Tag Archives: Prepositions

“As a result” as a conjunctive adverbial phrase

“As a result” is often used as a conjunctive adverbial phrase to indicate cause-and-effect relationships; in this sense, it is synonymous with “therefore,” “hence,” “consequently,” “as a consequence,” and “accordingly.” Here are some sentences in which “as a result” is used in this way.

The molecule has bulky substituents in the ortho positions; as a result, the eclipsed rotamer is energetically disfavored.

The fact that eclipsed rotamer is energetically disfavored is a consequence of the steric bulk of the substituents.

The diphenyl phosphine oxide group is electron withdrawing, and as a result, the central carbon of the allene is electron deficient.

The electron deficiency is a consequence of the presence of the electron-withdrawing group.

In the course of my ESL editing, I often encounter what seems to me a nonstandard use of “as a result,” in which the phrase is used prepositionally to connect a sentence or clause describing an experiment and a second sentence or clause describing the outcome of that experiment. The usage seems particularly common  in papers written by authors whose native language is Japanese. Here’s an example:

We investigated the photocatalytic degradation of 17β-estradiol in water and concurrently evaluated the estrogenic activity of the treated water. As a result, 17β-estradiol was totally mineralized to CO2 in a TiO2 suspension under UV irradiation for 3 h.

Some readers will momentarily misinterpret “as a result” as implying that the mineralization was a consequence of, was caused by, the investigation and evaluation. However, the author is actually using “as a result” simply to indicate that the subsequent text describes a result (a finding) of the experiment. That is, “17β-estradiol was totally mineralized to CO2…” constitutes a result of the experiment. The sentence opening could be thought of as an elided form of “As a result of this experiment, we found that…”

Here’s another example:

Serial dilution tests of the JCAbl antibody were performed on the three tissues. As a result, JCAbl reacted with JCV-IMR32 cells and PML tissues at all the dilutions.

Here, again, the authors do not mean that the reaction of the antibody with the tissues was caused by, was a consequence of, the serial dilutions tests. Rather, they mean that the observed result of the experiments was that the antibody reacted with the specified tissues at all dilutions.

I wouldn’t call this use of “as a result” a serious error, but as I pointed out, some readers will find it momentarily distracting. In my opinion, the best revision is simply to replace “as a result” with “we found that”:

We investigated the photocatalytic degradation of 17β-estradiol in water and concurrently evaluated the estrogenic activity of the treated water. We found that 17β-estradiol was totally mineralized to CO2 in a TiO2 suspension under UV irradiation for 3 h.

But you could also revise to any of the following:

We investigated the photocatalytic degradation of 17β-estradiol in water….The results of these experiments indicated that 17β-estradiol was totally mineralized to CO2 in a TiO2 suspension under UV irradiation for 3 h.

When we investigated the photocatalytic degradation of 17β-estradiol in water…, we found that that 17β-estradiol was totally mineralized to CO2 in a TiO2 suspension under UV irradiation for 3 h.

Investigation of the photocatalytic degradation of 17β-estradiol in water and concurrent evaluation of the estrogenic activity of the treated water indicated that 17β-estradiol was totally mineralized to CO2 in a TiO2 suspension under UV irradiation for 3 h.

If anyone can verify that this is an artifact of the Japanese language, I’d be interested to hear about it.

Served as

It’s difficult to find a book on scientific writing that doesn’t inveigh against weak verbs and nominalizations, and in previous posts, I’ve suggested ways to find them in your papers and eliminate them (here, here, and here). In this post, I want to point out another one: “served as,” as in

Metallic nickel served as a catalyst for the growth of carbon nanotubes. Continue reading Served as

Need to shorten your paper?

Recently, I was asked to help an author shorten a paper by 10% to meet the word-count requirements of the target journal. The paper was already quite short and contained little extraneous information. However, by using the techniques illustrated here with example sentences, I accomplished the task without eliminating anything important. Consider the following sentences: Continue reading Need to shorten your paper?

Illogical comparisons

This week’s tip? Beware of illogical comparisons. When you use “in contrast with,” “compared with/to,” “like,” or “unlike,” make sure that the items you are comparing fall into the same category.  Here’s an example of an illogical comparison:

In contrast to Figure 1, which shows the conventional process, no intermediate ion-pair is formed during the novel process shown in Figure 2.

In this sentence, the word order results in an illogical comparison between “Figure 1” and “intermediate ion-pair.” To revise, make sure that the “in contrast to” phrase is immediately followed by the second of the two items being compared:

In contrast to the conventional process (Fig. 1), the novel process shown in Fig. 2 does not involve formation of an intermediate ion-pair.

Continue reading Illogical comparisons