Items for submitting your paper and more language – day 3: language for describing what your research contains (part 2)

Items for submitting your paper and more language – day 3: language for describing what your research contains (part 2)

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Nouns for describing what your research contains or involves

a component (meaning: one of the parts that make up something else)

  • This noun is often used with the following adjectives: core, essential, key, main, fundamental, crucial

E.g. An essential component of the machine was misplaced during relocation.

an element

  • a necessary part of something complex

E.g. When restructuring the facility, we were keen to maintain many of the elements already in place.

This noun is often used with the following adjectives: core, central, essential, key, major, fundamental, crucial, individual, disparate, structural, visual

  • (in chemistry) a chemical substance containing only one type of atom

E.g. Despite being associated with luxury and wealth, gold is not the most precious element on the planet.

  •  a small amount of a feeling or a particular quality

E.g. Armed with the element of surprise, the troops advanced.

  •  one of the following things: earth, air, fire and water (that were previously thought to make up everything else)

E.g. In ancient times, it was believed that everything was made up of four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

  • (used in plural form) the weather – especially bad weather such as wind and rain

E.g. We had to brave the elements in order to collect our samples.

  • (in physics) the part of an electrical piece of equipment that creates heat

E.g. Once we replace the element, it should work properly.

a factor

  • something that influences how something happens

This noun is often used with the following adjectives: contributing, crucial, important, key, significant, deciding, mitigating

E.g. Lack of space was a key factor in our decision to relocate the study.

  • When describing multiple factors that contribute to something, there are several noun and adjective collocations (followed by the preposition ‘of’) that can be used.
a diverse







of factors




 E.g. The outcomes were affected by wide variety of factors.

  • A way of measuring how strong or big something is

E.g. Many people use suntan lotion with a lower protection factor than is recommended.

 (in mathematics) a number that can divide into a larger number

E.g. 1, 2, 5, and 10 are factors of 10.

 (medical) A substance found in the blood that assists with clotting

E.g. He was found to have a lack of factor 8 in his blood.

 a constituent

  • one of the parts of something (that can be combined with other parts to form the whole)

E.g. One of the principal constituents of milk is water.

  • A person living in a constituency who is allowed to vote there.

E.g. Following the scandal, he lost the support of his constituents.

 a trait (meaning: a quality – often used to describe personality)

This noun is often used with the following verbs: exhibit, display, acquire, inherit

E.g. One of his worst traits is jealousy.

E.g. When choosing a mate, we observed that females tended to partner with males exhibiting traits such as physical strength and agility.

 a variable (meaning: something that can affect a situation/result because it can change or be varied)

E.g.  There were too many variables to accurately pinpoint the cause of fluctuation in our readings.

Adjectives for describing what your research contains or involves


  • used to describe something that may be important to a situation but is no always obvious

E.g. The underlying causes of the decline in participation are yet to be addressed.

This adjective is often used with the following nouns: cause, reason, motive, assumption, trend

  • something that exists beneath the surface of something else

E.g. The underling layer of rock is approximately 3 metres thick.

  • (in business) used to describe the true level or amount of something

E.g. The underlying rate of inflation has risen for the third consecutive month.

Other useful collocations

to play a central role (meaning: to have a very important influence on a situation)

Other adjectives that can be used to describe the word ‘role’ are:

a meaning ‘important/main’ meaning ‘specific’ meaning ‘active’













Examples of this language in use

These extracts from different parts of the same article show how some of this language can be used.

1. Introduction

The highly polymorphic genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play a central role in the vertebrate adaptive immune system where they encode for cell surface receptors that bind to and display self- and foreign-derived peptides [1]. MHC alleles in part determine the range of pathogens an individual can respond to, and thus different MHC genotypes are associated with differential survival [2,3] and reproductive success [4–6]. Mating preferences for individuals with high quality or compatible MHC alleles can provide certain fitness advantages including direct benefits like parental care [7] or indirect genetic benefits that enhance the pathogen-resistance of their offspring [8,9]. Furthermore, as close relatives are likely to carry similar genotypes, the MHC may also facilitate inbreeding avoidance [10]. Because genes cannot be directly assessed, MHC-based mate choice requires individuals to detect and evaluate a phenotype that reflects the underlying genotype. Yet, in many species, it remains unclear exactly which phenotypic trait informs MHC-based mate choice.

4. Discussion

While MHC-associated chemosignals have previously been identified in the non-volatile components of avian preen oil [24,33,34], we present the first evidence showing that the volatile feather compounds suitable for detection by the avian olfactory system also reflect MHC genotype.

… …

In addition to only finding support for gene–odour covariance in certain dyads of individuals, the effect sizes associated with our positive findings were small. Both of these results are consistent with other studies from mammals and birds, which found similar effect sizes and often only detected relationships in certain dyads [26,33,34,62]. The diverse array of factors that affect chemical profiles may explain these findings. In this study, we targeted MHC class IIB, but storm-petrel odour profiles are likely also influenced by other MHC genes (e.g. MHC class IIA or MHC class I). Genome-wide heterozygosity [41,42], as well as interactions between MHC and background genes can also affect odour profiles [63], although there is little evidence of this in our system where the correlation between MHC and genome-wide markers is low. Moreover, avian chemical profiles vary with diet [64] and disease [65]. Thus, there are a multitude of factors that could contribute variability to the data, resulting in low effect sizes. Studies using captive or MHC-congenic species where more of these confounding variables can be controlled may yield stronger results. However, we believe there is significant value in demonstrating support for odour–gene covariance in wild organisms—particularly in a context where birds may be making these discriminations to facilitate mate choice decisions.

This extract is taken from: Jennings Sarah L., Hoover Brian A., Wa Sin Simon Yung and Ebeler Susan E., 2022 Feather chemicals contain information about the major histocompatibility complex in a highly scented seabird Proc. R. Soc. B.28920220567. 20220567. http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.0567

Lesson tags: English for science, language for describing your research, What your research contains
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