METM19 presentation 

The pitfalls of comparison in scientific writing

David Barick, Amstelveen, Netherlands

Writers of academic research articles are often called on to draw comparisons of various types. Reference works such as Swan (2005) or the online Manchester Academic Phrasebank offer advice of various types on the subject, but writing about complex comparisons still offers considerable challenges. Among these is the need for a concise description of the interrelationship of multiple variables in a between-subjects research design. Additionally, in the discussion section, the author’s own results must be compared with other research articles. As pointed out by Wallwork (2011), when this is not done well, the reader can find it difficult to tell which paper the author is referring to.

During this presentation I will illustrate these issues with examples taken largely from my own teaching practice. Attendees will be invited to share their thoughts on how to make these passages clearer and more concise. I will conclude with a number of guidelines for dealing with these situations, aimed at aspiring authors and the language professionals supporting them. This talk should be of interest to teachers, editors and translators working with scientific and academic English. 

Morley, J. The Academic Phrasebank. The University of Manchester
Swan, M. (2005). Practical English Usage, Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Wallwork, A. (2011). English for Writing Research Papers. New York, NY: Springer

About the presenter

David Barick studied musicology and English at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and has been based for many years in the Netherlands, where he operates as a language teacher, Dutch–English translator and editor specializing in scientific English. At the Language Centre of VU University Amsterdam, he regularly teaches classes at master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral levels in article writing, research proposal writing and presentation skills.