Flax and Webcorp guide

A guide to using Flax

The guide below explains how to use Flax to search for collocations in different corpora and see examples of language in use. You can also download and/or print the guide in the following formats:

Flax is an online tool and requires no downloads. The url for Flax is As this is obviously quite complex to type, we’d recommend bookmarking the site on your first visit. If using with students, you may want to share the link via email, Google doc etc.

Flax has many incredibly useful and interesting resources, such as the PhD abstracts collection, but this guide will focus on the collocation tools. To access this, click on Learning Collocations in the Flax Resource Collections section on the right.

Flax home page with Learning Collocations link highlighted.


1 Type your word in the search box

2 Select the corpus you want to search in from the dropdown list on the right

3 Click go

Collocations search box with development as example search term


Your search term and part of speech will appear at the top of the screen. Above it are tabs you can easily click through to see family words, synonyms and antonyms. Clicking on any of the words will perform a collocation search for that word instead.

Collocation results are presented colligationally, ie in grammatical patterns of the target word and different parts of speech, eg noun + development ; adjective + development.

Within each colligation, results are ordered by their frequency in the corpus searched from left to right (ie the second most frequent collocation is at the top of the second column). In order to move through collocations of a particular lexical pattern, click on the more and less arrows below the examples.

Example search results of development.

More and less arrows highlighted.


A guide to using WebCorp

The guide below explains how to use WebCorp to search for collocations and to analyse texts and webpages.

You can also download and/or print the guide in the following formats:

WebCorp is an online tool from Birmingham City University and requires no downloads. As you may be able to guess from its name, WebCorp uses the world wide web as its data set when searching for collocations etc and therefore presents a potentially more up-to-date and wide ranging set of results than many traditional corpora. It also has a very helpful tool that allows you to copy and paste texts and analyse them for collocations, word frequency etc.

The url for WebCorp is As with other websites we use on this course, we recommend bookmarking it in your browser for ease of reference.

WebCorp home page


1 To search for a word, go to the search page and type your target word in the search box. We recommend you leave the Case insensitive box ticked so that it shows all instances of the word.

2 Click Search.

basic search on WebCorp

Results are returned with the keyword highlighted in red in the centre. They are grouped by the website where each concordance comes from. The source website is indicated in green above each concordance.
Concordance results of basic search


Obviously, listing all instances of a word on a particular website may skew the results and/or give us too much data to wade through before we can spot meaningful patterns. However, this can be avoided by using the advanced search options. To access these, click Advanced Options below the search fields.

Search page with link to advanced options highlighted

1 Untick the box to show URLs

2 Tick the box to limit results to One concordance line per web page

Advanced search options

3 If desired, click any of the links below Add popular sites to limit your search to those. This can be useful for asking students to compare use of words in different contexts (eg tabloid v academic)

Website specifier beneath advanced options

4 Type words into the Word Filter box that you want to include in the search. If you want to exclude words, put a minus sign before the word.

Search box with terms to include and exclude

5 Click Search

Although you will see fewer results than in the simple search, the number of concordance lines reflects the number of websites consulted, so you are probably getting a more representative set of results.

Concordance results limited to one result per website

Click on the target word in any concordance line to see the word in its full context, with each instance highlighted. The date the content was written will often appear just above the main body text.

Source text of keyword with keyword higlighted throughout


Beneath your search results you can see post-search options. These allow you to filter and order the concordance results. To do this, use the dropdown menus in the Sort by field. Some useful options:

1 Sort by word to the left to see common collocates that precede the key word

2 Sort by word to the right to see common collocates that follow the key word

3 Sort by Newest first to see the most current results

Post search options

Post search options with sort by options highlighted

climate sorted 1 position to the right

Concordance of climate sorted 1 position to the right

climate sorted 1 position to the left

Concordance of climate sorted 1 position to the left

climate in tabloid newspapers ordered by most recent first, the day after a major climate policy reversal by Rishi Sunak

Concordance of climate sorted by newest text first




The wordlist tool in Webcorp allows you to extract vocabulary from a text or website, allowing you to see which words are most frequently used.

Wordlist tool

To use the tool to search a website:

1 Click Wordlist tool at the top of the page

2 Type or paste a url into the url search box

3 Use the dropdown in Ngam size to specify whether you want to search for single words, pairs, three-word collocations etc

4 Click Submit

Wordlist tool with url search bar and n-gram selector highlighted

Example wordlist with n-grams of 2


1 Click Wordlist tool at the top of the page

2 Click Or specify the text to analyse below the url box

3 Paste the text into the box

4 Use the dropdown in Ngam size to specify whether you want to search for single words, pairs, three-word collocations etc

5 Click Submit

Wordlist tool with box to copy and paste text

Click Text in the top left of any concordance results to see the full text with the key word(s) highlighted. This can be really useful to see how lexis sometimes clusters in particular sections of a text.

Example concordance with option to see whole text highlighted



The screenshots in these guides were taken by the course developers at the English Language Teaching Centre, University of Sheffield, using FLAX and WebCorp and accessing the free corpora available on the platform (BNC, Wikipedia and BAWE subcorpora).

Instructions and notes were written by the course developers.