A Reflective Essay Most Likely Includes Synonym

Abstract

The purposes of the present study were two-fold: first, to evaluate whether reflection journal writing was effective in promoting self-reflection and learning, and whether students become better at self-reflection if they engage continuously in reflection journal writing. To that end, the reflection journals of 690 first-year applied science students at a local polytechnic were studied by means of an automated coding procedures using software. Data was collected twice, once at the beginning and again towards the end of an academic year. Outcomes of the textual content analyses revealed that students reflected on both the process and contents of their learning: critical review of past learning experiences, learning strategies and summaries of what was learned. Correlational analyses showed weak to moderate inter-relationships between the textual categories and their classroom and knowledge acquisition test grades. Taken together, the findings suggest that self-reflection on both how and what students have learned does lead to improvements in academic performance, although to a limited extent.

Keywords: Self-reflection, Reflection journals, Classroom performance grades, Academic performance

Introduction

The role of reflection in education has created an upsurge of interest amongst educators and researchers since Dewey’s (1991) ground-breaking work, which emphasized the positive roles that reflection might play in fostering students’ self-reflection, critical thinking, and in the demonstrable development of professional values or skills. Self-reflection (or simply, reflection) has received numerous definitions from different sources in the literature. In his work, Dewey had defined reflection as “active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends” (p. 9). According to Mann et al. (2009), they suggest that Dewey’s definition of reflection shares similarities with our understanding of critical thinking. Boud et al. (1985) aptly define reflection in the context of learning and focus more on one’s personal experience as the object of reflection, as referring to “those intellectual and affective activities that individuals engage into explore their experience, which leads to new understanding and appreciations” (p. 19). The definition of reflection by Moon (1999), on the other hand, focuses more on the role of reflection and learning, and embeds reflection into the learning process. She describes reflection as “a form of mental processing with a purpose and/or anticipated outcome that is applied to relatively complex or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious solution” (p. 23). All three definitions though focus on different contexts, share similarities in that they emphasize purposeful critical analysis of knowledge and experience so as to achieve deeper meaning and understanding.

The definitions of self-reflection, though heterogeneous, are united in their advocacy to improve student learning. In the present study, self-reflection is influenced by these interpretations. It refers to the processes that a learner undergoes to look back on his past learning experiences and what he did to enable learning to occur (i.e. self-reflection on how learning took place), and the exploration of connections between the knowledge that was taught and the learner’s own ideas about them (i.e. self-reflection on what was learned). It is contended that since processes such as these can lead to informed and thoughtful deliberations on one’s behaviours and actions, they are believed to assist learners to become better at self-reflection, which leads subsequently to better academic achievement.

Reflection and problem-based learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) tend to be characterized by students working collaboratively in small groups, with learning centred on problems relevant to the students’ domain of study and much time spent on self-directed learning. In PBL, students learn by solving problems and reflecting on their experiences (Hmelo-Silver 2004). Reflecting on the relationship between problem solving and learning is a critical component of PBL and is needed to support the construction of extensive and flexible knowledge (Salomon and Perkins 1989). According to Salomon and Perkins, self-reflection helps students to (a) review the group process and their own personal functioning in the group, (b) understand how their learning and problem-solving strategies might be reapplied, and (c) relate new knowledge to prior understanding (i.e. contents that were discussed and taught). PBL incorporates reflection several times throughout the learning process and when completing a problem. At the completion of a problem, students reflect on what they have learned, how well they collaborated with the group, and how effectively they directed their learning. As such, students learn self-reflection when they become proficient in assessing their own progression in learning.

In her work, Hmelo-Silver (2004) highlighted that while a tutor can support self-reflection in PBL, other techniques may also be helpful. One approach to improving self-reflection is through the use of reflection journals.

Reflection journals, self-reflection and academic achievement

Self-reflection’s currency as a topic of educational importance has resulted in the incorporation of reflection journals as learning tools that promote reflection into many curricula, including PBL (Mann et al. 2009). Reflection journal writing is believed to enable students to critically review processes of their own learning and behaviours, and to understand their ability to transform their own learning strategies (Gleaves et al. 2008). Reflection journals are variously referred to as “reflective journals” (e.g. Chirema 2007), “reflective learning journals” (e.g. Thorpe 2004) or “learning journals” (e.g. Moon 1999). Although used in a variety of courses, reflection journals are essentially written records that students create as they think about various concepts learned, about critical incidents involving their learning, or about interactions between students and teachers, over a period of time for the purpose of gaining insights into their own learning (Thorpe 2004). The purposes of reflection journal writing include: to critically review the behaviours (e.g. strengths and weaknesses; learning styles and strategies) (Weinstein and Mayer 1986); learning of self and others; setting or tracking learning goals (i.e. how learning took place) (Lew and Schmidt 2011); and exploring connections between knowledge that was learned and students’ own ideas about them (Moon 1999). It is hoped that through reflecting and writing about new information or ideas, learners can better understand and remember them. In addition, the articulation of connections between new information, ideas, prior or existing knowledge also deepens learning (O’Rourke 1998).

The literature reports of a positive association between journal keeping and learners’ cognitive skills. In their study, McCrindle and Christensen (1995) explored the impact of reflection journal writing on cognitive processes and academic performances of forty undergraduates in a first-year biology course. Students were randomly assigned to a learning journal (experimental) group or scientific report (control) group. Their findings demonstrate that students in the experimental group used more cognitive strategies during a learning task as compared to those in the control group. Students who kept learning journals also showed more sophisticated conceptions of learning, greater awareness of cognitive strategies, and demonstrated the construction of more complex and related knowledge structures when learning from text. They also performed significantly better on the final examination for the course. While the data from this study are suggestive, it is unclear as to the precise nature of the relationships between students’ conceptions of learning and their cognitive processes, and more research is required to explicate these links.

The literature offers evidence that students, regardless of their domains of study, show improvements in their learning, that is, students became better in self-reflection, through journal keeping, although students did not reportedly become better at earning higher test grades. For instance, Selfe et al. (1986) investigated the use of reflection journals in a college-level mathematics course. Their findings suggest that while reflection journals did not necessarily assist students with earning high grades on achievement tests, they did assist students in developing abstract thinking thereby enabling them to better conceptualize the meaning of technical definitions. Students appeared to develop better strategies in problem solving through writing as compared to mere memorizing of calculations. In addition, students also showed improvements in their reflective writing skills, for instance, they were able to develop personal conceptual definitions that were more understandable than technical definitions of the texts. The findings by Selfe and colleagues were mirrored in the study by Moon (1999), where she summarized a number of studies which examined the effects of reflection journal writing on student academic achievement across a variety of disciplines. She reported that some studies showed effects, whilst others did not. Like Selfe and colleagues, Moon’s work also demonstrated the influence of journal keeping on student academic performance was subtle and did not seem to assist students with achieving better achievement test grades. However, this conclusion which they drew could be due to small sample sizes and poor measurement of the content of students’ journal responses in the studies reported.

The evidence to support and inform the curricular intervention of reflection journal writing as a means to improve students’ self-reflection and thus academic achievement remains largely theoretical. In addition, most of the present studies in the literature involved only a limited number of participants where students’ reflection journals were usually rated by teachers and hence any conclusions derived may be overly subjective. To maximize the validity of our findings, we did not rely on the reflection journals of a selected, small group of students. Instead, we collected data from 690 first-year students of a polytechnic, and used an objective analysis by subjecting students’ journal responses to an automated coding procedure using software (Lew and Schmidt 2011).

Aims of the study

The students in our study repeatedly had to reflect on how and what they have learned as the semester unfolded, and received continuous feedback from their teachers on their performances. The purposes of the present study were two-fold: first, to evaluate whether reflection journal writing was effective in promoting self-reflection and learning, and whether students become better at self-reflection if they engage continuously in reflection journal writing. It was hypothesized that self-reflection and academic achievement influenced each other interactively, i.e. students by looking back on how and what they have learned results in them having better self-reflection skills, which subsequently lead them to perform better in the classroom or on knowledge acquisition tests. Second, we were interested to investigate which type of reflection (i.e. self-reflection on how learning took place and/or what was learned) was more effective in promoting learning and thus academic achievement. To that end, students’ reflection journals were compared with their classroom performance and academic test grades for an academic year.

Method

Subjects

Participants included 690 applied science students in their first year of studies at a polytechnic in Singapore in the academic year 2007–2008. They were enrolled in three-year science diploma courses such as Biomedical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biotechnology. Of these students, 426 (62%) were females and 264 (38%) were males, and their mean age was 17.21 years (SD = 1.28).

Educational context

Problem-based learning

The polytechnic at which the research was carried out organizes its curriculum according principles of problem-based learning (Schmidt and Moust 2000). Students work collaboratively in teams of four to five, with learning centred on problems relevant to their domain of study. They work on one problem each day. The problem is initially discussed in the morning, followed by individual study. At the end of the day, information gathered is shared and elaborated upon. No didactic teaching takes place nor is there any form of direct instruction. One tutor supervises the student teams in a larger classroom. His or her role is to facilitate student learning (Alwis 2007). There are two semesters in an academic year, with each semester lasting 16 weeks. All the courses offered are part of a three-year curriculum.

Data collection versus assessment in the curriculum

The daily assessment approach consists of four elements: (1) a classroom performance grade awarded by the tutor based on how well a student has performed during the day (2) an activity in which a student assessed his or her own performance for the day, and (3) an activity in which a student assessed his or her team mates’ performances for the day, and (4) a reflection journal to be written by each student. The classroom performance grade is measured based on tutors’ observations of students’ processes of daily learning. The observations by the tutors include students’ self-directedness, level of participation inclusive of teamwork; students’ ability to reason, justify and defend opinions and ideas formulated in respond to problems, as well as their problem solving skills. Tutors will then award grades ranging from “A” to “F”, which are derived based on what they observe and the impression they have on each student during the duration of time they had with him/her. Tutors also take into consideration students’ individual reflection journals (short essays which document students’ reflections on daily learning) and their self and peer assessments when awarding grades. Furthermore, tutors will provide feedback to students on their learning outcomes and processes of daily learning.

The reflection journal records a student’s reflections of daily learning in response to a reflection journal question provided by the tutor. Each student is required to respond to one journal question per day. The student submits his/her reflection journal electronically by means of an online platform by the end of the day. Tutor-asked journal questions required students to be reflective about their learning and development. Some examples of reflection journal questions include “Discuss your effectiveness as a team player/leader in solving the problem today.”, “What insights did I gain today?”, “How can you apply some of the skills and knowledge that you have learned?”, “What strategies have I used to help me in my learning?” and so on. Students respond to a different reflection journal question each day during a 5-day workweek. The purpose of writing the reflection journal is to encourage and record self-reflection about how learning took place and what was learned. Some examples of students’ journal responses are contained in the appendix section.

Students also need to take four knowledge acquisition tests per module, which are taken at different points (i.e. after every 3–4 weeks) during the semester. The tests are conducted in a supervised environment, similar to an end-of-course examination and require students to answer at least three open-structured questions. Students are tested on their ability to understand and apply what they have learned. The knowledge acquisition test grades range from “A” to “F”.

Procedure

The classroom performance and knowledge acquisition grades were first converted to scaled numerical values on a five-point scale. The averages of the knowledge acquisition grades for that of semesters 1 and 2 were computed and used for the analyses.

Analysis

The tutor grades were first converted to scaled numerical values on a five-point scale. In seeking evidence of reflective activities through reflection journal writing, student journals were analyzed using the SPSS Text Analysis for SurveyTM software (SPSS 2006). The software uses advanced linguistic theory technologies that extract and classify key concepts from student journal responses. These technologies analyze content as a set of phrases and sentences whose grammatical structure provides a context for the meaning of a response. The software enables the coding and categorization of journal responses in a fraction of the time required to do the job manually. Another benefit is that the categorization of responses is done consistently and reliably; the responses are analyzed in an iterative manner. Unlike human coders, the software classifies the same response in the same categories every time.

The first step in content analysis is to extract key terms and ideas from the journal responses. The engine uses linguistic algorithms and resources to identify relevant concepts. This means that extraction does not treat a response as a set of unrelated words, but it identifies key words, compound words, and patterns in the text. Pre-coded definitions were the linguistic resources used to extract terms from the journal responses.

The extracted terms were grouped into categories by the software. As used in content analysis, a category refers to a group of closely related concepts, opinions or attitudes. The software relies upon three linguistic-based techniques that take into account the root meanings of the extracted terms and their relationship between sets of similar objects or opinions: term derivation, term inclusion and semantic networks (SPSS 2006, p. 101). Because these techniques are complementary to one another, all of them are used for categorizing the extracted terms.

The term derivation technique creates categories by taking a term and finding other terms that are related to it by analyzing whether any of the terms components are morphologically related. For instance, the term “opportunities for self-reflection” would be grouped with the term “self-reflection opportunities”. The term inclusion technique uses algorithms to create categories by taking a term and finding other terms that include it. When determining inclusion, word order and the presence of such words as “in” or “of” are ignored. As illustration, given the term “skill”, term inclusion will group terms such as “programming skills” and “a set of skills” in a skill category. The root term used to create the category (skill) can have words before it, after it, or both before and after (“programming skill set”).

The semantic networks technique creates categories using a semantic/lexical network based on WordNet®, a linguistic project based in Princeton University (Miller 2006). WordNet® is a reference system of “Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs grouped into sets of cognitive synonyms, each representing one underlying lexical concept.” This method begins by identifying extracted terms that are known synonyms and hyponyms (i.e. a word that is more specific than the category represented by a term, e.g. student, tutor and peer are hyponyms of the term “person”).

In order to analyze the journal responses in a more meaningful fashion, a custom library was created. This library contained domain-specific words and terms (with synonyms) that arose from the modules taken by all first-year students. In this particular institution, all students were required to take two mathematics and computer applications modules in their first year of studies. These modules consisted of several tasks which asked students to create spreadsheets and basic computer programs to perform simple numerical functions. Using these modules as an example, domain-specific words would include “visual basics programming”, “Microsoft excel graphs”, “spreadsheets” etc.

The categories that were automatically generated were also renamed to capture their essential meanings. The descriptions of the categories obtained are contained in Table 1 (see also Lew and Schmidt 2011).

Table 1

Description of categories generated by means of text analysis software

The outcomes of the text analyses suggest that students appeared to reflect on three general categories related to their learning in their reflection journals: critical review, learning strategies, and summaries of what was learned (see Table 1 for description).

Data used were for the analyses were student reflection journals for an entire week during Week 3 of the first semester and again during Week 14 of the second semester of the academic year 2007–2008. Data from Week 1 was not considered as it being the start of a new academic year, a steady state in the student enrolment had yet to be reached as students were still appealing to enter or change polytechnics. The student enrolment figures reached a steady state by the second week. Data from weeks 15 and 16 were not considered because the attendance of students in classes was poor for the last 2 weeks of the academic year; the number of reflection journals submitted in the last 2 weeks was significantly lower as compared to that for week 14.

Identical categories were generated for both sets of data. The number of instances which each category appeared in each student’s journal response was recorded and used for comparison against students’ performance in class (i.e. classroom performance grades) and on knowledge acquisition tests.

Results

Table 2 contains the results of the correlational analyses between the frequency counts for coding categories present in students’ journal responses and their classroom performance grades for Week 3 of the first semester and Week 14 of the second semester in the academic year. Weak correlational values (r) were obtained (r ranging from .02 to .27).

Table 2

Correlations between frequency counts for coding categories present in student journal responses and students’ classroom performance grades

The results of the correlational analyses between the frequency counts for coding categories present in student journal responses and students’ knowledge test grades are contained in Table 3. Weak to moderately strong correlations were obtained (r ranging from .02 to .34).

Table 3

Correlations between frequency counts for coding categories present in student journal responses and students’ knowledge acquisition grades

Higher correlations for week 14 were reported as compared to those for week 3. A method that compares correlations drawn from the same sample as described by Cohen and Cohen, (1983) was used to test for significant differences between them (p. 57). Results of the analysis reveal that the differences in the correlations between the coding categories and classroom performance grades were not statistically significant. Similar findings were evident between the coding categories and knowledge acquisition test grades. The findings suggest that the type of reflection (i.e. self-reflection on how learning took place and/or what was learned) did not matter when it comes to promoting learning and hence academic achievement in students.

Discussion

The present study was conducted to examine whether a relationship exists between students’ abilities to self-reflect and their academic achievement, and if their awareness of how and what they have learned would improve as they progressed through the course, engaging in continuous journal keeping. To that end, students’ reflection journals, which focus on self-reflection on the processes of learning and the knowledge taught, were coded in an objective fashion, by means of automated content analysis approach using software, and textual categories generated. Correlational analyses were performed on the textual categories and students’ classroom performance and knowledge test grades. Data used in the analyses was collected once at the beginning of the academic year, and again at the end of the academic year.

Weak correlations were reported between the learning categories generated from students’ journal responses and their classroom and knowledge acquisition test grades. The findings also indicate that the type of reflection, i.e. self-reflection on how learning took place and/or what was learned was no different terms of helping students become more effective at learning or academic achievement. Although the differences in the correlations between that of week 3 and week 14 were not statistically significant, one cannot conclude that no relationship exists between students’ abilities to self-reflect and their performances in classrooms and on knowledge acquisition tests. Increasing trends in the correlations were observed in Tables 2 and ​3, suggesting that self-reflection was effective to a small extent in improving student learning, and that students do demonstrate some growth in self-reflection (as indicated by the higher correlations between coding categories and academic grades), i.e. their abilities to self-reflect on how and what they have learned did improved through engaging continuously in reflection journal writing, although this influence is not manifested to a measureable effect resulting in improvements in academic performance.

What are some plausible explanations for these findings? First, there is this possibility that the weak relationship between self-reflection and academic performance is because students are generally poor at self-reflection. They simply are not able to reflect on their own performance and the subject matter taught effectively, for instance, because they have insufficient access to their own learning process. However, the study by McCrindle and Christensen (1995) reported that undergraduates in a first-year biology course who kept reflection journals showed more sophisticated conceptions of learning, greater awareness of cognitive strategies, and demonstrated the construction of more complex and related knowledge structures when learning from text, as compared to those who did not engage in journal keeping. Furthermore, they also performed significantly better on the final examination for the course. Hence, a general dismissal of the idea that students can be competent self-reflectors may be premature.

A second possibility is that the weak inter-relationship between self-reflection and academic performance is attributed by the fact students in this particular study who are somewhat lacking the experience of self-reflecting on how and what they have learned. Students who took part in the current study could be described as “inexperienced” to some extent, because they were first-year students in higher education, although they already had more than 10 years of education behind them. Although some authors (e.g. Mann et al. 2009; Moon 1999) have suggested that experienced students, i.e. those in their later years of studies were better at self-reflection as compared to those students in introductory programs, McCrindle and Christensen (1995) did demonstrate that first-year students in higher education already have the capacity for self-reflection. Nevertheless, one cannot exclude the plausibility that the beginning of a new study is not the best moment to investigate the relationship between self-reflection and academic performance and that the findings are time-dependent, that is, the results obtained would have been different if students’ journal responses and grades from other weeks of the academic year were used in the correlational analyses. Another possibility for the findings could be due to differences between responses in weeks 3 and 14 may be caused by differences in the tutor-asked journal questions.

To test of the findings reported are time-dependent, we examined post-hoc the data of students journal responses written in two other weeks, i.e. week 4 of the first semester and week 15 of the second semester, and their classroom performance and knowledge acquisition test grades for the second semester. Again, identical textual categories to those contained in Table 1 were generated. Similar to the results obtained from the data sets from weeks 3 and 14, test of differences between the mean categorical frequency counts by means of paired-samples t tests revealed no significant differences (for example, Critical review (self) = t(689) = 1.54, p < .01; Learning strategies (organization) = t(689) = −2.75, p < .01; Summaries of what was learned = t(689) = 1.87, p < .01, with degrees of freedom in parentheses). Furthermore, test of differences in the correlations between the learning categories and that of classroom performance grades (week 4: r ranging from .03 to .22; week 15: r ranging from .04 to .24) and knowledge test grades (week 4: r ranging from .03 to .30; week 15: r ranging from .05 to .29) revealed no significant differences when compared the data sets from weeks 3 and 14. This suggests the measurement stability of our findings, since the results from content analyses using data from other weeks of the academic year and the correlations between textual categories and academic grades were similar to those obtained from the data sets from weeks 3 and 14.

The reader may remember that students write reflection journals in response to a question by their tutor. These questions differ per day and they also differ between tutors. To test whether the difference in self-reflection as a function of time was influenced by the specific tutor-asked questions, we subjected all the questions asked in both weeks 3 and 14 to text analyses using the same content analysis approach of student journal responses. In total, more than 400 journal questions were asked by approximately 200 tutors involved in taking the first-year applied science students. Identical categories (e.g. learning strengths and weaknesses, skills, subject matter etc.) were generated for both data sets. Comparisons between the means of the frequency counts for the categories by means of paired sample t tests revealed that none of their differences were statistically significant. Therefore, the differences in the journal responses in weeks 3 and 14 were not due to differences in the tutor-asked journal questions.

A third possible explanation for our findings is that although a relationship exists between self-reflection and academic performance, this is not reflected as an improvement in students’ classroom performance and knowledge test grades. Moon (1999) and Selfe et al. (1986) contended that the influence of reflection journal keeping on student academic performance as being subtle, and did not seem to assist students in attaining better academic achievement. Instead, journal keeping seems to facilitate student learning in a number of other ways, among them synthesizing new knowledge about a domain subject with their prior knowledge and learning, recording of useful strategies in solving problems, and in enhancing students’ awareness of their cognitive processes and their control of these processes.

A final possible explanation for the fairly poor inter-relationship between self-reflection and academic performance not yet discussed here is that some students simply do not take the task of journal writing seriously while others perhaps do, leading to weak correlations between the coding categories and students’ grades. In an earlier study, Lew and Schmidt (2007) reported that polytechnic students, when presented with the task of journal writing, became “strategic” in their approach to completing the task. Some students reported that they wrote their reflection journals in a bid to impress their tutors, while others were sceptical about the need to reflect on how and what they have learned, citing reflection journals as “mechanical and meaningless” which were non-beneficial to their learning.

Conclusion

These deliberations lead us to the conclusion that, generally, students’ abilities to self-reflect on how and what they have learned did improved through engaging continuously in reflection journal writing, although this influence was not manifested to a measurable effect which leads to improvements in academic performance. Our study also suggests that self-reflection skill cannot be easily learned through extended experience and the provision of continuous feedback from their tutors. There is an underlying assumption in the literature that students who are better at self-reflection, perform better academically. To date, there is no finding to refute or support this assumption. Such a finding may suggest that curricular interventions to teach self-reflection are futile, and should be abandoned. However, the literature reveals that self-reflection does improve learning in other ways (see Mann et al. 2009; Moon 1999), although it cannot be measured using academic achievement. The findings from the present study are to a large extent, in agreement with what Moon (1999) and Selfe et al. (1986) argue about the positive effect of self-reflection as not necessarily measured by achievement test grades. However, the results from existing studies were more subjective, since they involved manual coding of student journal responses. Further, existing studies did not include comparison of findings over time, casting some doubts over the reliability and validity of their results.

The present study has sought ways in arriving at more reliable and valid measurements. We did not rely on single reflection journals of students and had adopted an automated coding procedure to analyse the responses. As such, the problem of inter-coder reliability was absent. Contrary to most studies in journal writing with limitations such as small sample size, non-continuous engagement in the task of writing journals or infrequent feedback given by teachers, we collected data from over 600 first-year applied science students. Furthermore, in this context, students engaged continuously in the task of journal writing and receive timely and regular feedback on their learning from their tutors. Though the provision of such continuous feedback may have created optimal conditions for enhancing students’ awareness of how and what they have learned, this is not translated into better achievement on classroom performance and knowledge test grades.

Limitations

Some limitations should however, be noted. A shortcoming of the present study is the partial overlap of the instruments used: reflection journal, tutor judgment and knowledge acquisition test, which may have produced, in part, the weak to moderate correlations between the coding categories and academic grades. A study employing identical instruments for should certainly be conducted to verify our findings.

The text analysis software is not a panacea, and although using software to perform content analysis removes inter-coder reliability as a concern, it is not without its shortcomings. In human coding, the coders read the responses and can capture all the nuances of a statement even if they face difficulties applying the coding categories. The software can apply the coding categories, but they need to be defined so that the nuances are captured. An implication arising from this is that the editing done by the researchers of the synonyms and excluded words in the various libraries must accurately capture the ideas of the respondents in the text. Another limitation of the software is that it will not capture all the information in the journal responses, although categories can be created easily without any intervention on the part of the researchers.

Further research

Based on the findings, two studies are suggested for future. First, given the range of students’ aptitude and ability to cope with, and respond to, the task of reflecting on their own learning and performance, the focus on individual students and their strengths and weaknesses should constitute the next stage of research in better understanding the nature and operation of self-reflection on academic performance in higher education. The gathering of detailed empirical evidence which may cast light on those characteristics and factors which could account for individual differences in student self-reflection skill is one key area for further research.

Second, further research should investigate if students’ self-reflection skills can be improved through formal training. Extended experience alone, as our study has demonstrated, is clearly not enough to affect change. Mann et al. (2009) recommend that as with other skills, learners may need a structure to guide the complex process of self-reflection on the content and process of their learning. They contend that guidance and supervision are vital to helping students become better at self-reflection. Through a more structured and closely guided process, students may become better aware of, and value their existing capability for, self-reflection, and its potential for development and application.

Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to Republic Polytechnic, Singapore, which made the data collection and management possible.

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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  • Selfe CL, Petersen BT, Nahrgang CL. Journal writing in mathematics. In: Fulwiler AYT, editor. Writing across the disciplines. Upper Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook; 1986. pp. 192–207.
  • SPSS I. SPSS text analysis for SurveysTM 2.0 user guide. IL: Chicago; 2006.
  • Thorpe K. Reflective learning journals: From concept to practice. Reflective Practice. 2004;5(3):327–343. doi: 10.1080/1462394042000270655.[Cross Ref]
  • Weinstein CE, Mayer RE. The teaching of learning strategies. In: Wittrock MC, editor. Handbook of research on teaching. 3. New York: Macmillan; 1986. pp. 315–327.

Appendix

See Table 4.

Table 4

Examples of students’ reflection journals to illustrate the different textual categories generated by means of software

For many GRE test-takers, vocabulary-building presents a special challenge. With so many words that might appear on your individual iteration of the GRE, it can be hard to fathom learning them all. Full vocabulary lists span thousands of words, with no guarantee that the terms you learn will be the ones you see on test day.

We have written previously on the benefits of game-ifying and strategizing effectively around GRE vocabulary. To that end, we’ve delineated a selection of common vocabulary into three levels of difficulty, so that you ascend in difficulty the more words you learn. If you want to expand your selection, try following Economist GRE Tutor on Instagram or downloading our GRE Daily Vocabulary app, for a new word every day. 

Level One GRE Vocabulary: Least Difficult

Aberration: noun, a departure from what is normal, usual, or expected
“The Fed will probably need convincing that the latest labour-market report was an aberrationbefore tightening policy.”
Source: "When barometers go wrong" published in The Economist

Abreast: adjective, Up to date with the latest news, ideas, or information
Synonyms: in touch with, plugged into
“These daily updates were designed to help readers keep abreast of the markets...”
Source: "China’s market mess" published in The Economist

Abstain: verb, Restrain oneself from doing or enjoying something
Synonyms: refrain, desist, hold back
“The decision to abstain from such techniques, just and wise though it was, came at a cost.”
Source: "Standard operating procedure" published in The Economist

Abyss: noun, a deep or seemingly bottomless chasm
Synonyms: gorge, ravine, void
“Whose dire warnings about risks... seem most believable? Which abyss looks darker and deeper?”
Source: "The Brexit referendum on June 23rd will be all about David Cameron" published in The Economist

Adept: adjective, Very skilled or proficient at something
Synonyms: expert, proficient, accomplished
“An abundance of clever people—adept in English law as much as in finance—draws in banks, fund managers and so forth...”
Source: "From folly to fragmentation" published in The Economist

Agog: adjective, Very eager or curious to hear or see something
Synonyms: excited, impatient, in suspense
“We are now agog to know when, on the basis of its forecasts, the Bank will push up interest rates...”
Source: "The perils of planning on the basis of economic forecasts" published in The Economist

Allure: noun, the quality of being powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating
Synonyms: attraction, lure, draw
“Yet it was the allure of the Model T for millions of consumers that finally drove the horse off the road.”
Source: "When oil is no longer in demand" published in The Economist

Altruism: noun, the belief in or practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others
Synonyms: selflessness, compassion, goodwill
“Dr Decety is not the first to wonder, in a scientific way, about the connection between religion and altruism.”
Source: "Matthew 22:39" published in The Economist

Ambivalent: adjective, having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone
Synonyms: equivocal, uncertain, unsure
“The first was a chronic lack of focus. Right from the start Yahoo was ambivalent about whether it should be a media or a technology company.”
Source: "From dotcom hero to zero" published in The Economist

Annul: verb, Declare invalid
Synonyms: repeal, reverse, rescind
“Last month’s election was a re-run of a vote in October 2015, the results of which were annulled after several candidates alleged electoral malpractice.”
Source: "Haiti’s probable new president" published in The Economist

Apathy: noun, Lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern
Synonyms: indifference, passivity, ennui
“Perhaps most difficult will be overcoming the cynicism, and apathy, of the public.”
Source: "As the North East rejects a devolution deal, the West Midlands embraces one" published in The Economist

Arbitrary: adjective, Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system
Synonyms: capricious, random, chance
“The prevailing belief among linguists had been that the sounds used to form those words were arbitrary.”
Source: "Distant languages have similar sounds for common words" published in The Economist

Arbiter: noun, a person who settles a dispute or has ultimate authority in a matter
Synonyms: authority, judge, controller
“The viewer is, ultimately, the arbiter of influence: either partaking in the objectification, or actively challenging the power dynamic.”
Source: "Learning artists' secrets from their studios" published in The Economist

Artless: adjective, without guile or deception
Synonyms: candid, direct, forthright
“He is loveably artless and embarrassingly awkward in his unstoppably cheerful attempts to win over the frosty members of the band...”
Source: "Talking to Frank" published in The Economist

Audacious: adjective, showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks
Synonyms: bold, daring, fearless
“It was as audacious as any heist and yet unlikely material for a Hollywood blockbuster.”
Source: "The Dhaka caper" published in The Economist

Austere: adjective, Having an extremely plain and simple style or appearance
Synonyms: unadorned, subdued, stark
“Not all Western airports have austere arrival concourses à la Heathrow; many have eateries and bars...”
Source: "Airport arrivals: something to celebrate" published in The Economist

Blight: noun, a thing that spoils or damages something
Synonyms: affliction, scourge, bane
“Yet the USFS predicts that within a couple of decades, because of slowing growth and climate-related blights, the forests will become an emissions source.”
Source: "Ravaged woodlands" published in The Economist

Blithe: adjective, showing a casual and cheerful indifference considered to be callous or improper
Synonyms: indifferent, unconcerned, blasé
“Mr. Cameron’s government was too posh, too cocky, too blithe about globalization’s merits, too metropolitan. Too Notting Hill. “
Source: "Britain’s new prime minister will regret appointing Boris Johnson" published in The Economist

Blowhard: noun, a person who blusters and boasts in an unpleasant way
Synonyms: boaster, bragger, show-off
“His name conjured up associations such as ‘arrogant’ and ‘blowhard’ ...”
Source: "The art of the demagogue" published in The Economist

Bolster: verb, Support or strengthen
Synonyms: reinforce, prop up, boost
“If the results are confirmed, they will bolster voters’ belief in the system.”
Source: "Could a recount overturn the election result?" published in The Economist

Bombastic: adjective, High-sounding but with little meaning; inflated Synonyms: pompous, blustering, turgid
“Cynics may ascribe Mr. Rubio’s mild tone to the diverse population of his home state, and the fact that bombastic Mr. Trump trails in the polls there.”
Source: "A bloody week for America" published in The Economist

Boycott: noun, a punitive ban that forbids relations with certain groups
Synonyms: veto, shunning, rejection
“Conversely some prominent black women have called for a boycott, seeing Mr. Parker’s past as a disqualifying stain.”
Source: "Blood on the leaves" published in The Economist

Burlesque: noun, a variety show
Synonyms: skit, farce, striptease
“Madame JoJo’s, a burlesque bar in London’s Soho, had its license revoked in 2014 after two bouncers brandished a baseball bat at a rowdy crowd.”
Source: "Less than ecstatic" published in The Economist

Cacophony: noun, a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds
Synonyms: racket, noise, clamor
“In 1957 New York’s subway contained a haphazard mishmash of fonts, both serif and sans, and a typographic designer, sick of the visual cacophony, submitted a brief to the New York City Transit Authority...”
Source: "Fonts and cities: a love story" published in The Economist

Chronic: adjective, (Of a problem) long lasting and difficult to eradicate
Synonyms: constant, continuing, persistent
“Pessimists think the productivity problem is chronic. Technological advances, they say, are ever-less revolutionary...”
Source: "Econundrum" published in The Economist

Coda: noun, a concluding event, remark or section
Synonyms: ending, finale
“With distinct ballad, opera and hard rock sections—and a pensive intro and coda, for good measure—the song was not for listeners in a hurry.”
Source: "Bohemian Rhapsody's long legacy" published in The Economist

Confound: verb, Prove (a theory, expectation, or prediction) wrong
Synonyms: contradict, counter, go against
“Yet in another sense, the Fed has confounded predictions—at least, those it made itself.”
Source: "The Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates again" published in The Economist

Deign: verb, Do something that one considers to be beneath one's dignity
Synonyms: come down from one's high horse
“If the Senate deigns to consider and confirm a nominee, do not expect changes overnight.”
Source: "How the election will shape the Supreme Court" published in The Economist

Disingenuous: adjective, not candid or sincere
Synonyms: dishonest, deceitful, duplicitous
“But shamelessly self-interested and probably contrary to his real views on the EU though it is, the mayor’s move is perhaps not entirely disingenuous.”
Source: "Boris Johnson is wrong: in the 21st century, sovereignty is always relative" published in The Economist

Docile: adjective, Ready to accept control or instruction; submissive
Synonyms: compliant, obedient, pliant
“Docile with humans, they are fierce defenders of territory and their young.”
Source: "Breeding cows that can defend themselves against jaguars" published in The Economist

Doff: verb, Remove (an item of clothing)
Synonyms: lay hold of, take hold of
“To don shoes, to doff them, or even to throw them at somebody?”
Source: "Putting their best feet forward" published in The Economist

Dote: verb, be extremely and uncritically fond of
Synonyms: adore, love dearly, be devoted to
“Falling birth-rates allowed parents to dote on fewer children, who were increasingly likely to go to school.”
Source: "Love’s labour" published in The Economist

Endow: verb, Provide with a quality, ability, or asset
Synonyms: equip, bless, give
“Good and inspiring teachers, meanwhile, such as... J.K. Rowling’s Minerva McGonagall, are portrayed as endowed with supernatural gifts...”
Source: "Teaching the teachers" published in The Economist

Ephemeral: adjective, Lasting for a very short time
Synonyms: fleeting, passing, short-lived
“One was Song Dong, just 19 and studying oil painting which he quickly abandoned. Now he is known for his performances and his ephemeral—sometimes edible—installations.”
Source: "Robert Rauschenberg: Ripe for reassessment" published in The Economist

Ethos: noun, the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community
Synonyms: character, atmosphere, climate
“Mr. Cotton presented himself as a member of the generation moved by the patriotic spirit... leaving civilian careers to join the army and learn a ‘warrior ethos.’”
Source: "Growing Cotton in Iowa" published in The Economist

Facetious: adjective, Treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor
Synonyms: flippant, glib, tongue-in-cheek
“'More disturbing,' says Mr. Hart, I didn't note that his column was facetious. In tone, it was indeed, and I should have noted that.”
Source: "The etymological fallacy" published in The Economist

Faction: noun, a small, organized, dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics
Synonyms: contingent, section, sector
“One particular separatist faction is now widely accepted to have been responsible for a string of small bombs which detonated in August...”
Source: "The death of the Thai king throws the country into turmoil" published in The Economist

Fallow: adjective, Inactive
Synonyms: dormant, quiet, slack
“Their fickle attention might waver for a few fallow years of rebuilding, but Angel Stadium will still be standing...”
Source: "Why baseball’s best player should be sent packing" published in The Economist

Falter: verb, Move unsteadily or in a way that shows lack of confidence
Synonyms: stumble, fumble
“His early steps were faltering, and a frailer soul might have been daunted by his mentors’ fate...”
Source: "Obituary: John Glenn died on December 8th" published in The Economist

Flail: verb, Flounder; struggle uselessly
Synonyms: thrash, thresh, squirm
“This means that, a good accent, rhythm and grammar notwithstanding, the intermediate-to-advanced learner is likely to flail...”
Source: "The humble linguist" published in The Economist

Fluke: noun, Unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck
Synonyms: coincidence, accident, a twist of fate
“Was this a fluke? Mr. Baker is not the first to notice the anomaly.”
Source: "Risk and the stockmarket" published in The Economist

Forage: verb, (of a person or animal) search widely for food or provisions
Synonyms: hunt, scavenge, grub
“And you must be ready to abandon tired orthodoxies of the left and right and forage for good ideas across the political spectrum.”
Source: "The next supermodel" published in The Economist

Fortuitous: adjective, Happening by a lucky chance
Synonyms: fortunate, advantageous, opportune
“Thanks to these sensible policies, and the fortuitous tailwind of higher productivity growth, the economy boomed and prosperity was shared.”
Source: "Can she fix it?" published in The Economist

Fringe: noun, the unconventional, extreme, or marginal wing of a group or sphere of activity
Synonyms: peripheral, radical, unorthodox
“Fringe beliefs reinforced in these ways can establish themselves and persist long after outsiders deem them debunked...”
Source: "Yes, I’d lie to you" published in The Economist

Garner: verb, Gather or collect (something, especially information or approval)
Synonyms: accumulate, amass, assemble
“Labs that garnered more pay-offs were more likely to pass on their methods to other, newer labs...”
Source: "Incentive malus" published in The Economist

Gist: noun, the substance or essence of a speech or text
Synonyms: quintessence, main idea
“Machine translation, too, has gone from terrible to usable for getting the gist of a text...”
Source: "Finding a voice" published in The Economist

Gossamer: adjective, Used to refer to something very light, thin, and insubstantial or delicate
Synonyms: gauzy, gossamery, fine
“Like a saintly relic, the gossamer threads that tie the two halves offer the promise of miraculous healing by evoking the vulnerability of the suffering body.”
Source: "Die and do" published in The Economist

Grovel: verb, Act in an obsequious manner in order to obtain someone's forgiveness or favor
Synonyms: be servile, suck up, flatter
“She writes...in the knowledge that some of these lovers will snoop into her diary to see what she's written. ('Does she get a kick out of my groveling in the last two years?)”
Source: "When she was good" published in The Economist

Harangue: noun, a lengthy and aggressive speech
Synonyms: tirade, diatribe, rant
“State-run China Central Television (CCTV) has broadcast harsh criticisms of some multinationals, including an absurd harangue over Starbucks’ prices...”
Source: "A harder road ahead" published in The Economist

Impetuous: adjective, Acting or done quickly and without thought or care
Synonyms: impulsive, rash, hasty
“The report holds many lessons, including for this newspaper, which supported the invasion of Iraq: about the danger of impetuous decision-making...”
Source: "The dangerous chill of Chilcot" published in The Economist

Indictment: noun, a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime
Synonyms: arraignment, citation
“A criminal indictment would, in all likelihood, force the prime minister to resign.”
Source: "A new scandal rocks Israel’s prime minister" published in The Economist

Inert: adjective, Lacking vigor
Synonyms: idle, inactive, underactive
“America’s founders, he argued, put their faith in reasoned discussion among citizens and believed that the 'greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.' “
Source: "Citizen Brandeis" published in The Economist

Ingrate: noun, an ungrateful person
“Greater liberty... over the past generation is abused by ingrates who think it funny to depict their leaders pantless...”
Source: "Run!" published in The Economist

Insipid: adjective, Lacking vigour or interest
Synonyms: boring, vapid, dull
“It was a stultifying procession of patriotic songs... insipid skits and bald propaganda.”
Source: "Core values" published in The Economist

Lax: adjective, Not sufficiently strict, severe, or careful
Synonyms: slack, slipshod, negligent
“Mario Draghi has faced attacks from critics in Germany (for being too lax) and Greece (for being too tight).”
Source: "Rethinking central bank independence" published in The Economist

Listless: adjective, (Of a person or their manner) lacking energy or enthusiasm
Synonyms: lethargic, enervated, lackadaisical
“Ukraine is brimming with weapons and thousands of militiamen, angry with a corrupt and listless government they feel has hijacked the revolution.”
Source: "Mr. Saakashvili goes to Odessa" published in The Economist

Livid: adjective, furiously angry
Synonyms: infuriated, irate, fuming
“A livid Vladimir Putin minced no words in his response, calling the downing a 'stab in the back'...”
Source: "Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet was a confrontation waiting to happen" published in The Economist

Loll: verb, Sit, lie, or stand in a lazy, relaxed way
Synonyms: lounge, sprawl, drape oneself
“The pair loll on a green hillside at Murnau south of Munich where Münter had bought a house.”
Source: "Eye music" published in The Economist

Lurid: adjective, Presented in vividly shocking or sensational terms
Synonyms: melodramatic, exaggerated, overdramatized
“Their absence from the public eye, especially in a Western country with an abundant supply of good hospitals, tends to spark lurid rumours of illness and even death.”
Source: "Malawi’s president disappears" published in The Economist

Mar: verb, Impair the quality or appearance of
Synonyms: spoil, ruin, damage
“These oversights mar an otherwise engaging and interesting account, but perhaps it is natural that a history of space should have a few gaping holes.”
Source: "The uncanny physics of empty space" published in The Economist

Mince: verb, Use polite or moderate expressions to indicate disapproval
“President Barack Obama didn’t mince his words in a tweet on June 21st, the day after the Senate failed to pass four proposals...”
Source: "Senators fail the American people (again)" published in The Economist

Minion: noun, a follower or underling of a powerful person
Synonyms: henchman, yes-man, lackey
“Its minions have set up thousands of social-media “bots” and other spamming weapons to drown out other content.”
Source: "Yes, I’d lie to you" published in The Economist

Mirth: noun, Amusement, especially as expressed in laughter
Synonyms: merriment, high spirits
“A further proposal, to cut the salaries of senior public managers by 25%, has caused both anger and mirth.”
Source: "Letting go, slowly" published in The Economist

Modest: adjective, not excessively large, elaborate, or expensive
Synonyms: ordinary, simple, plain
“They can be seen in the modest dress, office decor and eating habits of Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor...”
Source: "How Martin Luther has shaped Germany for half a millennium" published in The Economist

Morose: adjective, Sullen and ill-tempered
Synonyms: sullen, sulky, gloomy
“Mr. Macron’s can-do political energy stands out in morose France, home to 10% unemployment and growth last year of just 1.1%.”
Source: "Beardless youth" published in The Economist

Muse: noun, a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist
Synonyms: inspiration, influence, stimulus
“Mr. Blackwell’s mother was Fleming’s mistress, muse and supposedly the model for Pussy Galore.”
Source: "Island story" published in The Economist

Oblique: adjective, Not explicit or direct in addressing a point
Synonyms: indirect, inexplicit, roundabout
“'Fire at Sea' has been praised for offering an oblique, poetic alternative to a more conventional campaigning documentary...”
Source: "The odd, award-winning migration movie 'Fire at Sea'" published in The Economist

Opaque: adjective, Not able to be seen through; not transparent
Synonyms: cloudy, obscure
“But Mr. Kim is so opaque and so little is known about how decisions come about in the capital, Pyongyang, that deterring North Korea is fraught with difficulty.”
Source: "A nuclear nightmare" published in The Economist

Overwrought: adjective, (of a piece of writing or a work of art) too elaborate or complicated in design or construction
Synonyms: overblown, contrived, exaggerated
“She made prodigious strides as a writer and learned to temper her overwrought outpourings.”
Source: "Charlotte Brontë’s classroom fantasy" published in The Economist

Pertain: verb, be appropriate, related, or applicable
Synonyms: concern, relate to, be related to
“Religious exceptions to the law, such as those pertaining to animal welfare, should ideally be ended...”
Source: "Like other old institutions, England’s state religion uses artful adaptation" published in The Economist

Pine: verb, Miss and long for the return of
“Few DJs pine for the days of ones-and-twos; the possibilities of modern technology are too alluring.”
Source: "Now that anyone can be a DJ, is the art form dead?" published in The Economist

Placate: verb, Make (someone) less angry or hostile
Synonyms: appease, pacify, mollify
“The government has tried to placate voters without abandoning its policies.”
Source: "It’s cold outside" published in The Economist

Platitude: noun, A remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful
Synonyms: cliché, truism, commonplace
“For most of her end-of-term grilling by the liaison committee... she wore an aquiline scowl, quibbling with the questions and, when pushed, cleaving to evasive platitudes...”
Source: "Assessing the first six months of Theresa May" published in The Economist

Plethora: noun, a large or excessive amount
Synonyms: excess, overabundance, surplus
“Podcasts were facing fierce competition for audiences’ attention from a plethora of other new digital-native products including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.”
Source: "2016: the year the podcast came of age" published in The Economist

Posit: verb, Put forward as fact or as a basis for argument
Synonyms: postulate, propound, submit
“Mr. Ansar and his co-authors assume this margin is 40%: they posit a ratio of expected benefits to costs of 1.4 for every project.”
Source: "Opinion is divided on China’s massive infrastructure projects" published in The Economist

Prodigal: noun, a person who leaves home and behaves recklessly, but later makes a repentant return
“As the 73-year-old Mr. Obiang becomes frailer, his sons, including the prodigal Teodorín, have begun jockeying to succeed him.”
Source: "Palace in the jungle" published in The Economist

Prophetic: adjective, Accurately describing or predicting what will happen in the future
Synonyms: predictive, visionary
“As the depleted council began, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware... said he still hoped it could avoid being mired in Orthodoxy’s internal woes and 'speak in a firm, prophetic voice' to humanity.”
Source: "The autumn of the patriarchs" published in The Economist

Purist: noun, a person who insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures
Synonyms: pedant, dogmatist, perfectionist
“From this purist point of view, there is only one Christian church worthy of the name....”
Source: "Eastern Christian leaders face ultra-conservative grumbles as they prepare for a summit" published in The Economist

Pyre: noun, a heap of combustible material, especially one for burning a corpse as part of a funeral ceremony
“Yet Ms McInerney takes the story deeper, skillfully setting a funeral pyre 'for that Ireland'...”
Source: "Irish charm" published in The Economist

Quack: noun, a person who dishonestly claims to have special knowledge in some field
Synonyms: swindler, charlatan, fraud
“That can cause malnutrition and eating disorders—and supports a vast, quack-ridden diet industry.”
Source: "Declare war on misleading metaphors" published in The Economist

Reticence: noun, the quality of not revealing one’s thoughts or feelings readily
Synonyms: reserve, introversion, restraint
“Mr. Harding is more comfortable with facts; with classic English reticence, he buries his family’s responses in footnotes and summaries.”
Source: "Vantage point" published in The Economist

Rue: verb, Bitterly regret (something one has done or allowed to happen)
Synonyms: deplore, lament, bemoan
“Meanwhile, Mr. Showalter will now have a long six months to rue his slavery to the save rule before his club plays another game.”
Source: "Progressive managers are finding sweet relief by unshackling their closers" published in The Economist

Ruminate: verb, Think deeply about something
Synonyms: contemplate, consider, mull over
“Alfred Sauvy, the French thinker... was prone to worry that the first world would become 'a society of old people, living in old houses, ruminating about old ideas.'”
Source: "Age invaders" published in The Economist

Stigma: noun, a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person
Synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonour
“A stigma against adults having fun, strong in the aftermath of the Second World War, has faded.”
Source: "Toymakers bounce back in the land of adult nappies" published in The Economist

Strut: verb, Walk with a stiff, erect, and apparently arrogant or conceited gait
Synonyms: swagger, prance, parade
“Dogs strut their stuff on its pavements tricked out in tutus, hoodies, boots, overalls and trousers.”
Source: "Furry fashionable" published in The Economist

Sublime: adjective, of very great excellence or beauty
Synonyms: awe-inspiring, awesome, majestic
“Yet life in the ocean can still mount sublime spectacles.”
Source: "If the ocean was transparent" published in The Economist

Surly: adjective, Bad-tempered and unfriendly
Synonyms: ill-natured, grumpy, glum
“Here, poverty and economic decline has led to the surly separation of a left-behind, resentful white working class and a Muslim minority.”
Source: "Integration nation" published in The Economist

Syncopation: noun, A displacement of the beat or accents in (music or a rhythm) so that strong beats become weak and vice versa
“She dances an assortment of lissom steps, marvelously shedding shoes and socks as the Beethoven famously shifts from solemnity to syncopation.”
Source: "Her final steps" published in The Economist

Taunt: noun, A remark made in order to anger, wound, or provoke someone
Synonyms: jeer, gibe, sneer
“But in the past two years taunts have turned into deadly attacks.”
Source: "Murder for profit" published in The Economist

Tawdry: adjective, Showy but cheap and of poor quality
Synonyms: gaudy, flashy, garish
“A team of 21 organisers resigned from the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (NPBCU), throwing the festival of tawdry pop into doubt.”
Source: "Why Ukraine’s Eurovision song contest is in crisis" published in The Economist

Temperate: adjective, Relating to or denoting a region or climate characterized by mild temperatures
Synonyms: mild, clement, pleasant
“It can remain temperate in such a close orbit only because Proxima is a red dwarf, and thus much cooler than the sun. “
Source: "Proximate goals" published in The Economist

Terse: adjective, Sparing in the use of words
Synonyms: curt, brusque, abrupt
“In a terse phone-call on Thursday night, President Barack Obama paused only briefly to congratulate Mr. Netanyahu on his victory...”
Source: "Picking up the pieces" published in The Economist

Tome: noun, a book, especially a large, heavy, scholarly one
Synonyms: volume, work, opus
“It is a tome to which most recent arguments about regulation and economic reform are merely annotations.”
Source: "Britain’s newly interventionist economic consensus is a question, not an answer" published in The Economist

Torrid: adjective, Full of difficulty or tribulation
“The pound, after a few torrid days of trading immediately after the vote, has stabilized.”
Source: "How Britain’s post-referendum economy is faring" published in The Economist

Transgression: noun, an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct
Synonyms: offense, crime, sin
“We can forgive most kinds of transgression—anger, adultery, avarice—but we cannot forgive absurdity.”
Source: "Can we forgive Anthony Weiner?" published in The Economist

Treacherous: adjective, Guilty of or involving betrayal or deception
Synonyms: traitorous, disloyal, perfidious
“It sang of domineering men, treacherous women and the manly solace of tequila.”
Source: "Mexico’s mirror" published in The Economist

Vapid: adjective, offering nothing that is stimulating or challenging; bland
Synonyms: insipid, uninspired, uninteresting
“Mr. Silver delighted in savaging commentators who relied on vapid clichés like 'momentum shifts' and 'game-changers.'”
Source: "Pushback" published in The Economist

Vestige: noun, a trace of something that is disappearing or no longer exists
Synonyms: remnant, remainder, fragment
“He said this would remove a 'lingering vestige of the cold war.' “
Source: "Politics this week" published in The Economist

Vilify: verb, Speak or write about in an abusively disparaging manner
Synonyms: disparage, denigrate, defame
“Its publications and social-media accounts, however, have vilified Turkey ever since the country decided last year to open its airbases to coalition jets...”
Source: "Soft target" published in The Economist

Viscous: adjective, having a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid
Synonyms: gummy, glue-like, gluey
“Not all barrels of oil are alike. Crudes can be viscous like tar or so 'light' they float on water.”
Source: "Crude measure" published in The Economist

Volatile: adjective, Liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse
Synonyms: tense, strained, turbulent
“The period from the 1940s to the 1970s, when governments took primary responsibility for keeping economies out of slumps, was more volatile and inflationary...”
Source: "The desperation of independents" published in The Economist

Waffle: noun, Lengthy but trivial or useless talk or writing
Synonyms: prattle, hot air, drivel
“Most voters say they know little about the candidates or their policies, some of which are pure waffle.”
Source: "No walk in the Park" published in The Economist

Waft: verb, Pass or cause to pass easily or gently through or as if through the air
Synonyms: drift, float, glide
“The acrid scent of smoke wafts from his clothes.”
Source: "Despite tough talk, Indonesia’s government is struggling to stem deforestation" published in The Economist

Wanton: adjective, (of a cruel or violent action) deliberate and unprovoked
Synonyms: malicious, malevolent, spiteful
“Over the decades these Muslim non-people, without legal or any other sort of protection, have been the victims of wanton discrimination and violence…”
Source: "Myanmar’s shame" published in The Economist

Whitewash: verb, Deliberately attempt to conceal unpleasant facts about (a person or organization)
Synonyms: cover up, sweep under the carpet
“Indeed, in trying to whitewash the past, the government may stir up prejudice instead.”
Source: "The politics of memory" published in The Economist

Whittle: verb, Reduce something in size, amount, or extent by a gradual series of steps
Synonyms: erode, wear away, diminish
“Democrats had spent a nervous September watching that lead whittle away after Mrs. Clinton’s bout of pneumonia...”
Source: "Hillary Clinton’s polling compared with Barack Obama’s" published in The Economist

Winsome: adjective, Attractive or appealing in appearance or character
Synonyms: engaging, charming, winning
“By the time Mr. Pattinson came along as the winsome vampire in “Twilight”, the teenage rebels were starting the movie already dead.”
Source: "James Dean, death-cult idol" published in The Economist

Wizened: adjective, Shriveled or wrinkled with age
Synonyms: lined, creased, withered
“His son, himself a wizened old man, is nonplussed by the news; he looks like an eccentric, or maybe the village drunk...”
Source: "The meandering, sure-footed genius of "Thithi" published in The Economist

Wry: adjective, Using or expressing dry, especially mocking, humor
Synonyms: ironic, sardonic, satirical
“Catherine Merridale is one of the foremost foreign historians of Russia, combining wry insights with deep sympathy for the human beings...”
Source: "Missed connection" published in The Economist

Zeal: noun, Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective
Synonyms: passion, zealousness, fervor
“But it was his zeal in amassing land by borrowing heavily that gave him his edge—and ultimately brought him down.”
Source: "A gambler on shale" published in The Economist

Level Two GRE Vocabulary: Medium Difficulty

Abasement: noun, the action or fact of abasing or being abased; humiliation or degradation
Synonyms: belittlement, disgrace
“But of course, Europe needs more than humility or self-abasement if it is to absorb the migrants who are now sailing or trudging towards its heart.”
Source: "A non-European pope is hailed as the greatest European" published in The Economist

Abate: verb, become less intense or widespread
Synonyms: subside, die away, die down
“A broad cash crunch and broken supply chains threaten a sharp economic slowdown—albeit one that will abate...”
Source: "The dire consequences of India’s demonetization initiative" published in The Economist

Accession: verb, the action or process of formally joining an association or institution
Synonyms: joining, signing up, enrollment
“China had expected to win the status of a market economy in December, 15 years after its accession to the World Trade Organization...”
Source: "An obsession with stable growth leads to vulnerabilities in China" published in The Economist

Acerbic: adjective, (Especially of a comment or style of speaking) sharp and forthright
Synonyms: sardonic, biting, caustic
“Mr. Zhang presented a friendly face in Hong Kong, prompting the Big Lychee, an acerbic local blog, to note: 'Few sights are more painful to behold than a senior Chinese Communist Party official attempting to be nice...'”
Source: "Rocking boats, shaking mountains" published in The Economist

Acolyte: noun, a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession
Synonyms: assistant, helper, follower
“Critics refer to a ‘cult’ of ‘acolytes’ around a ‘Great Leader’, unwilling to challenge him or engage seriously with the work of non-Chomskyan scholars.”
Source: "Noam Chomsky" published in The Economist

Acumen: noun, the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain
Synonyms: astuteness, awareness, acuity
“Literary critics admire his summer reading selections, musicians his playlists, scientists and tech entrepreneurs his acumen and curiosity.”
Source: "A reflection on Barack Obama’s presidency" published in The Economist

Apostle: noun, a vigorous and pioneering advocate or supporter of a particular cause
Synonyms: proponent, promoter, propagandist
“On the website of this apostle of anti-Americanism, there is an article rejoicing in the fact that the United States need no longer be treated as an enemy... “
Source: "Russian anti-liberals love Donald Trump but it may not be entirely mutual" published in The Economist

Apprise: verb, Inform or tell (someone)
Synonyms: notify, let know, advise
“If not exactly legitimate, secret information is often useful in apprising countries of the intentions of others.”
Source: "What are the spies for?" published in The Economist

Armada: noun, a fleet of warships
Synonyms: flotilla, squadron, navy
“This month he also unveiled plans to send an armada of tiny spaceships, powered by laser beams and equipped with all sorts of sensors...”
Source: "Crazy diamonds" published in The Economist

Arson: noun, the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property
Synonyms: incendiarism, pyromania
“The political landscape already feels as ready to burn as any... drought-stricken forest, so that throwing inflammatory statements around would be as wicked as any act of arson.”
Source: "A bloody week for America" published in The Economist

Ascribe: verb, Attribute something to (a cause)
Synonyms: attribute to, assign to, blame on
“He had spent years training to be a neurosurgeon; his doctor first ascribed his sharp pains and dwindling frame to the demands of residency.”
Source: "As he lay dying" published in The Economist

Barrage: noun, A concentrated outpouring, as of questions or blows
Synonyms: abundance, mass, profusion
“Whatever the outcome of individual claims, the barrage of litigation will probably prompt firms to adjust their online terms.”
Source: "Ticking all the boxes" published in The Economist

Bevy: noun, a large group of people or things of a particular kind
Synonyms: group, crowd, cluster
“Of the bevy of bullet points in Mr. Obama’s new package of executive actions, the most consequential is his decision to require significantly expanded background checks.”
Source: "Obama's new push for tougher gun controls" published in The Economist

Boor: noun, an unrefined, ill-mannered person
Synonyms: lout, oaf, ruffian
“End a sentence in a preposition, and there are still people who will think you a boor.”
Source: "Do you make Scandinavian mistakes?" published in The Economist

Bucolic: adjective, Relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life
Synonyms: rustic, rural, pastoral
“General Electric... is now swapping its bucolic site for a collection of warehouses on the Boston waterfront.”
Source: "Leaving for the city" published in The Economist

Canonical: adjective, (Of an artist or work) belonging to the literary or artistic canon
Synonyms: established, authoritative
“The medium now mostly consists of recycling the same canonical works by European men from centuries past.”
Source: "Can classical music be cool?" published in The Economist

Capricious: adjective, given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior
Synonyms: fickle, inconstant, changeable
“But there is a body of academic work that supports the idea that elections often misfire. For one thing, voters can be capricious.”
Source: "X marks the knot" published in The Economist

Chauvinism: noun, Excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for one’s own cause, group, or gender
Synonyms: jingoism, excessive patriotism, sectarianism
“As recently as 2014, a biannual survey of right-wing attitudes in Germany found that xenophobia, chauvinism, anti-Semitism and authoritarian longings were declining.”
Source: "Radikale Rechte" published in The Economist

Circumspect: adjective, Wary and unwilling to take risks
Synonyms: cautious, wary, careful
“'This is an area where we need to be extraordinarily careful and circumspect', he said. 'We’re literally talking about life and death.'”
Source: "How assisted suicide is gradually becoming lawful in America" published in The Economist

Coalesce: verb, Come together and form one mass or whole
Synonyms: merge, unite, fuse
“As they radiate away, the waves tend to coalesce to form two main shock waves.”
Source: "How supersonic jets may become less noisy" published in The Economist

Coffer: noun, the funds or financial reserves of a group or institution
Synonyms: resources, money, finances
“This scheme drains public coffers and is horribly corrupt.”
Source: "State of denial" published in The Economist

Condone: verb, Accept and allow (behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive)
Synonyms: disregard, let pass, excuse
“Rashad Ali... argues that deradicalisation can be worse than useless if practitioners, while condemning IS, condone other violence.”
Source: "A disarming approach" published in The Economist

Contrite: adjective, Feeling or expressing remorse or penitence
Synonyms: regretful, sorry, apologetic
“As the election results were coming in, a contrite Mr. Turnbull took 'full responsibility' for the government’s poor performance.”
Source: "The churn down under" published in The Economist

Credulous: adjective, having or showing too great a readiness to believe things
Synonyms: gullible, naive
“Supplements boast a unique trifecta: lax regulation, potent marketing and millions of credulousconsumers keen to pin their hopes of a healthier life on a pill.”
Source: "Miracle healers" published in The Economist

Demur: verb, Raise doubts or objections or show reluctance
Synonyms: object, take exception, take issue
“Mr. Sasse demurs. He does not want less fighting between the left and right. He wants more “meaningful fighting” about issues of substance.”
Source: "Ben Heard" published in The Economist

Depravity: noun, Moral corruption; wickedness
Synonyms: vice, perversion, deviance
“He condemned the 'anarchical plutocracy' he lived in, scorning the depravity of modern society and its politics.”
Source: "The discomfort of words" published in The Economist

Deride: verb, Express contempt for; ridicule
Synonyms: mock, jeer at, scoff at
“Mr. Trudeau’s domestic critics—so far a minority—deride him as 'Prime Minister Selfie' for posing incessantly with fans and celebrities...”
Source: "The last liberals" published in The Economist

Diatribe: noun, a forceful and bitter verbal attack against someone or something
Synonyms: tirade, harangue, onslaught
“CNN and other outlets were wrong to turn one disgruntled passenger’s Facebook diatribe into headline news. “
Source: "One can of worms, please. Unopened" published in The Economist

Dictum: noun, a short statement that expresses a general truth or principle
Synonyms: saying, maxim, axiom
“Sometimes the old army dictum 'Don’t volunteer for anything' must be broken.”
Source: "Lights, camera, action men" published in The Economist

Diffuse: verb, Spread out over a large area
Synonyms: scattered, dispersed, not concentrated
“The political economy of trade is treacherous: its benefits, though substantial, are diffuse...”
Source: "The consensus crumbles" published in The Economist

Dilate: verb, Make or become wider, larger, or more open
Synonyms: enlarge, expand
“By being able to increase heartbeat, while dilating blood vessels, theobromine can help reduce high blood pressure.”
Source: "Confection of the gods" published in The Economist

Discordant: adjective, Disagreeing or incongruous
Synonyms: divergent, opposing, clashing
“It represents an opening of musical trade routes between two often discordant sides of the world.”
Source: "Omar Souleyman, not a debaser but an Arab conduit to the West" published in The Economist

Divest: verb, Rid oneself of something that one no longer wants or requires, such as a business interest or investment
“So far the protesters have managed to persuade 220 cities and institutions to divest some of their holdings...”
Source: "Fight the power" published in The Economist

Droll: adjective, Curious or unusual in a way that provokes dry amusement
Synonyms: funny, humorous, amusing
“Karo Akpokiere, from Nigeria, will present a series of droll paintings inspired by the fast-moving pop culture that has emerged in Lagos...”
Source: "New on the Rialto" published in The Economist

Echelon: noun, a level or rank in an organization, a profession, or society
Synonyms: level, rank, grade
“The social shock of the arrival of online education will be substantially greater if it devours the top echelon of public universities.”
Source: "The disruption to come" published in The Economist

Eddy: verb, (of water, air, or smoke) move in a circular way
Synonyms: swirl, whirl, spiral
“Above all, Hokusai was a master of line and pattern, inscribing his forms within contours that eddy and spill like the currents of a mountain stream.”
Source: "Riding the crest" published in The Economist

Effigy: noun, a sculpture or model of a person
Synonyms: statue, statuette, figure
“The tradition of lighting bonfires and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes began shortly after the foiled plot, and schoolchildren still learn the ghoulish rhyme 'Remember, remember the fifth of November.'”
Source: "In Cuba, app stores pay rent" published in The Economist

Elucidate: verb, Make (something) clear
Synonyms: explain, make plain, illuminate
“One was from almost 600 people who had completed... a questionnaire intended to elucidatethe different tendencies of people to engage in sexual relationships without a deep emotional commitment.”
Source: "Cads and dads" published in The Economist

Endemic: adjective, (Of a disease or condition) regularly found among particular people or in a certain area
Synonyms: local, regional
“One of the mysteries of epidemiology is why Asia does not suffer from yellow fever. The disease is endemic in Africa, the continent where it evolved.”
Source: "A preventable tragedy" published in The Economist

Epistemology: noun, the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope
“The only way to know for sure is to run the experiment (Mr. Lind's exotic epistemologynotwithstanding).”
Source: "Michael Lind's bad argument against anything" published in The Economist

Epithet: noun, an adjective or descriptive phrase expressing a quality characteristic of the person or thing; a term of abuse
Synonyms: name, label, smear
“Preposterous’ and ‘absurd’ were among the milder epithets that could be overheard in the multilingual din.”
Source: "Snafus and successes at the Olympics" published in The Economist

Errant: adjective, Erring or straying from the proper course or standards
Synonyms: offending, guilty, culpable
“He could admit the error and fire the errant speechwriter.”
Source: "Melania Trump’s excruciating blunder" published in The Economist

Esoteric: adjective, Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest
Synonyms: abstruse, obscure, arcane
“The subjects at hand often sound esoteric, if not silly, but the questions may prove more than merely academic.”
Source: "Sneaking with the fishes" published in The Economist

Exemplar: noun, a person or thing serving as a typical example or excellent model
Synonyms: epitome, perfect example
‘At times 'Utopia' seems less an exemplar of idealism, and more of a satire on it.”
Source: "500 years on, are we living in Thomas More’s Utopia?" published in The Economist

Extol: verb, Praise enthusiastically
Synonyms: go wild about, wax lyrical about
“This is likely to become a media circus, with patient advocates likely to attend and extol the benefits of the treatments they received.”
Source: "A dish called hope" published in The Economist

Façade: noun, the face of a building
Synonyms: front, frontage, exterior
“Its grey stone façade and arched doorways convey a feeling of prosperity, a splash of high finance in this small county town in eastern China...”
Source: "Big but brittle" published in The Economist

Fetid: adjective, smelling extremely unpleasant
Synonyms: stinking, smelly, foul-smelling
“The fetid smog that settled on Beijing in January 2013 could join the ranks of these game-changing environmental disruptions.”
Source: "The East is grey" published in The Economist

Florid: adjective, using unusual words or complicated rhetorical constructions
Synonyms: extravagant, grandiloquent
“A victorious Governor Jerry Brown, his voice gruffer, his pate sparer and his metaphors more florid than during his first stint in office...”
Source: "Brownian motion" published in The Economist

Flout: verb, Openly disregard
Synonyms: defy, refuse to obey, go against
“It relies on its members, and on institutions... to shame and discourage people who flout important political norms.”
Source: "How strong are the institutions of liberal societies?" published in The Economist

Foible: noun, a minor weakness or eccentricity in someone’s character
Synonyms: idiosyncrasy, eccentricity, peculiarity
“The elder Bongo had a gift for politics as outsized as his personality (among other foibles, he liked to show off his pet tiger to guests).”
Source: "Trying to get past oil" published in The Economist

Forestall: verb, Prevent or obstruct (an anticipated event or action) by taking action ahead of time
Synonyms: pre-empt, get in before, get ahead of
“To forestall a social crisis, he mused, governments should consider a tax on robots; if automation slows as a result, so much the better.”
Source: "Why taxing robots is not a good idea" published in The Economist

Frenetic: adjective, Fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way
Synonyms: frantic, wild, frenzied
“Frenetic multi-tasking—surfing the web while watching TV while listening to music—is a formula for distraction, rather than good management.”
Source: "Here comes SuperBoss" published in The Economist

Gall: noun, Bold, impudent behavior
Synonyms: insolence, nerve, audacity
With enough gall and entrepreneurial spirit, it suggests, anyone can end up driving a Porsche and living in a marble-floored luxury apartment.
Source: "War games" published in The Economist

Galvanize: verb, Shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action
Synonyms: jolt, impel
“'The decay of American politics,' Mr. Fukuyama writes, 'will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action.'”
Source: "Pandering and other sins" published in The Economist

Gambit: noun, a device, action, or opening remark, typically one entailing a degree of risk, that is calculated to gain an advantage
Synonyms: plan, scheme, strategy
“What began as a gambit to hold together his divided Tory party is turning into an alarmingly close contest.”
Source: "The real danger of Brexit" published in The Economist

Goad: verb, Provoke or annoy (someone) so as to stimulate some action or reaction
Synonyms: spur, prod, egg on
“Her words were meant to goad officials into action, not (presumably) to describe how she saw the coming four years of her term.”
Source: "A series of unfortunate events" published in The Economist

Gossamer: adjective, Used to refer to something very light, thin, and insubstantial or delicate
Synonyms: gauzy, gossamery, fine
“Like a saintly relic, the gossamer threads that tie the two halves offer the promise of miraculous healing by evoking the vulnerability of the suffering body.”
Source: "Die and do" published in The Economist

Gouge: verb, Overcharge; swindle
“They do not want monopolists to gouge consumers and stifle innovation, yet they often struggle to determine the extent to which such things are happening.”
Source: "It’s complicated" published in The Economist

Grandiloquent: adjective, Pompous or extravagant in language, style, or manner
Synonyms: pompous, bombastic, magniloquent
“The authors give it a rather grandiloquent name: the desire 'to force destiny, to create serendipity.'”
Source: "In praise of misfits" published in The Economist

Grouse: verb, complain pettily; grumble
Synonyms: moan, groan, protest
“Some economists grouse about such rules, which can interfere with the smooth functioning of competitive labour markets...”
Source: "Apps and downsides" published in The Economist

Hapless: adjective, (Especially of a person) unfortunate
Synonyms: unlucky, luckless, out of luck
“By the 1970s, many fans argued that the spectacle of hapless pitchers feebly trying to fend off blazing fastballs was turning their at-bats into a mockery of the game.”
Source: "Is it ever a good idea to let a hurler hit?" published in The Economist

Homage: noun, Special honour or respect shown publicly
Synonyms: tribute, acknowledgement, admiration
“Over the past year, numerous young directors have been paying gushing homage to the movies which enchanted them in their youth.”
Source: "The dangerous chill of Chilcot" published in The Economist

Imbue: verb, Inspire or permeate with a feeling or quality
Synonyms: saturate, fill, suffuse
“Some feminists argue, moreover, that the very framework of economics is imbued with subtler forms of sexism.”
Source: "A proper reckoning" published in The Economist

Immutable: adjective, Unchanging over time or unable to be changed
Synonyms: permanent, set, steadfast
“After all, whom institutions choose to celebrate and how they depict the past are choices to be debated, not immutable facts.”
Source: "The colliding of the American mind" published in The Economist

Impasse: noun, a situation in which no progress is possible, especially because of disagreement
Synonyms: deadlock, dead end, stalemate
“The Catalan impasse is part of a wider Spanish gridlock. Elections on December 20th splintered the political landscape.”
Source: "The chore of the Spanish succession" published in The Economist

Inculcate: verb, Instill (an attitude, idea, or habit) by persistent instruction
Synonyms: imbue, infuse, inspire
“The tests and ceremonies were to start inculcating a sense of common values that had previously been lacking.”
Source: "Integration nation" published in The Economist

Indolence: noun, Avoidance of activity or exertion
Synonyms: laziness, idleness, slothfulness
“The indolence of a society brought up to expect that oil riches will be lavished upon them is another large hurdle.”
Source: "Saudi Arabia’s post-oil future" published in The Economist

Inquest: noun, a judicial inquiry to ascertain the facts relating to an incident, such as a death
Synonyms: enquiry, investigation, inquisition
“A jury at a second inquest ruled that they were unlawfully killed.”
Source: "The significance of the Hillsborough inquests" published in The Economist

Irascible: adjective, having or showing a tendency to be easily angered
Synonyms: irritable, quick-tempered, short-tempered
“He survived, but some of his contemporaries thought that the accident changed his personality from pleasant to irascible.”
Source: "From neurosis to neurons" published in The Economist

Itinerant: adjective, Traveling from place to place
Synonyms: peripatetic, wandering, roving
“Her first America-set film is a freewheeling road movie in which an 18-year-old escapes a dysfunctional family by joining a group of itinerant young misfits.”
Source: "Noblesse oblige at Cannes" published in The Economist

Laconic: adjective, (of a person, speech, or style of writing) using very few words
Synonyms: brief, concise, terse
“After decades in obscurity, he has been resurrected as an important literary figure, praised for his laconic style and eyewitness testimony...”
Source: "Darkness before dawn" published in The Economist

Largesse: noun, Generosity in bestowing money or gifts upon others
Synonyms: liberality, munificence, bounty
“All else equal, such largesse should indeed give the economy some temporary vim.”
Source: "King of debt" published in The Economist

Leery: adjective, Cautious or wary due to realistic suspicions
Synonyms: careful, circumspect, on one's guard
“The past two decades have left working-class voters in many countries leery of globalisation.”
Source: "Trade in the balance" published in The Economist

Limpid: adjective, (especially of writing or music) clear and accessible or melodious
Synonyms: lucid, plain, understandable
“Unlike many writers of Spanish, he preferred short, simple sentences, and they gave his writing a limpid intensity.”
Source: "Poet of a magical Latin American world" published in The Economist

Loquacious: adjective, Tending to talk a great deal
Synonyms: talkative, voluble, communicative
“Edwina, Williams’ mother, was judgmental, frigid and pious, but also as loquacious as her husband was laconic.”
Source: "Making Tenn out of Tom" published in The Economist

Lucid: adjective, Showing ability to think clearly
Synonyms: rational, sane, in one's right mind
“But his style is lucid and his judgments scrupulously fair.”
Source: "A near-run thing" published in The Economist

Malign: adjective, evil in nature or effect
Synonyms: harmful, bad, malevolent
“Other, darker interpretations of what malign force the monster may represent once again abound...”
Source: "A well-loved monster takes Japan’s box office by storm once again" published in The Economist

Maudlin: adjective, Self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental
Synonyms: emotional, tearful, lachrymose
“Alas, he never really fixed his state’s finances, and voters at home have tired of his maudlintheatrics...”
Source: "Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina drop out" published in The Economist

Milieu: noun, a person’s social environment
Synonyms: sphere, background, backdrop
“Armed with a view of themselves in a seething milieu of particles careening around a stretchy space-time, readers are reminded they are 'an integral part of the world which we perceive...'”
Source: "The universe, writ small" published in The Economist

Mire: verb, involve someone or something in (a difficult situation)
Synonyms: entangle, tangle up, embroil
“Ms Park is hopelessly mired in an ever-deepening influence-peddling scandal.”
Source: "Why Park Geun-hye should resign" published in The Economist

Modish: adjective, Conforming to or following what is currently popular and fashionable
Synonyms: modern, trendy, in
“With these modish safety demonstrations becoming the norm, the question is what, exactly, do they accomplish?”
Source: "Why airline safety videos are getting catchier" published in The Economist

Morose: adjective, Sullen and ill-tempered
Synonyms: sullen, sulky, gloomy
“Mr. Macron’s can-do political energy stands out in morose France, home to 10% unemployment and growth last year of just 1.1%.”
Source: "Beardless youth" published in The Economist

Nascent: adjective, just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential
Synonyms: emerging, beginning, dawning
“Weakening the legislature in a nascent democracy will not fix corruption by itself.”
Source: "Why politicians are granted immunity from prosecution" published in The Economist

Natty: adjective, (of a person or an article of clothing) smart and fashionable
Synonyms: stylish, dapper, debonair
“The British Museum, the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection have all flirted with nattycontinental leaders...”
Source: "Two new museum heads herald a generational shift in advocates for the arts in Britain" published in The Economist

Nexus: noun, a connection or series of connections linking two or more things
Synonyms: union, link
“Some chapters read like a thriller, because they offer a microscopic look at the unwholesome nexus between Germany’s media, politics and judiciary.”
Source: "An unwholesome nexus" published in The Economist

Nonplussed: adjective, (Of a person) surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react
Synonyms: baffled, confounded
“And as usual, internet commenters seemed nonplussed by what seemed to be a venerable institution (i.e., Oxford) validating teenage slang.”
Source: "How dictionary-makers decide which words to include" published in The Economist

Normative: adjective, Establishing, relating to, or deriving from a standard or norm
“...Japanese philosopher and merchant, Tominaga Nakamoto, who was highly critical of the normative thought of his time and favoured free trade.”
Source: "Craig Wright reveals himself as Satoshi Nakamoto" published in The Economist

Opine: verb, Hold and state as one’s opinion
Synonyms: suggest, say, declare
“The voters may opine on the overarching principle but the voters cannot get involved in the minutiae of policy implementation.”
Source: "A recipe for Parliamentary chaos?" published in The Economist

Pallid: adjective, (of a person's face) pale, typically because of poor health
Synonyms: white, pasty, wan
“Its protagonists (played by the suitably pallid and slender Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) are named Adam and Eve.”
Source: "Nonfatal attraction" published in The Economist

Panache: noun, Flamboyant confidence of style or manner
Synonyms: self-assurance, style, flair
“Second, a quick mind: he wrote with speed and panache, after strolling round leisurely with a big cigar beforehand.”
Source: "The Fab One" published in The Economist

Paragon: noun, a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality
Synonyms: model, epitome, exemplar
“Despite the reasons to see it as a paragon of modernity, Odebrecht has long been accused of winning business in an old-fashioned and less admirable way.”
Source: "Principles and values" published in The Economist

Parry: verb, Answer (a question or accusation) evasively
Synonyms: evade, sidestep, avoid
“In the course of his business career, the president-elect has shown a remarkable ability to dodge and parry and reverse himself on everything...”
Source: "How the Supreme Court will change under President Trump" published in The Economist

Penchant: noun, A strong or habitual liking for something or tendency to do something
Synonyms: fondness, inclination, preference
“Mr. Gorsuch also shares Mr. Scalia’s literary talents: he is an elegant writer with a penchant for playful eruditio.”
Source: "Donald Trump taps Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court" published in The Economist

Pithy: adjective, (of language or style) terse and vigorously expressive
Synonyms: concise, brief, compact
“Academics are not known for brevity in writing. And physics does not lend itself to pithy introductions.”
Source: "The universe, writ small" published in The Economist

Plethora: noun, a large or excessive amount
Synonyms: excess, overabundance, surplus
“Podcasts were facing fierce competition for audiences’ attention from a plethora of other new digital-native products including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.”
Source: "2016: the year the podcast came of age" published in The Economist

Posit: verb, Put forward as fact or as a basis for argument
Synonyms: postulate, propound, submit
“Mr. Ansar and his co-authors assume this margin is 40%: they posit a ratio of expected benefits to costs of 1.4 for every project.”
Source: "Opinion is divided on China’s massive infrastructure projects" published in The Economist

Presage: verb, be a sign or warning of (an imminent event, typically an unwelcome one)
Synonyms: point to, mean, signify
“Stock markets are set to open down today, and the election could presage a longer slump if investors feel that the uncertainty generated... will harm growth and corporate profits.”
Source: "The economic consequences of Donald Trump" published in The Economist

Prolific: adjective, (of an artist, author, or composer) producing many works
Synonyms: productive, creative, inventive
“It is true that few artists have been so prolific. On average, he released a studio album every year...”
Source: "Everything flowed through Prince" published in The Economist

Proxy: noun, a person authorized to act on behalf of another
Synonyms: representative, substitute, stand-in
“...Mr. Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, who took over his political movement after he left the country and who in 2011 was elected prime minister as his proxy.”
Source: "The death of the Thai king throws the country into turmoil: Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina drop out" published in The Economist

Prudish: adjective, having a tendency to be easily shocked by matters relating to sex or nudity
Synonyms: puritanical, prim, goody-goody
“Several Pacific nations ban cross-dressing (another hand-me-down from prudish Victorians).”
Source: "Knife-edge lives" published in The Economist

Qualm: noun, an uneasy feeling of doubt, worry, or fear
Synonyms: misgiving, doubt, reservation
“Qualms about the force’s quality extend beyond their handling of demonstrators.”
Source: "The force is with who?" published in The Economist

Quell: verb, Suppress (a feeling, especially an unpleasant one)
Synonyms: calm, soothe, pacify
“So the correct response is to...plump up the capital cushions of its vulnerable banks with enough public money to quell fears of a systemic crisis.”
Source: "The Italian job" published in The Economist

Quibble: verb, Argue or raise objections about a trivial matter
Synonyms: object to, criticize, nitpick
“One can quibble with some of the detail; perhaps the labour market participation rate can rise again, particularly if baby boomers find they don't have enough money with which to retire.”
Source: "Nevsky’s prospects: China, fat tails and opaque markets" published in The Economist

Quotidian: adjective, Ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane
Synonyms: day-to-day, average, daily
“They are seers, and mystics unfettered by the quotidian, connecting with the divine and reporting back.”
Source: "The figure of the mad artistic genius is compelling, but unhelpful" published in The Economist

Recalcitrant: adjective, having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority
Synonyms: uncooperative, intractable
“In a move that may test the mettle of recalcitrant

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