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Volume 15 Number 1, Spring 2018, Pages 1-256 PDF Download

Creating an Institution-Specific Science and Engineering Academic Word List for University Students

    Jay Veenstra & Yoko Sato

This research study considers the problem of Japanese university students who are studying the sciences in their native language, but who also may be expected to do at least part of their reading through textbooks written in English. The article presents a Science Textbook Word List (STWL), derived from a 700,000-word academic corpus compiled from English-medium textbooks intended for science majors. The STWL contains 309 word families, which accounts for 13.4% of the tokens in the science textbook corpus under study. The high word frequency and the wide text coverage of academic vocabulary throughout the science textbooks confirm that academic vocabulary plays an important role in science textbooks. The study also found that the STWL provided better coverage of the studied corpus than the widely used Academic Word List (AWL) (Coxhead, 2000), and another science word list (Coxhead & Hirsh, 2007). These results demonstrate that corpus-specific word lists provide more coverage of the intended texts with fewer items. This is of benefit to the students as the amount of learning time can be significantly reduced, and the effort put in to learn such lists is well repaid by the opportunity for using the vocabulary.

Keywords: word list, lexical coverage, vocabulary, EFL