Nouns and noun phrases are used a lot in academic writing and knowing how they are formed and used can help both your reading and writing. Look at the following sentence as an example:
A good source of information which can be found on the Internet is the online journal Science Direct.
The verb ‘is’ can be seen towards the end of the sentence which means that all the words before ‘is’ must be the subject of the sentence. Let’s look at this subject or noun phrase in more detail and break it down into its grammatical parts:
determiner = A
adjective = good
noun = source
prepositional phrase = of information
relative clause = which can be found on the Internet
A noun phrase just means a long noun. For example, table is a noun and a beautiful table which is made from wood is a noun phrase. Noun phrases can contain all, some or one of the grammatical parts listed above depending on how much detail you want to give the reader. So, other possibilities for the noun phrase are:
1. A source of information
2. A good source of information
4. Information which can be found on the Internet
How much information you give about the noun is up to you but by following the structure determiner + adjective + noun + prepositional phrase + relative clause you know you will make accurate noun phrases when writing. You can also use this to understand academic texts better. If you cannot understand a sentence look for the verb and then at the words before which should be the noun phrase. Then read the noun phrase several times to work out how much information is there. Then look at the object of the sentence after the verb and think about how they relate to each other. For example, in our sentence above the object is the ‘online journal Science Direct.’
Now you can think about how the subject and verb relate to each other which in this case is that the object of the sentence is an example of the subject.
Here are some more noun phrases for you to analyse. First of all, find the verb in the sentence. Everything before the verb is the noun phrase. What grammatical parts can you see in each noun phrase?
1. An important element of studying English is practising as much as possible.
2. A good student is someone who studies effectively.
3. A successful business in the 21st century must value its employees.
4. Researchers at the University of London conducted an interesting study in sleep patterns.
I hope this is useful.