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Academic Writing

Academic writing frequently uses nominalisations; that is, the noun forms of verbs.

The process of nominalisation turns verbs (actions or events) into nouns (things, concepts or people).

The text is now no longer describing actions: it is focused on objects or concepts; for example:

We walked for charity.

The verb 'walked' has been nominalised to the noun 'walk'

The charity walk .....

As you can see from the example above, when a verb is nominalised, it becomes a concept rather than an action. As a consequence, the tone of your writing will sound more abstract and also more formal; for example:

We walked for charity. We raised money for the Leukemia Foundation.

The charity walk raised money for the Leukemia Foundation.

Some more examples of nominalisation are provided below:
(the nouns formed as a result of nominalisation are highlighted in one colour, while the verbs they replace are highlighted in another colour text).

Crime was increasing rapidly and the police were becoming concerned.

The rapid increase in crime was causing concern among the police.

Germany invaded Poland in 1939. This was the immediate cause of the Second World War breaking out.

Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939 was the immediate cause of the outbreak of the Second World War.

These examples are adapted from: Perez, A. (Learning Skills Unit, University of Melbourne) Academic Language.

Here is an extract from a biology report. Nominalisation has been used frequently in this passage, creating a more academic, abstract tone. (The nouns formed as a result of nominalisation of verb phrases are highlighted.)


Many Australian plant species produce seeds with fleshy appendages called elaiosomes. It was hypothesised that elaiosomes are involved in the dispersal of seeds by ants. To test this hypothesis, the removal of seeds with elaiosomes was compared to seeds from which the elaiosome had been removed and observations were made to confirm that the agents of seed removal were indeed ants. It was found that the removal of seeds with elaiosomes was significantly greater than those without elaiosomes. Observations of the seed removal process confirmed that ants were the only agents of seed removal.


The frequent use of nominalisation was one factor responsible for the difference in formality between the model texts.


Formal Text Informal Text
The inequity in the distribution of wealth in Australia is yet another indicator of Australia's lack of egalitarianism. In1985, 20% of the Australian population owned 72.2% of the wealth with the top 50% owning 92.1% (Raskall, 1988: 287: ). Such a significant skew in the distribution of wealth indicates that, at least in terms of economics, there is an established class system in Australia. McGregor (1988) argues that Australian society can be categorised into three levels: the Upper; Middle and Working classes. In addition, it has been shown that most Australians continue to remain in the class into which they were born (McGregor,1988: 156) despite arguments about the ease of social mobility in Australian society (Fitzpatrick, 1994). The issue of class and its inherent inequity, however, is further compounded by factors such as race and gender within and across these class divisions.

The relative disadvantage of women with regard to their earnings and levels of asset ownership indicates that within classes there is further economic inequity based on gender.......
Because only a few people have most of the money and power in Australia, I conclude that it is not an equal society. Society has an Upper, Middle and Lower class and I think that most people when they are born into one class, end up staying in that class for their whole lives. When all three classes are looked at more closely, other things such as the differences between the sexes and people's racial backgrounds also add to the unequal nature of Australian society.

Women earn less than men and own less than men. Why is this so?

Activity (under development)

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