Finding the right words - a systematic approach to word selection for a special purpose science dictionary

T. Winchester-Seeto, A.A Jones, H.J Caldon, E. Deane


First year undergraduate science students frequently report difficulties grappling with the technical and semi-technical vocabulary of academic science. Most first year science students undertake studies in several scientific disciplines (e.g., Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics etc.), each with their own set of technical vocabulary. Yet the students not only deal with specific and obvious jargon, but must also tackle more indirect jargon where commonly used words may have a different and special meaning in the scientific context (e.g., control, contract)

Inability to master scientific language represents ‘a major barrier to learning’ for a significant number of students (Wellington and Osborne 2001), or a ‘lexical bar’ to be overcome (Corson 1995). Such problems are exacerbated when the students come from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB), whether they be local or international students.

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