Importance of introducing the Academic Word List (AWL) to University students

David Charles Williams

University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea, Mount Pleasant Campus, Swansea, SA1 6ED;

23rd March 2016


This paper focuses on the importance of introducing the Academic Word List (AWL) to all university students, in particular those studying on business programmes.

After explaining the concept, the paper then compares AWL usage from 2 perspectives - the real world and the student world. The former is carried out via an analysis of 29 articles (average length 500 words) from the business sections of quality newspapers and journals. In addition, a Business English Corpus of around 400,000 words is used to illustrate the significant percentage of AWL words in much longer and more varied texts. The latter is carried out by focusing on a learner corpus of 192,000 words comprising more than 500 IELTS Task 2-style essays.

For the purposes of this paper, the learner corpus is referred to as SEC (Student Essays database) and the Business English Corpus as BEC.

It concludes by pointing out that AWL coverage is significantly high in articles written by most business journalists. This highlights the importance of teaching it to international students and introducing it to home students. Finally, it also highlights the fact that The Western Mail appears to have a greater percentage of AWL words overall than The Economist or The Guardian. (202 words)   

Keywords:  AWL, Learner corpus, IELTS Task 2, Business English corpus