Sentence openers in academic writing: A comparison between seminar texts and students’ reflective writing papers

Tanju Deveci

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Scopus citations


    Language used to report research findings and put forward arguments is at the heart of effective communication with readers. To this end, scholars use a variety of stylistic features. One of these is variety in language, which includes structures, lexis, and organization markers. Although much research has been conducted on these aspects, a particular feature has received limited interest from researchers: sentence openers, a strategic use of which helps authors develop an individual style, and avoid stagnant prose. This helps them maintain readers’ interest while communicating scientific knowledge. Due to the importance of sentence openers in scientific prose, university students’ awareness should be raised about this aspect of academic writing. This requires identification of commonly occurring sentence openers in the texts they study. It is also useful to identify student tendencies regarding sentence openers and their perceived competence in varying sentence openers. Prompted by these necessities, this research investigated a 10,949 running-word corpus compiled from professionally-written texts used in a first-year writing course, as well as a 42,070 running-word student corpus compiled from the reflective writing papers of 35 first-year students. Data on students’ perceived competence were collected using a survey. Results showed that the two most frequent sentence openers in both corpora were subject-verb and transition markers. However, the latter were used by the students with significantly higher frequency than they were by the professional writers. Data also revealed that the students lack awareness of sentence openers as a feature for making writing more interesting. Students further reported an inability to use a wide range of sentence openers in their writing. Results are discussed, and recommendations are made for increasing students’ skill in composing effective academic texts.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)247-261
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Language and Linguistic Studies
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2019


    • Academic writing
    • Sentence openers
    • Sentence variety
    • Voice


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