses.

Types of word list

Word lists can be divided into two types, namely general and academic word lists, although as will be explained below, academic lists can be sub-divided into general academic lists and field-specific (i.e. subject-specific) lists. An additional way to classify word lists is those which contain only single words (the majority of the lists are this type), and multi-word lists. A final way to classify lists is written vs. spoken. Most of the lists that exist are for written English, though many of the multi-word lists include both a spoken and written component.


General word lists (single words)

Interest in word lists began with studies of core or general vocabulary, that is, words having high frequency across a wide range of texts. The first general word list to have important use in language study was the General Service List (GSL), created by Michael West in 1953. This list has been used to design EFL materials and courses, and, despite its age, it is probably still the most widely used list of general vocabulary. Originally consisting of 2000 words (called headwords) and their corresponding word families, it was revised in 1995 by Bauman and Culligan, with an increase in the number of headwords from 2000 to 2284.


One criticism of the GSL is its inclusion of too many low frequency words, some of which are a product of its age (e.g. shilling, headdress, cart, servant) while excluding more recent vocabulary (e.g. computer, television, Internet). A second criticism is that it uses word families. The assumption behind the use of word families is that once one word is known, other members of the family can be easily recognised; however, this may not always be the case. Examples of distantly related word family pairs in the GSL are: please / unpleasantly, part / particle and value / invaluable. Additionally, some word forms are used more frequently than others, and the inclusion of less frequent forms adds an unnecessarily burden to the learning load of students.

general lists

These criticisms have led to the creation of two updated versions of the list, both devised in 2013, both called the New General Service List. Both lists use inflected forms and variant spellings (called lemmas), rather than extended word families. The first, abbreviated to NGSL, was developed by Browne, Culligan and Phillips. It is a list of 2801 words which give over 90% coverage. It was generated from a corpus of 273 million words, 100 times larger than that used for the GSL. The second list, abbreviated to new-GSL, was devised by Brezina and Gablasova from a corpus of over 12 billion words. It consists of 2494 words and gives around 80% coverage.


General word lists (multi-word)

The above are all single word lists. There are several multi-word lists for general vocabulary, such as the First 100 Spoken Collocations (First 100) by Shin and Nation (2008), and the Phrasal Expressions List (PHRASE List) by Martinez and Schmitt (2012). However, since none of these is used as a basis for academic word lists, in contrast to the general lists given above, they are not explained here in detail.


Academic word lists (single words)

Researchers have long been interested in defining and isolating academic vocabulary, and there have been many attempts to devise lists which are of general use to students of academic English.


The first widely used academic word list was the University Word List (UWL), created in 1984 by Xue and Nation. It comprises 836 word families, divided into levels based on frequency. It excludes words from the GSL, and gives 8.5% coverage of academic texts. It was developed by combining four existing lists.


A major update to the UWL came in 2000, when Averil Coxhead, of the University of Wellington, devised the Academic Word List (AWL). This list has been hugely influential and is perhaps the most widely known and used academic word list. Like the UWL, it comprises word families and is divided into levels based on frequency. It gives similar coverage, around 10% of texts; however, it does so using far fewer word families, 570 in total. Like the UWL, it excludes words from the GSL. It was devised in a more systematic way, using a corpus of texts from a range of academic disciplines.


Although the AWL is still widely used, it has received criticism in a number of areas. One criticism is that it is based on the GSL, which is a very old list, dating from 1953. A second criticism is that, like the GSL, it uses word families, with the same problems as mentioned for the GSL above.

academic lists

In response to these criticisms, other academic word lists have been created. One of these is the Academic Keyword List (AKL), developed by Paquot in 2010. This consists of 930 words which appear more frequently in academic texts than non-academic ones, a tendency called keyness, which leads to the name of the list.


A second list is the New Academic Word List (NAWL) by Browne, Culligan and Phillips. This list responds to the criticisms of the AWL by using lemmas rather than word families, and by basing itself on a more updated general service list, the NGSL, created by the authors at the same time, in 2013.


A third updated list is the Academic Vocabulary List (AVL), developed by Gardner and Davies in 2013. This list, which is also lemma-based, selects academic words by considering their ratio in academic versus non-academic texts, with words needing to occur 1.5 times as often in the academic texts as in non-academic ones. This is similar to the approach used to devise the AKL (above), and in contrast to lists like the AWL and NAWL which exclude an existing general service list. In addition, the authors considered the range of words in the academic disciplines used in their corpus, the dispersion, and discipline measure, which required that words could not occur more than three times the expected frequency in any of the disciplines. This approach has been influential in the development of other, field-specific lists, as explained below.


There are several lists specifically for academic spoken English (as distinct from the spoken components of the multi-word lists, below). These include the English Spoken Academic Wordlist, devised by Nesi in 2002, the Academic Spoken Word List (ASWL), devised by Dang et al. in 2017, and the Vocabulary for Academic Lecture Listening word list (VALL), devised by Thompson in 2015.


Academic word lists (multi-word)
multi-word

Focusing exclusively on single words can lead learners to overlook valuable multi-word constructions which are commonly used in academic English. For example, while use of the word thing is generally considered to be poor academic style, it occurs in several phrases used by expert writers, such as the same thing as and other things being equal.


Several multi-word lists have been developed for academic English. One is the Academic Formulas List (AFL), devised by Simpson-Vlach and Ellis in 2009. This list gives the most common formulaic sequences in academic English, i.e. recurring word sequences three to five words long. There are three separate lists: one for formulas that are common in both academic spoken and written English (the 'core' AFL), one for spoken English, and one for written English.


Another multi-word list is the Academic Collocation List (ACL), developed by Ackermann and Chen in 2013. The ACL contains 2469 of the most frequent and useful collocations which occur in written academic English.


A third list is the Discourse Connectors List (DCL), devised by Rezvani Kalajahi, Neufeld and Abdullah in 2017. This list classifies and describes 632 discourse connectors, ranking them by frequency in three different registers (academic, non-academic and spoken).


More recently, there is the Academic idioms list, developed by Miller in 2019. This gives 170 idioms which are common in spoken academic English, and 38 which are frequently used in written academic English.


Field-specific academic word lists (single words)

Academic word lists such as the AWL are designed to be used by students of all disciplines. Researchers have found, however, that the AWL and other lists provide varied coverage in different subject areas. For example, the AWL provides 12.0% coverage of the Commerce sub-corpus used to derive the list, but only 9.1% for the Science sub-corpus (with only 6.2% for Biology). Additionally, words in the AWL (and similar lists) occur with different frequencies in different disciplines. For example, words such as legal, policy, income, finance and legislate, which all fall in the first (most frequent) sublist of the AWL, may be common in Business or Finance, but are very infrequent in disciplines such as Chemistry. Words also have different collocations and meanings across different subject areas. Examples are base, which has a special meaning in Chemistry, and bug, which has a different meaning in Computer Science than in general English.


Researchers have therefore become increasingly interested in field-specific (i.e. subject-specific) academic lists, in disciplines ranging from science to business to medicine. These are not technical words, since they are intended to comprise academic (sub-technical) vocabulary.


Broadly speaking, there are three approaches used by researchers when devising field-specific academic lists.


The first of these is to use the GSL and AWL as a starting point, and to devise a third list which supplements the other two. These lists exclude GSL and AWL words, and, since they are based on word family lists, also comprise word families. These lists usually replace the 'A' of 'AWL' with a subject specific letter. Examples are the SWL (Science Word List), the BWL#1 (Business Word List #1), the Pharmacology Word List and the CSWL (Computer Science Word List).



field1

The second approach is to assume that learners are already familiar with general vocabulary and to devise a second list which replaces other academic lists such as the AWL or NAWL for specific subject areas. As such, these lists exclude the GSL (or NGSL), but do not exclude any other lists such as the AWL. These lists usually add the subject letter before 'AWL' to derive their name. Examples are the MAWL (Medical Academic Word List) and the NAWL (Nursing Academic Word List), both of which exclude the GSL and are word family lists (like the GSL), and the EAWL (Economics Academic Word List), which excludes the NGSL and is a lemma-based list (like the NGSL).


The third approach is to devise a single, completely independent list, which includes words based on ratio, dispersion, and other measures, in a similar way the AVL. These lists, which are usually lemma-based, tend to use 'AVL' in their name, preceded by an abbreviation for the subject. Examples are the MAVL (Medical Academic Vocabulary List) and the CSAVL (Computer Science Academic Vocabulary List). The Chemistry Academic Word List (CAWL), although it broadly uses the same approach, uses word families, and also predates the creation of the AVL, and does not follow the same naming pattern.


There are at least two field-specific lists of spoken English, both devised by Dang in 2018. They are the Hard Science Spoken Word List (HSWL), and the Soft Science Spoken Word List (SSWL).


Field-specific academic word lists (multi-word)
field2

There have, at time of writing, been few attempts to create field-specific multi-word lists. One is the Computer Science Multi-Word List (CSMWL), created by Minshall at the same time as the Computer Science Word List (CSWL). However, it comprises only 23 items.


A second, more recent example is the Nursing Collocation List (NCL), developed in 2020 by Mandić and Dankić. It comprises 488 collocations which occur frequently in nursing journal articles.


Summary

The following image, and table below, provide an overview of the major word lists. Spoken word lists are only included in the table (in italics). All word lists (except spoken ones) are explained in more detail later. Note: there is a higher resolution copy of the following image in the infographics section.


overview

Single wordMulti-word
General

• GSL (General Service List) 1953

• NGSL (New General Service List) 2013

• New-GSL (New General Service List) 2013

These exist, but none are used as a basis for academic lists.

Academic

• UWL (University Word List) 1984

• AWL (Academic Word List) 2000

• AKL (Academic Keyword List) 2010

• NAWL (New Academic Word List) 2013

• AVL (Academic Vocabulary List) 2013

• English Spoken Academic Wordlist 2002

• ASWL (Academic Spoken Word List) 2017

• VALL (Vocabulary for Academic Lecture Listening word list) 2015

• AFL (Academic Formulas List) 2009

• ACL (Academic Collocation List) 2013

• DCL (Discourse Connectors List) 2017

• Academic idioms list 2019

Field-specific

• SWL (Science Word List) 2007

• BWL#1 (Business Word List #1) 2007

• PWL (Pharmacology Word List) 2007

• MAWL (Medical Academic Word List) 2008

• AgroCorpus List 2009

• BEL (Basic Engineering List) 2009

• BWL#2 (Business Word List #2) 2011

• CSWL (Computer Science Academic Word List) 2013

• CAWL (Chemistry Academic Word List) 2013

• MAVL (Medical Academic Vocabulary List) 2015

• NAWL (Nursing Academic Word List) 2015

• EAWL (Environmental Academic Word List) 2015

• EAWL (Economics Academic Word List) 2019

• CSAVL (Computer Science Academic Vocabulary List) 2021

• HSWL (Hard Science Spoken Word List) 2018

• SSWL (Soft Science Spoken Word List) 2018

• CSMWL (Computer Science Multi-Word List) 2013

• NCL (Nursing Collocation List) 2020



References

Granger, S., and Larsson, T. (2021), 'Is core vocabulary a friend or foe of academic writing? Singleword vs multi-word uses of THING', Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 52 (2021) 100999.


Hyland, K. and Tse, P. (2007). 'Is There an “Academic Vocabulary”?', TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 41, No. 2, June 2007.


Radmila Palinkašević, M.A. (2017), 'Specialized Word Lists - Survey of the Literature - Research Perspective', Research in Pedagogy, Vol. 7, Issue 2 (2017), pp. 221-238.


Therova, D. (2020), 'Review of Academic Word Lists', The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, Volume 24, Number 1.


Detailed summary of individual lists

Below is more detail about the lists above. The lists are sorted into the following categories:


General (core) vocabulary single word lists

The following gives a more detailed summary of the general word lists mentioned on this page. Blue links are links to other pages (with even more detail, and, often, a copy of the full word list).


Word list About
General Service List (GSL) Author: West (1953)
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Size: 2284 word families
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Originally a list of the 2000 most frequent word families in English, covering around 80% of various types of texts. Further divided into the 1K (first 1000 words) and 2K (second 1000). Used as the basis for many graded readers and other ESL/EFL materials. The list was revised in 1995 by Bauman and Culligan, and their revision, which is the version most commonly used, contains 2284 words.
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Examples: the, be, of, and, a, to, in, he, have, it
New General Service List (NGSL) Author: Browne, Culligan and Phillips (2013)
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Size: 2801 words
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The New General Service List (NGSL), an update of the GSL, is a list of 2801 words which comprise the most important high-frequency words in English, giving the highest possible coverage with the fewest possible words. Not to be confused with the new-GSL (below), also developed in 2013, the NGSL gives over 90% coverage of the corpus used. The NGSL was generated from a corpus of 273 million words, 100 times larger than that used for the GSL. Presents only inflected forms, not word families. Used as the basis for other lists, e.g. NAWL. Has yet to have the same influence as the GSL.
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Examples: the, be, and, of, to, a, in, have, it, you
New-General Service List (new-GSL) Author: Brezina and Gablasova (2013)
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Size: 2494 words
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The new-General Service List (new-GSL), an update of the GSL, is a list of 2494 words drawn from four different corpora with a total size of 12 billion words. Not to be confused with the NGSL (above), also developed in 2013, the new-GSL gives around 80% coverage of the corpora used, similar to the GSL, though with fewer words overall, 2494 compared to approximately 4100 for the GSL. The 2494 words comprise a core list of 2122 words, which had a similar rank in all four corpora, plus 378 words which were common in the two more recent corpora. Like the NGSL, it uses lemmas i.e. inflected forms, not word families. Does not (yet) appear to have been used as the basis for other lists, and is yet to have the same influence as the GSL.
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Examples: the, be, of, and, a, in, to, have, that, to

Academic single word lists: general purpose

The following are the general academic word lists mentioned earlier.


Word list About
University Word List (UWL) Author: Xue and Nation (1984)
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Size: 836 word families
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One of the first widely used academic word lists, the UWL contains 836 word families divided into levels based on frequency. It excludes words from the GSL, and gives coverage of 8.5% of academic texts. Now largely replaced by the AWL.
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Examples: alternative, analyze, approach, arbitrary, assess, assign, assume, compensate, complex, comply
Academic Word List (AWL) Author: Coxhead (2000)
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Size: 570 word families
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Perhaps the most widely known and used academic word list, the AWL is a list of 570 word families that are not included in the GSL but which appear frequently in academic texts, across a range of disciplines. Divided into 10 sublists based on frequency. It was designed to be an improvement on the UWL, and covers around 10% of words in academic texts: a similar amount to the UWL, but using far fewer word families.
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Examples: analyse, approach, area, assess, assume, authority, available, benefit, concept, consist
Academic Keyword List (AKL) Author: Paquot (2010)
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Size: 930 words
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The Academic Keyword List (AKL) consists of 930 words which appear more frequently in academic texts than non-academic ones. This tendency is called keyness, which leads to the name of the list, since it identifies keywords in academic (vs. non-academic) texts (the AVL, below, uses a similar principle to select words). As such, the AKL does not exclude words from the GSL. 49.6% of words in the AKL appear in the GSL, 38.7% in the AWL, while 11.7% appear in neither list.
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Example words: ability, absence, account, achievement, act, accept, account (for), absolute, above, according to
New Academic Word List (NAWL) Author: Browne, Culligan and Phillips (2013)
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Size: 963 words
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The New Academic Word List (NAWL) is a list of words that frequently appear in academic texts, but which are not contained in the New General Service List (NGSL) (by the same authors). The NGSL and NAWL in combination give 92% coverage of words (86% for the NGSL and 6% for the NAWL). The NAWL differs from the AWL in that it is more up-to-date, using the NGSL rather than the much older GSL as a basis. Additionally, it uses only inflected forms or variant spellings of words, rather than whole word families, meaning that although it has more headwords than the AWL (963 compared to 570), it has fewer word forms overall (2604 compared to 3112).
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Example words: repertoire, obtain, distribution, parameter, aspect, dynamic, impact, domain, publish, denote.
Academic Vocabulary List (AVL) Author: Gardner and Davies (2013)
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Size: 3015 words
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The AVL is a list of 3015 academic words derived from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The list excludes general high-frequency words as well as subject-specific (technical) words, though not by directly excluding any existing list. Key features of the list are ratio (words needed to occur 1.5 times as often in academic texts as in non-academic ones), range (words needed to occur frequently in at least seven of nine academic disciplines), dispersion (words needed to be evenly dispersed among the disciplines) and discipline measure (words could not occur more than three times the expected frequency in any of the disciplines). Like the NAWL and in contrast to the AWL, the AVL is based on words and inflected forms, not word families.
---
Example words: study, group, system, social, provide, however, research, level, result, include.

Academic single word lists: field-specific

The following are the field-specific lists mentioned earlier.


Word list About
Science Word List (SWL) Author: Coxhead and Hirsh (2007)
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Size: 318 word families
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The Science Word List (SWL) provides a list of 318 word families which do not occur in the GSL or AWL but which occur with reasonable frequency and range in written science texts. The authors found that the GSL and AWL in combination give only 80% coverage of science texts, compared to 86.7% for Art, 88.8% for Commerce and 88.5% for Law. The 318 word families in the SWL make up for this shortfall, and provide an extra coverage of 3.79% of the science corpus used to derive the list. In comparison, the SWL gives only 0.61% coverage of an Arts corpus, 0.54% for Commerce and 0.34% for Law, demonstrating that it is a true science list. The SWL is divided into sublists based on frequency, in a similar way to the AWL. It contains 6 sublists, with the first 5 each containing 60 word families, and the last containing 18.
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Example words: cell, species, acid, muscle, protein, molecule, nutrient, dense, laboratory, ion.
Business Word List #1 (BWL#1) Author: Konstantakis (2007)
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Size: 560 word families
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This is the first of two lists called Business Word List (BWL); the second is considered later. To compile the list, the author used a corpus of 33 popular Business English course books published between 1986 and 1996. The list consists of 560 word families, comprising 480 word families selected according to range (needed to occur in at least five of the text books), supplemented by a further 80 word families selected for frequency (needed to appear at least 10 times). The list excludes GSL and AWL words, and therefore provides a third, more specialised and business-oriented list for students. The BWL provided 2.79% coverage of the texts. A separate list of common abbreviations was compiled, which added a further 0.30% coverage. These two lists, together with the GSL and AWL, provided 93.47% coverage, although the author noted that, if proper names and nationalities were included (e.g. London, Mexican), the coverage reached 95.65%, which is above the 95% minimum comprehension threshold. The list is presented in alphabetical order, without frequencies.
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Example words: above-mentioned, accessories, acid, adverse, aerospace, after-sales, agenda, aggressive, aircraft, airline.
Pharmacology Word List (PWL) Author: Fraser (2007)
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Size: 601 word families
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The PWL is intended to provide a list of words which are common in the field of pharmacology, but which are not contained in the GSL or AWL. The PWL gives around 13% coverage of pharmacology journal articles, and 15% coverage of pharmacology textbooks.
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Example words: abbreviation, abnormality, abolish, absorb, abuse, accumbens, acetonitrile, acetate, acetylcholine, acid.
Medical Academic Word List (MAWL) Author: Wang, Liang, and Ge (2008)
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Size: 623 word families
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The Medical Academic Word List (MAWL) was developed from a study of a 1.09 million-word corpus of medical research articles from online resources. It contains 623 word families, and has a coverage of 12.24% of words in the corpus. The MAWL was developed in a similar way to the AWL (Academic Word List), by first eliminating words from the GSL (General Service List). In addition, members of the word family needed to occur in at least half of the 32 subject areas of the corpus, and occur at least 30 times in the corpus. It provides an alternative to the AWL for medical students.
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Example words: cell, data, muscular, significant, clinic, analyze, respond, factor, method, protein.
AgroCorpus List Author: Martínez, Beck, and Panza (2009)
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Size: 92 word families
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The AgroCorpus List is a subset of the AWL, and consists of the word families that were found to be most frequent in a 826,416-word corpus of agriculture research articles.
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Example words: environmental, accumulation, region, variation, chemical.
Basic Engineering List (BEL) Author: Ward (2009)
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Size: 299 words
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The Basic Engineering List (BEL), developed from a corpus of 250,000 words from 25 engineering textbooks, is intended to serve as a foundation for students in reading English language engineering textbooks. The list is purposely short and non-technical in nature, and focuses on word types rather than lemmas or families in order to encourage a focus on individual words.
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Examples words: system, calculate, value, flow, process, column, factors.
Business Word List #2 (BWL#2) Author: Hsu (2011)
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Size: 426 word families
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This is the second of two lists called Business Word List (BWL); the first is considered above. This BWL gives 426 word families which occur frequently in business texts, but which are not general words. This list used a different approach to other specialist lists, by excluding the first 3000 word families from the BNC (British National Corpus), rather than excluding other word lists. The author used a corpus which consisted of business research articles across 20 business subject areas. The word families were chosen by range and frequency in the corpus and accounted for 5.66% of words. The words in the BWL are listed according to which 1000 word section of the BNC they appear in (BNC 4th 1000, BNC 5th 1000, etc.), then by frequency in the business corpus. Range (number of articles they occur in) is also given. As such, this BWL is more detailed than the first one.
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Example words: asset, audit, statistic, review, transact, network, database, acquire, interact, construct
CSWL (Computer Science Word List) Author: Minshall (2013)
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Size: 433 word families
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This Computer Science Word List (CSWL) was designed for use by non-native English speakers studying computer science in UK universities. It was developed from a corpus of 3.66 million words from journal articles and conference proceedings covering 10 sub-disciplines of computer science as defined by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). In combination with the GSL and AWL, the CSWL gave 95.11% coverage of the corpus.
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Example words: accelerate, activate, acyclic, adversary, affine, afore, algebra, algorithm, align, alphabet.
CAWL (Chemistry Academic Word List) Author: Valipouri and Nassaji (2013)
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Size: 1400 word families
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The Chemistry Academic Word List (CAWL) was developed for EFL graduate Chemistry students. It comprises word families which occur frequently in Chemistry research articles. It includes both general and academic words, since many high frequency words have different meanings, frequencies and collocations in specialist contexts. Of the 1400 word families in the CAWL, 683 are from the GSL, 327 are from the AWL, while the remaining 390 occur in neither list. In total, the CAWL gives 81.18% coverage of the CRAC (Chemistry Research Article Corpus) used to derive the list.
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Example words: use, show, react, results, solve, spectrum, can, form, temperature, high.
Medical Academic Vocabulary List (MAVL) Author: Lei and Liu (2015)
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Size: 819 words
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The Medical Academic Vocabulary List (MAVL) was developed based on a study of a 2.7 million-word corpus of medical academic English and a 3.5 million-word corpus of medical English textbooks. The coverage of the MAVL in the two corpuses was 19.44% and 20.18% respectively. The MAVL can be contrasted with the earlier Medical Academic Word List (MAWL), developed in 2008, in four ways. First, unlike the MAWL, which used only medical academic English texts, the MAVL used both medical academic English texts alongside medical English textbooks to develop the list. Second, unlike the MAWL, the MAVL did not exclude high frequency (general) words. Third, the MAVL is lemma-based not word family based. Fourth, it provides greater coverage, with the MAVL covering 19.44% of words in medical academic English texts, compared to 10.52% for the MAWL, and 20.18% of words in medical English textbooks, in contrast to 12.97% for the MAWL.
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Example words: abdominal, ability, abnormal, abnormality, absence, absent, absolute, absorption, accord, accumulate.
NAWL (Nursing Academic Word List) Author: 2015
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Size: 676 word families
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The Nursing Academic Word List (NAWL) contains the most frequent nursing words in a one million word corpus (called the NRAC) consisting of 252 English online nursing research articles. It is intended for graduate nursing students who need to read and publish nursing articles in English. The NAWL covers 13.64% of the NRAC. Not to be confused with the New Academic Word List (above), also abbreviated NAWL.
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Environmental Academic Word List (EAWL) Author: Liu and Han (2015)
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Size: 458 word families
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Not to be confused with the Economics Academic Word List, also abbreviated, EAWL (below), the Environmental Academic Word List (EAWL) is intended for environmental science learners. The list gives 15.43% coverage of the 862,242 word corpus used to derive the list, compared to 12.82% for the AWL.
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Economics Academic Word List (EAWL) Author: O'Flynn (2020)
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Size: 887 words
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The Economics Academic Word List (EAWL) is a list of words which frequently appear in economics texts, but which are not contained in the New General Service List (NGSL). The 887 words of the EAWL are divided into 9 sublists based on frequency. The EAWL, which, like the NGSL, is lemma-based, makes up around 5.5% of the words in university economics texts in English, based on a corpus study of texts ranging from economics journal articles to economics dissertations. Not to be confused with the Environmental Academic Word List, also abbreviated, EAWL (above).
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Example words: administrative, aggregate, agriculture, allocation, aspect, audit, authority, best, better, calculation.
Computer Science Academic Vocabulary List (CSAVL) Author: Roesler (2021)
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Size: 1606 words
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The Computer Science Academic Vocabulary List (CSAVL) comprises two lists for use by Computer Science undergraduate students in the US. The first list gives 904 words, while the second supplementary list, CSAVL-S, gives more technical words. Words were chosen by frequency, range, dispersion and other criteria from a corpus of Computer Science textbooks and journal articles, and together give 19.90% coverage of a second corpus used to evaluate the list. This list, which is a stand-alone list, contrasts with the CSWL, which is intended as a third, supplementary list to the GSL and AWL.
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Example words: system, data, algorithm, such, base, node, model, case, program, information.

Academic multi-word lists: general purpose

The following are the general academic multi-word lists mentioned earlier.


Word list About
Academic Formulas List (AFL) Author: Simpson-Vlach and Ellis (2009)
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Size: 607 formulas
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The Academic Formulas List (AFL) contains the most common formulaic sequences in academic English, i.e. recurring word sequences three to five words long. There are three separate lists: one for formulas that are common in both academic spoken and academic written language (the core AFL, 207 entries), one for formulas which are used frequently in academic spoken English (200 entries), and one for those which are used frequently in academic written English (also 200 entries).
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Examples [core]: in terms of, at the same time, from the point of view, in order to
Examples [spoken]: be able to, blah blah blah, this is the, you know what I mean
Examples [written]: on the other hand, due to the fact that, it should be noted
Academic Collocation List (ACL) Author: Ackermann and Chen (2013)
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Size: 2469 collocations
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The Academic Collocation List (ACL) contains 2469 of the most frequent and useful collocations which occur in written academic English. It was developed using the Pearson International Corpus of Academic English (PICAE), with advice from English teaching experts to ensure the collocations chosen would be useful to students of English. The ACL gives around 1.4% coverage of words in academic English, in contrast to only 0.1% coverage for a general corpus.
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Example collocations: cognitive ability, abstract concept, sexual abuse, (in) academic circles, accept responsibility, allow access (to), brief account, great accuracy, achieve (a) goal, acquire knowledge.
Discourse Connectors List (DCL) Author: Rezvani Kalajahi, Neufeld and Abdullah (2017)
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Size: 632 discourse connectors
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The Discourse Connector List (DCL) classifies and describes 632 discourse connectors, ranking them by frequency in three different registers (academic, non-academic and spoken registers) in two different corpora, namely the BNC (British National Corpus) and COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English).
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Examples: and, or, as, if, when, also, however, after, even, because.
Academic Idioms list Author: Miller (2019)
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Size: 170 idioms (spoken), 38 idioms (written)
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The academic idioms list is derived from the British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus for spoken texts and the Oxford Corpus of Academic English (OCAE) corpus for written texts. Only idioms with a frequency of more than 1.2 per million words in the BASE corpus were included. Together the list accounts for approximately 0.1% of words in academic English.
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Examples [written]: on the other hand, in (the) light of, on the one hand, in the hands of, bear in mind
Examples [spoken]: the balance of power, at the end of the day, the bottom line, take on board, by and large

Academic multi-word lists: field-specific

The following are field-specific, academic multi-word lists.


Word list About
Computer Science Multi-Word List (CSMWL) Author: Minshall (2013)
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Size: 23 collocations
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The Computer Science Multi-Word List (CSMWL) was developed by Minshall at the same time as the CSWL. It comprises only 23 items (listed in full below).
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Complete list of CSMWL collocations: control flow graph, data flow, data mining, data set, data structure, data transfer, lower bound, flash memory, execution time, garbage collection, machine learning, operating system, polynomial time, response time, scratch pad, search engine, social network, software development, software engineer, steady state, upper bound, user interface, virtual machine.
Nursing Collocation List (NCL) Author: Mandić and Dankić (2020)
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Size: 488 collocations
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The Nursing Collocation List (NCL) is a list of 488 collocations which occur frequently in nursing journal articles. It was developed using the nursing scientific article corpus (NSAC), which consisted of 1.1 million words drawn from 262 nursing articles, from ten prominent nursing journals, all published in 2017 or 2018. The list includes only noun-adjective collocations (254, or 52.1% of the total) and noun-noun collocations (234, or 47.9%), since these are the most common in nursing articles.
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Example collocations: alcohol abuse, open access, action research, acute care, medication adherence, chemotherapy administration, hospital admission, adverse effect, age group, significant amount.


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Sheldon Smith

Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 06 October 2021.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of EAPFoundation.com. 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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