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Using and developing new vocabulary.

HEAT Stage 5: Writing your assignment.

5.7 Using and developing new vocabulary


Vocabulary refers to the body of words known to an individual. When you start university you will be exposed to a range of new words and terms that may be unfamiliar to you. The key to learning these new words is to turn them from words you know (passive words) into words you use (active words):


words we know

(passive words)


words we use

(active words)


In order to make these new words useable, you need to learn what they mean and how to use them. One way of familiarising yourself with them is to produce a chart similar to the one below. An Art and Design student, for example, might produce a chart like this:


Word Definition Context (use your new word in a sentence)
superimpose Place or lay one thing over another, typically so that both are evident. Blake superimposes fabrics to create depth and intensity.
art-deco A style of decorative art characterised by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes. The art-deco movement evoked an awareness that pattern could be bold and daring.











Tips for developing your vocabulary:

  • Read as much as you can, including text books in your field. Absorb the language of your subject and make a note of how writers in your area use language. What sort of words and phrases do they use? You could always keep a list of useful words and phrases.
  • A dictionary and a thesaurus are useful tools to help you to develop your vocabulary. A good dictionary will provide you with a definition of your word and a guide to its pronunciation. A thesaurus will offer you a list of synonyms (alternative words) and can help you to expand your vocabulary.
  • Try to gain some ownership over your new vocabulary by using it when you write and when you speak. It is not until new words are actively used by you, that the language is fully absorbed.
  • To develop your understanding of terminology in your subject area, go to your subject text books for a working definition rather than a dictionary.

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