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Lecture Vocabulary

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It is often possible to predict some of the vocabulary that might be used in lectures. For instance, if if you know the topic in advance, you can always look ahead in your reading to see the sort of words that the lecturer is likely to use. Lecturers will often make their lecture notes or powerpoint slides available in advance of the lecture, through an internet platform such as Moodle or Sitebuilder, and this also gives you the opportunity to do some vocabulary work ahead of the listening event.

However, even if some level of preparation is always possible for a lecture, there is always an element of the unexpected too. For example, there is no set pattern as to how the lecturer is required to speak. A lecturer may, for instance, give a clear, well-signposted lecture with marker phrases such as ‘In the first part of the lecture, I will…’, ‘Let’s move on now to the second part of my lecture today’. On the other hand, lecturers may choose not use ‘neat’ turns of phrase and sentences, and the structure might thus be less predictable, and more confusing as a result. Below are some tips and suggestions that our students have found helpful when listening to lectures.


1. What kind of language will help to follow the lecture?

Example: Marker language in a lecture transcription

Link to the online course 'Listening to Lectures'


What kind of language will help to follow the lecture?


Good lectures will contain lots of signs and signals (signposting language) to help you to follow what is being said. Some of these signalling phrases are indicated in the table below.

These are only a few of the many signalling devices that can be used and the table is very simplified – there will be many other phrases that you will discover in the lectures you attend.

Stage of lecture

Purpose of stage

Typical signals


  • to set the scene
  • to make sure that the students know what they are going to listen to
  • to provide other additional materials
  • to check on general administration matters

OK everyone.


Shall we make a start then?

Before we get going, can I just ask if everyone has handed in their option forms for next term?

Has everyone got a copy of the handout?

What I’d like to do today is…

OK everyone, today, we’re going to look at…

OK, the focus of today’s lecture is on…

I’m going to divide the lecture into three parts…

Main part of lecture

  • to provide demonstrations
  • to give working examples
  • to compare and contrast theories
  • to analyse varying viewpoints
  • to trace a historical development
  • to present facts and figures, etc.

It is of course impossible to list all the possible functions of a lecture, but the sample marker phrases that you see in the right hand column may occur, regardless of the purpose.

Asking a rhetorical question for emphasis : ‘So, what is the best way to conserve energy?

Providing additional information : ‘Another example of this phenomenon is……’, ‘We can see this situation elsewhere.’

Providing a sequence : ‘Firstly’, ‘Secondly’, ‘Thirdly’, etc

Referring to sources : ‘As Pascal observed, many years ago,…’; ‘This is substantiated by Sartre’s view of existentialism.’

Signalling a shift in the argument : ‘Let’s turn our attention now to …’. ‘What I’d like to do now is to move on to consider….’  

Giving examples : ‘For example’. ‘Let us take the case of…’. ‘….is a case in point’. ‘Let’s look particularly at the case of…’.

Emphasising a point : ‘The main point I’d like to emphasise here is…’, ‘The key issue at stake here is…’, ‘What I am essentially arguing is…’.

Providing a digression (a digression is not an important point but is often designed to inject humour or interest into a lecture) : ‘Some of you might just be interested to know that…..’, ‘You don’t need to write this down.’

Providing a summary : ‘So what I have essentially been doing is…’; ‘So the key point to bear in mind is…’

Referring back to a previous lecture : ‘Some of you may remember that in the last lecture, we talked about…’


  • to draw the lecture to a close
  • to provide a summary of what has been said (if this has not occurred previously in the lecture)
  • to signal the end

Well, that more or less wraps things up for today.

Ok, I think I’ll leave it there for today.

That’s probably about all we’ve got time for today.

Next week, I’d like to go on with this. I’ll be looking at….

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The text was prepared by Dr Gerard Sharpling