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Research Aids Vocabulary Building

One of the natural processes that occur as you research a subject involves vocabulary building. Almost every student runs into words they may not recognize or may not have a firm grasp of their meaning. It is helpful to realize that some authors purposely include context clues to help with meaning when they introduce words they think may be unfamiliar to some people. They do this by including either in the same sentence or in the same paragraph other hints to the meaning. Recognizing the existence of context clues can help to build your vocabulary as well as make understanding the passage that much easier.

Following are six different ways context clues may be presented:

  1. Definition clue: Includes a definition. "Cataracts" in the following example is defined in the following sentence. Many senior citizens worry about developing cataracts as they get older. This film or cloudiness that develops over the lens of the eye makes it difficult to see out of the effected eye as the condition worsens. Surgery corrects it.
  2. Synonym clue: Includes a word that means the same as or close to the same meaning as the word in question. "Impediment" in the following example is explained by using the word "obstruction" which is similar in meaning in this context. The fraternity president seemed to be the major impediment, or obstruction in establishing a date for the spring dance. He seemed find fault with suggestions offered.
  3. Antonym clue: Includes a word that means the opposite of the word in question. "Proficient," in the following example is compared to its opposite "inept." Mark was a very proficient three-point shooter on the basketball team, while Kyle was totally inept from that range. Kyle, on the other hand, shot free throws very well.
  4. Description clue: Includes descriptions to aid in understanding the word in question. "Formidable" in the following example is described by the words tough, hard-hitting and relentless. The visiting football team is a formidable opponent according to the local newspaper. They have a reputation for being very tough, hard-hitting and relentless.
  5. Summary clue: Includes a number of statements that lead to understanding of the word in question. "Gregarious" in the following example is clarified by the use of the words outgoing, friendly, courteous and hospitable. Sara was a very gregarious sort. She was outgoing and friendly to everyone she met. People seemed to appreciate how courteous and hospitable she always seemed to be.
  6. Visual clue: Includes a picture, graph or drawing to help explain the word in question. For instance, a picture of a man sitting with his elbow on his knee and his chin in his hand with a sad look on his face may explain the caption underneath which states that he is in a "melancholy" mood.

Recognizing these word clues as you do your research will help you understand the meaning of words that may be new or unfamiliar to you. This broadens your vocabulary and makes these words available to you to use in future writing assignments.


Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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