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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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1.3 What academic sources look like

Academic and specialist sources, such as the ones you have just considered, may have different purposes and contain different kinds of information but they all aim to present content in a clear way. This is why they all follow a clear and predictable structure.

The structure of each type of source depends on its purpose. For example, to help readers to find a specific term easily and quickly, dictionaries arrange words and their definitions in alphabetical order. Once readers understand the way the words are listed, looking up a word is not difficult.

Academic articles or book chapters also follow a clear and predictable structure. They normally contain an introduction, several paragraphs and a conclusion. Paragraphs may also be grouped into sections. This is their typical structure:

An image showing the typical structure of a journal article or a book chapter.
Figure 3 The typical structure of a journal article or a book chapter

Activity 3

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

The components of a typical article or book chapter are listed below. Match each component to its definition.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Paragraph

  2. Conclusion

  3. Introduction

  4. Main body of the text

  • a.Summarises the content of the main body of the text.

  • b.Mentions the text’s content and organisation.

  • c.Discusses one specific topic.

  • d.Contains paragraphs and sections.

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = c
  • 2 = a
  • 3 = b
  • 4 = d

In this section you have seen how dictionaries, chapters and journal articles are organised. Other texts such as newspaper articles, web pages and fact sheets are organised differently. If you enrol on a university course, you will gradually learn to recognise the specific structure of different texts and this knowledge will help you when you read academic texts.