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Recording new vocabulary

Let's look at how you can record important vocabulary at university and use a vocabulary log to get a full understanding of these words.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

You have now collected a number of definitions for key words and phrases used at university in the UK. How should you keep a record of these?

A good way to keep a record of the vocabulary you have learned throughout this course is to keep a vocabulary log.

You can record new words in a table like the one below.

Word Independent
In my language 独立 /مستقل
Definition Not depending on other people for help, or preferring to do things by yourself
Example sentences He finished high school through independent study
Collocations Independent variable, Independent study
Word family Adjective = Independent / Adverb = Independently

You can find a more detailed example of a completed vocabulary log in the ‘see also’ section.

What should you put in each section?

In my language

If you cannot understand the meaning of a new word from the context of the sentence it is in, it can be useful to translate the word into your own language. You can use a tool such as Google Translate. However, you need to think carefully about the translation. Does it make sense to you? Does it fit the context? Was it the word you were expecting? Remember, words can have lots of different meanings so sometimes translations are not accurate.

When you understand the word more fully you should go back to this translation and think about whether you still think it is correct. Give yourself space under each word to add more and more information about the word every time you hear it, read it or use it.


Make sure you remember to choose the correct definition from the dictionary by thinking about how the word is being used in this particular sentence. Remember, one word in English can mean many different things.

When you find the word used in a different context you should add this information to your log entry underneath by going back to the dictionary and finding the correct definition for this context. Make sure you remember where you heard or read it so you can add the sentence to your example column.

Example sentence

It is important to record the new word in a sentence so you can see how it is used and understand it in context. A good place to find example sentences from an academic context is SkELL. You should also keep adding examples every time you hear the word used in a new, different or interesting way. If you do this, you will understand the word a lot better and be able to use it more accurately in all situations.


Words in English often have partner words that are used together more often than other words and sound more natural together. We call these words collocations. We will look at these more closely later in the week but, to start, a good place to find collocates for your words is the Pearson Academic Wordlist.

Word family

It is important that you record the type of word that you learn and try to find out how the word is used in other parts of speech.

For example:

Independent = Adjective She is a very independent learner.
Independently = Adverb She learns independently.

Look careful at the examples given in the dictionary to see how and where the word appears in the sentences so you know how to use it correctly.


You could also add a column in your table for synonyms to help you think of other ways of saying the same word and make your writing more interesting and less repetitive.

Your task

Create a vocabulary table like the one in the example for the words below. We have provided a vocabulary log template to help you with this.
  1. lecture
  2. seminar
  3. tutorial
  4. independent learning
Try to use one whole page for each word to give yourself enough space to keep adding information every time you see or hear the word and learn something new.
You should try to add all of the key terms you have heard on the course so far to your vocabulary log and any new words you hear throughout the course.
If you would like to share your vocabulary log you could make one using Office 365 or Google Docs and post the link in the comments.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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English for Academic Study

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