句型

General Function 5. Defining terms

2022-03-28 07:41:15 simyang 0

Defining terms

In academic work students are often expected to give definitions of key words and phrases in order to demonstrate to their tutors that they understand these terms clearly. More generally, however, academic writers define terms so that their readers understand exactly what is meant when certain key terms are used. When important words are not clearly understood misinterpretation may result. In fact, many disagreements (academic, legal, diplomatic, personal) arise as a result of different interpretations of the same term. In academic writing, teachers and their students often have to explore these differing interpretations before moving on to study a topic.

Introductory phrases

The term ‘X’ was first used by …
The term ‘X’ can be traced back to …
Previous studies mostly defined X as …
The term ‘X’ was introduced by Smith in her …
Historically, the term ‘X’ has been used to describe …
It is necessary here to clarify exactly what is meant by …
This shows a need to be explicit about exactly what is meant by the word ‘X’.


Simple three-part definitions


A university isan institutionwhere knowledge is produced and passed on to others
Social Economics may be defined asthe branch of economics[which is] concerned with the measurement, causes, and consequences of social problems.
Research may be defined asa systematic processwhich consists of three elements or components: (1) a question, problem, or hypothesis, (2) data, and (3) analysis and interpretation of data.
Braille isa systemof touch reading and writing for blind people in which raised dots on paper represent the letters of the alphabet.
General meanings or application of meanings

The term ‘X’ refers to …
X can broadly be defined as …
X can be loosely described as …
The term ‘X’ encompasses A), B), and C).
X can be defined as … It encompasses …
The term ‘X’ has come to be used to refer to …
The term ‘X’ is generally understood to mean …
In the literature, the term tends to be used to refer to …
In broad terms, X can be defined as any stimulus that is …
Whereas X refers to the operations of …, Y refers to the …
The broad use of the term ‘X’ is sometimes equated with …
The term ‘X’ has been used to refer to situations in which …
The term ‘disease’ refers to a biological event characterised by …
The term ‘X’ is a relatively new name for a Y, commonly referred to as …
Defined as X, obesity is now considered a worldwide epidemic and is associated with …

Indicating varying definitions

The definition of X has evolved.
There are multiple definitions of X.
Several definitions of X have been proposed.
In the field of X, various definitions of X are found.
The term ‘X’ embodies a multitude of concepts which …
This term has two overlapping, even slightly confusing meanings.
Widely varying definitions of X have emerged (Smith and Jones, 1999).
Despite its common usage, X is used in different disciplines to mean different things.
Since the definition of X varies among researchers, it is important to clarify how the term is …


The meaning of this termhas evolved.
has varied over time.
has been extended to refer to …
has been broadened in recent years.
has not been consistent throughout …
has changed somewhat from its original definition …
Indicating difficulties in defining a term

X is a contested term.
X is a rather nebulous term …
X is challenging to define because …
A precise definition of X has proved elusive.
A generally accepted definition of X is lacking.
Unfortunately, X remains a poorly defined term.
There is no agreed definition on what constitutes …
There is little consensus about what X actually means.
There is a degree of uncertainty around the terminology in …
These terms are often used interchangeably and without precision.
Numerous terms are used to describe X, the most common of which are ….
The definition of X varies in the literature and there is terminological confusion.
Smith (2001) identified four abilities that might be subsumed under the term ‘X’: a) …
‘X’ is a term frequently used in the literature, but to date there is no consensus about …
X is a commonly-used notion in psychology and yet it is a concept difficult to define precisely.
Although differences of opinion still exist, there appears to be some agreement that X refers to …

Specifying terms that are used in an essay or thesis

The term ‘X’ is used here to refer to …
In the present study, X is defined as …
The term ‘X’ will be used solely when referring to …
In this essay, the term ‘X’ will be used in its broadest sense to refer to all …
In this paper, the term that will be used to describe this phenomenon is ‘X’.
In this dissertation, the terms ‘X’ and ‘Y’ are used interchangeably to mean …
Throughout this thesis, the term ‘X’ is used to refer to informal systems as well as …
While a variety of definitions of the term ‘X’ have been suggested, this paper will use the definition first suggested by Smith (1968) who saw it as …

Referring to people’s definitions: author prominent

For Smith (2001), X means …
Smith (2001) uses the term ‘X’ to refer to …
Smith (1954) was apparently the first to use the term …
In 1987, psychologist John Smith popularized the term ‘X’ to describe …
According to a definition provided by Smith (2001:23), X is ‘the maximally …
This definition is close to those of Smith (2012) and Jones (2013) who define X as …
Smith, has shown that, as late as 1920, Jones was using the term ‘X’ to refer to particular …
One of the first people to define nursing was Florence Nightingale (1860), who wrote: ‘… …’
Chomsky writes that a grammar is a ‘device of some sort for producing the ….’ (1957, p.11).
Aristotle defines the imagination as ‘the movement which results upon an actual sensation.’
Smith et al. (2002) have provided a new definition of health: ‘health is a state of being with …

Referring to people’s definitions: author non-prominent

X is defined by Smith (2003: 119) as ‘… …’
The term ‘X’ is used by Smith (2001) to refer to …
X is, for Smith (2012), the situation which occurs when …
A further definition of X is given by Smith (1982) who describes …
The term ‘X’ is used by Aristotle in four overlapping senses. First, it is the underlying …
X is the degree to which an assessment process or device measures … (Smith et al., 1986).

Commenting on a definition
This definitionincludes …
allows for …
highlights the …
helps distinguish …
takes into account …
poses a problem for …
will continue to evolve.
can vary depending on …
was agreed upon after …
has been broadened to include …
The following definition isintended to …
modelled on …
too simplistic:
useful because …
problematic as …
inadequate since …
in need of revision since …
important for what it excludes.
the most precise produced so far.


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