Glossary of Terms

Core Competencies Glossary of Terms
Definitions derived from multiple print and digital sources, including The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, The Language of Composition by Renee Shea, Lawrence Scanlon, and Robin Dissin Aufses, Merriam-Webster Online, and Wikipedia

Analyze: To break something whole (a text, an object, a problem, etc.) into its essential parts in order to examine the structure and to understand how the parts contribute to the whole.

Argument: Writing or communication that makes a claim and supports the claim with evidence and reasoning.

Assumption: A belief or opinion taken for granted as true. Whether stated or unstated, assumptions influence the authorial choices in a text.

Authorial choices: Details in a text that serve an author’s purpose, including but not limited to setting, sequence of ideas and events, evidence and reasoning, description, word choice, images, and/or sound.

Bias: A preference or prejudice that inhibits impartial judgment. A statistical sampling or testing error caused by favoring some outcomes over others.


Claim: The thesis or main point, supported by data, reasoning, evidence, and effective expression. A claim should be debatable, stating a position on which reasonable people may disagree.

Compromise: A settlement of differences in which each person or group makes concessions to the other side in order to reach an agreement.

Constraints: A limitation or restriction.

Context: 1. The information within a text that surrounds a particular word, passage, or section and determines its meaning.  2. The circumstances or facts that surround a particular text, event, or situation and shed light on its meaning.

Corroborate: To strengthen or support with other evidence: to make more certain.

Credibility: The reliability of a speaker, source, or message: the ability to inspire belief and trust.

Critical lens: A secondary source that analyzes and comments on a primary source; a text composed by a specialist in a discipline (literature, art, science, etc.) that critiques the strengths and weaknesses of an original work.

Comprehension: The act of grasping the meaning, nature, or importance of information. Knowledge gained by understanding.

Conjecture: An inference or judgment based on incomplete evidence; guesswork.

Data: Factual information used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation.

Delineate: To outline, sketch, or describe an idea, text, or process using words, symbols, or gestures.

Discipline: A branch of knowledge or teaching.

Domain-specific: Words or symbols specific to a particular field of study (domain).


Ethical: Relating to principles of right and wrong behavior that govern the conduct of a discipline or profession.

Evaluate: To examine and judge carefully.

Evidence: Information that can be verified – facts, statistics, examples, eyewitness accounts, reports, studies, and expert testimony. In literary texts, evidence can include the author’s word choices, sentence structures, and appeals to reason and emotion.

Explicit: Fully and clearly stated in a text, conversation, or speech, leaving nothing implied.

Exposition: Writing or communication that informs and explains.


Format: The organization and arrangement of information, images, or data.


Hypothesis: A preliminary thesis or tentative explanation that can be tested, refined, or changed by further investigation.


Implicit: Implied or understood though not directly stated in a text, conversation, or speech.

Information: The basis of knowledge, derived from observation, experience, facts, data and statistics, sensory input, instruction, advice, and news.

Integrate: To bring all the information needed to complete a text, unit, or project together and make into a unified whole.

Integrity: 1. The quality of being honest and fair.  2. Adherence to a code of moral or artistic values.

Interpret: To explain the meaning or significance of something.


Language: Spoken, written, and visual forms of communication (words, symbols, numbers, images, sound).


Media: Forms of communication that include words, symbols, images, and/or sound.

Message: The main idea, main point, or thesis developed in a text.

Mode: A form of expression. A text can be produced in one mode (printed text, for example) and reproduced or adapted in another mode (film, paint, music, etc.).


Narration: Writing or communication that relates an event or series of events; a story. Narration can be imaginary or factual.

Narrative techniques: The fundamental tools of storytelling, including dialogue, description, characterization, multiple plot lines, point-of-view, flashbacks, and reflection, to develop experiences, events, characters, and themes.


Paraphrase: To put a text into your own words, simplifying and clarifying complex ideas without distorting or changing them.

Plagiarism: Presenting as your own work any material – ideas, writings, images, music – that has been copied and/or paraphrased entirely or in part from another source, and claiming to be the original creator.

Point of View: The physical position or the mental angle from which a writer or observer beholds a subject. In addition, the pronoun used to express the content: the most common is third person point of view ("he / she / they"), followed by the first person ("I / me"). The least common point of view is the second person ("you"). 

Premise: A statement upon which an argument is based.

Prototype: An original, full-scale, and usually working model serving as the basis for later stages or drafts.


Qualify: To acknowledge the strengths and limitations of a claim; to concede the strengths of a counterclaim.

Qualitative: Evidence that is drawn from observation and analysis; information about qualities that can't be measured in numbers. 

Quantitative: Evidence that can be measured and expressed as a number.

Questions / levels of questions / types of questions: Literal questions can be answered with facts and information (who? what? when? where?); the answers should not be debatable. Interpretive questions require you to draw conclusions based on facts and information; these questions require reasoning and evidence and answers may vary. Essential questions address important ideas and processes; they are timeless and forever arguable.


Reasoning: The ability to support ideas and claims using evidence and logical patterns of thought (i.e., cause and effect relationships, compare-contrast, problem-solution, etc.).

Refute: To discredit a claim or a counterclaim; to disagree.

Rhetoric: The study and art of using language effectively and persuasively.

Sequence: The logical arrangement of information.

Speaker: The author or voice of a written, spoken, graphic, or technological text.

Summarize: To briefly and accurately state the main idea or point of a text.

Synthesize: To combine information from multiple sources in order to support an interpretation or claim.


Technology: The general collection of communication tools that arise from scientific or mechanical knowledge, including the printing press, musical instruments, cameras, computers, SMART Boards, the Internet, etc.

Text: Used broadly across the content areas, the term text refers not only to printed texts, but also to spoken language, graphics, and technological communications.

Theme: In literature and art, the ideas explored and the questions raised by the work. (Universal themes include challenges, the individual and society, moral dilemmas, the dynamics of tradition and change). In music, a melody forming the basis of a set of variations.


Theory: A group of ideas meant to explain a topic; an explanation based on limited knowledge.

Thesis: The central idea or claim in a work to which all parts of the work refer.