Academic jargon

Jargon is the highly specialised terminology used by a specific area or profession. These terms are not usually understood by people outside that area. Jargon can help communicate specific concepts, but it can also make things less obvious or less accessible to outsiders.  

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Use our jargon word list

Like every organisation, universities have their own jargon. At first, this new language can seem intimidating or confusing, especially if more experienced students and staff assume everyone knows what it means. If you’re not sure of a meaning, do ask, as it’s likely everyone will benefit from the explanation. Download our jargon list for definitions of useful academic words and some specific Brookes terminology.

Familiarise yourself with subject-specific discourse

Discourse is another jargon term meaning written or spoken communication. Each university subject has its own specialised discourse to communicate concepts in a concise and authoritative way. Looking up specialist words in a general dictionary might not fully explain these nuances. Instead, there are specialist subject dictionaries available from the Library, like The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, that have subject specific definitions.

Look up every word?

Stopping to check a lot of specialist jargon can slow down your reading and be frustrating. The more you read and encounter these terms over time, the more familiar they will become. It can be better to read a longer section and not worry about looking up every word, as you can deduce a lot from context. Look at our guide for more effective reading strategies:

Write to express, not to impress

The best academic writing expresses ideas clearly. You need to use specialist terms accurately to show that you understand them. However, you don’t need to copy the style of a lot of journal articles as many of these are written for very narrow audiences and are written by academics showing off. You don’t need to find fancier sounding synonyms or use lots of long words to communicate your ideas well. See our page on vocabulary for more on finding the appropriate words: