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Last Updated October 4, 2021, 4:35 pm
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Phrasal verbs in academic English.

Although phrasal verbs occur most frequently in more informal spoken and written English, they are also not uncommon in an academic context. You will hear them used in lectures and will read them in serious journals. They are not generally appropriate for a formal written assignment.

Phrasal verbs and their one-word more formal equivalents

Phrasal verbs often have one-word synonyms. These are usually of Latin origin and sound more formal than their phrasal verb equivalent but both are appropriate when writing or talking about academic subjects. Vary your language by using both.

Examples

  1. put forward (An idea/view/opinion/ theory/plan) present In her latest article Kaufmann puts forward a theory which is likely to prove controversial.
  2. carry out (an experiment / research) conduct I intend to carry out a series of experiments.
  3. make up (constitute) Children under the age of 15 make up nearly half of the country's population.
  4. be made up of

    consist of

    Parliament is made up of two houses.
  5. point out

    observe

    Professor Green points out that the increase in life expectancy has led to some economic problems.
  6. point up

    highlight

    The study points up the weaknesses in the current school system. Not so widely used as there are more common verbs for this meaning.
  7. set out (to organise , show or do)
  8. Carrying out research

    After completing my first degree in zoology I went on to apply to graduate school. I wanted to work on animal behaviour at a well-known institute in New Zealand.

    She set up a series of experiments investigating how bees communicate.

    She has noticed some curious behaviour patterns but has not yet worked out why her bees behave as they do.

    What she has observed seems to go against current theories of bee behaviour. When she has completed all her research she will have to write it all up

    do something after doing something else study, work in the field of prepared, arranged 4 come to a conclusion about 5 not be in agreement with 6 (of an important document) write in a final form

    Consult a good dictionary when you use phrasal verbs in your writing. For example, a good dictionary tells you when the object can be used before the particle (e.g. write your results up) and when it cannot (e.g. this goes against current theories).

Exercises

I Rewrite the sentences replacing the underlined word in each sentence with a phrasal verb Note that both versions of each sentence are equally appropriate.
  1. We conducted a series of experiments to test out our hypothesis.
  2. Before the test you should revise Chapters 7 and 8 of your textbooks.
  3. In his article on the American Civil War Kingston discusses the reasons for the situation developing in the way it did.
  4. Cole presents some fascinating theories on the development of language in his latest book.
  5. The psychologist observed that it was very unusual for a young child to behave in this way.
  6. Please check your work again carefully before handing it in.
  7. In this article Simpson aims to prove that the Chinese reached America long before the Vikings.
  8. Women now constitute over half the student population in most universities in this country.

Fill in the missing words in this paragraph.

As part of my MA I've been doing some research on language acquisition. I've been working (1) how young children learn their mother tongue. I've been carrying (2) some experiments to see how much reading to young children affects their language development. I've had a great supervisor who has helped me set (3) my experiments and she's also pointed (4) lots of interesting things in my data that 1 hadn't noticed myself. I'm busy writing my work (5) now and I think I should be able to put (6) some useful ideas. It's been really fascinating and I hope I may be able to go (7) to do a doctorate in the same field although I certainly never set (8) . a Phl). to do
Match the beginning of each sentence with the most appropriate ending.
  1. Feudal society was made
  2. Carlson was the first to put
  3. Her results appear to go
  4. The investigation pointed
  5. It took him a long time to work
  6. The geography book sets forward a convincing theory
  1. with regard to this question.
  2. up the flaws in the school's testing methods.
  3. out the solution to the algebra problem.
  4. out a lot of basic information about all the world's countries.
  5. against what she had found in her earlier studies.
  6. up of clearly defined classes of people.
Answer these questions.
  1. What sort of things might a scientist carry out?
  2. If you want to study something in more depth, what might you go on to do after getting a first degree?
  3. What do postgraduate students typically have to write up at the end of their studies?
  4. What sort of things do good students regularly look back over?
  5. What sorts of things do scholars typically put forward in their lectures or articles?
  6. Why is it sensible to go through any maths calculations that you had to make as part of a research study before you draw any conclusions?
Phrasal Verbs
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