Language for science – day 4: describing other people’s work

Language for science – day 4: describing other people’s work

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It is often necessary to give some background information on your subject area before describing your research and results. This can often include a discussion of previous researchers/academics and their work. You might want to include an analysis of other research in the discussion section of your paper.

Talking about someone’s data/work
X’s initial work/research/presentation resulted in… Holmes’ initial research resulted in an influx of interest from various parties.
X was actively engaged in… Layfield was actively engaged in fieldwork.
X became the subject of Y It was his accidental discovery that became the subject of his most notable work.
X’s attempts to understand Y was/were aided greatly by… Tezel’s attempts to understand the primates’ behaviour were aided greatly by her ability to remain in the field for long periods of time.
X amassed/acquired a collection of… Barber amassed a collection of specimens over a period of 40 years.
X concluded/asserted that… O’Sullivan’s most notable paper asserted that the species could not be found on the southern hemisphere.
X’s conclusion that…. …differed from/countered the prevailing thought at the time Engin’s conclusion that the species migrated to escape predators differed from prevailing thought at the time.
Discussing names/titles
X proposed the name/the title For this group, they proposed the name Cycadofilices.
The name/word derives from… The word ‘book’ derives from the Proto-Germanic word for ‘beech’.
X was named after… The species was names after its host plant.
The discovery was promptly christened…. The discovery was promptly christened the Barden effect.
Examples of this language in use

Examples of language from this article can be found in the following extract.

  1. History of the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton

Home’s [5] initial presentation resulted in him being asked to study additional specimens, and these became the subject of his subsequent papers. Home himself [7] described how he acquired specimens to examine:


With the additional specimens, Home concluded that these animals formed a link between lizards and salamanders. He proposed the name ‘Proteo-saurus’ for these specimens and for this name to be used for other ichthyosaurs known at the time [7,8]. The name derives from the Proteidae, a family of salamanders whose vertebrae Home thought were similar to those of ichthyosaurs, so much so that he figured proteid vertebrae on the same plate ([8], plate XV, figs. 2,3) as the ichthyosaur specimen that is the focus of this study. His conclusion that ichthyosaurs were a link between reptiles and amphibians differed from prevailing thought at the time [1,4,13]. However, in the previous year, König [14] had proposed the name Ichthyosaurus. Even though ‘Ichthyosaurus’ was initially a nomen nudum [2], and thus not valid by modern standards, that was the name used by subsequent workers (e.g. [15,16]) and is the name that was retained. As a consequence, Proteosaurus is considered a nomen oblitum [2] and has never been used since Home’s pioneering work.

Home’s early attempt to understand the affinities of ichthyosaurs was aided greatly by the first complete specimen, mentioned in the previous quote, and which is the focus of this paper:


This brief description emphasized the significance of the specimen being the most complete, but also the first to show all of the bones in place, including the hindfins, which were previously unknown. It also records that at the time, the specimen belonged to Lt-Col. Thomas James Birch. Birch had amassed a large collection of fossils from Lyme Regis, Dorset, which he had primarily acquired from Mary Anning and her family [10,12].

This extract is taken from: Lomax Dean R. and Massare Judy A., Rediscovery of two casts of the historically important ‘Proteo-saurus’, the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton, R. Soc. open sci. 9: 220966. 220966. http://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.220966

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Lesson tags: Describing the work of others, English for science, English for scientists
Back to: English for Scientists