Lesson 2


(2)適切に“this study”と“the present study”を使い分ける方法
読み手の混乱を避けるために、‘this study’を使わないほうがよい場面があります。それは・・・

Lesson 2の解答

Dear Participants,

In this edition of the Quarterly Review, first we look at a common mistake in which authors confuse the expressions paper and study. In this connection, we focus in particular on the different tenses used in each case. We also examine the use of this versus the present in expressions such as this study/the present study.

(1) Taking care not to confuse paper and study: A question of tenses

A mistake that I come across surprisingly often, even in papers written by authors with quite advanced English writing skills, is as follows:

“In this paper, we studied . . . .”

Or, alternatively:

“In this study, we describe. . . .”

It’s important to always keep in mind the difference between study and paper. When you are writing a paper, you will usually be reporting on a study that you have completed (or at least on a completed part of an ongoing study). The most important point to remember here is that the study should generally be referred to in the past tense, whereas the paper should generally be referred to in the present tense.

There are some exceptions, including papers dealing with highly theoretical subjects such as pure mathematics, in which the paper describes an investigative process step-by-step from beginning to end in such a way that the paper itself is indistinguishable from the study. In such cases, where the reader is, in a way, participating in the study in real time while reading the paper, the usual expression would be: “In this paper, we study. . .” (present tense). However, this type of paper is not commonly seen in most fields.

It’s perfectly acceptable to write either “In this study” or “In this paper,” whether in the Introduction section or elsewhere in your paper. The issue here is not to confuse your study with your paper. The key points to remember are summarized in the examples below:

In this study, we investigated/demonstrated/conducted experiments to determine/etc. [past tense, referring to the actions you took to achieve the objective of the study]. . . .

In this paper, we report/present/describe/etc. [present tense, referring to the content of this paper as a report on your study]. . . .

Here, I should also mention the use of the perfect tense with verbs such as study, investigate, examine, and so on. If you use an expression such as “We have studied” (present perfect tense) or “We have been studying” (present perfect continuous tense, also known as present perfect progressive), there is a nuance that you are talking about a previous study/studies that you have been conducting up to now, not necessarily the present study. For example:

“Up to now, we have been studying (present perfect continuous tense) the interactions between A and B under conditions C. In the present study, we investigated (past tense) these interactions under conditions D.”

Unlike the case of study and similar expressions, the present perfect tense gives a nuance of achievement when used with some other verbs such as develop, identify, elucidate, confirm, demonstrate, and so on. For example:

“We have developed a new compound called XYZ that exhibits strong coercivity. . ..”
“We have identified a relationship between A and B that has not yet been reported in the literature.”

These statements in the present perfect tense all convey a sense of having accomplished a unique or valuable result through your study.

(2) This study versus the present study

Some authors prefer to use this, while others prefer to use the present, in expressions such as this study/the present study, this paper/the present paper, and so on.

Either expression is acceptable, although my personal preference is to use this rather than the present in most cases. Why? Because it’s simpler.

Sometimes, however, if you have just mentioned one of your previous studies or a study carried out by other researchers, the use of this might lead to confusion. For example:

“We demonstrated in our previous study3) that XYZ was unaffected by the daily hours of sunshine. In this study, . . .” (Hmmm?I wonder which study is being referred to here? The previous study, or the present study?)

To avoid this problem, I recommend using the present in any situation where the use of this might create some ambiguity, as in the above example. Otherwise, if there is no possibility of ambiguity or lack of clarity, I recommend using this as a general rule.

I hope that the above guidelines are helpful to you, and look forward to receiving your next papers when you manage to prepare them in the midst of your busy schedules.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Gavey
For World Translation Services, Inc.