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01:03 Apr 16, 2018
English to English translations [Non-PRO] Medical - Other
English term or phrase:it or we
After examining the data gathered from the survey for this study, it could be concluded that the criteria we created to evaluate training in low-frequency electroacupuncture may be used as evaluation criteria.
After examining the data gathered from the survey for this study, we concluded that the criteria we created to evaluate training in low-frequency electroacupuncture may be used as evaluation criteria.
But that aside, I think we're in agreement. Consistency doesn't mean that either impersonal or active expressions should be used all the time or not at all; a mixture is perfectly acceptable and actually inevitable. But I agree with the important points you've made about this impersonal expression, the problem of ambiguity and the nuance of meaning.
"More than a century ago, scientists typically wrote in an active style that included the first-person pronouns I and we. Beginning in about the 1920s, however, these pronouns became less common as scientists adopted a passive writing style.
Considered to be objective, impersonal, and well suited to science writing, the passive voice became the standard style for medical and scientific journal publications for decades.
Nowadays, most medical and scientific style manuals support the active over the passive voice.
For example, the American Medical Association's AMA Manual of Style recommends that "in general, authors should use the active voice, except in instances in which the author is unknown or the interest focuses on what is acted upon. [...]
Although some journals ask authors to limit first-person pronouns or restrict them to certain sections, others not only encourage authors to write in an active style, but prefer them to use first-person pronouns over passive voice." http://www.biomedicaleditor.com/active-voice.html
Thank you for your comment; I have to say it does not entirel align with my own experience consulting and translating (recent) scientific papers — albeit not medical ones!
However, my real point to Asker was that it was probably unnecessary to use impersonal forms, BUT that the document needs to be at least consistent. Also, in this case, the use of the impersonal form seems to me to add a nuance of meaning that may well be undesirable.
"In a lot of scientific research papers, the first person is avoided, so there are a lot of impersonal and/or passive expressions used". In medicine this was once true, some time ago now, but it is now more or less the opposite of the truth. Not, I mean, that impersonal and/or passive expressions are entirely avoided, but journals strongly encourage authors to avoid them whenever possible in favour of the active voice. Editors and reviewers will commonly required prolific use of passive and impersonal expressions to be changed. Accordingly, the first person is used freely in medical research papers; the days when it was avoided are long gone. After all, such papers hardly ever have just one author, so the first person form is plural (we), which has always been more acceptable than the singular (I).
I think you need to think very carefully about both these issues, and possibly avoid attempting to use the impersonal form unless it is essential from the style of the rest of your document; it may help you to study several other research papers by native EN writers of a similar greater or lesser degree of scientific formality.
There is another issue that may, however, be more important: in your version with 'it', you have used 'could' — now this is ambiguous in EN, and I think undesirable here. 'could' can imply simply the past tens to 'can' — it was possible to / able to'; BUT it can also imply the conditional 'might be able to'; as soon as you use the conditional, you introduce some element of doubt; this is re-inforced by the following use of 'may'. Hence your first version expresses a more tentative conclusion than your second version. This sort of tentativeness is often used in research to avoid sticking one's neck out (in case one is wrong!), or to show due modesty; whereas your second version states categorically "we concluded that..."
Hence the two version are actually expressing slightly different ideas. If you want to express the same idea, but use the impersonal 'it', then you'd need to write something like 'it was possible to conclude that...' or 'it can be concluded' (there may not be any need for the past tense at all.
It also depends a lot on the ovrall style of the document; in a lot of scientific research papers, the first person is avoided, so there are a lot of impersonal and/or passive expressions used; so your first version, using both 'it' and 'we', could sound a little out of place, stylistically — but it depends on the nature of your overall document, and the style you have adopted throughout. I'd say generally that if you have consistently used 'we' throughout, there is little point using 'it' here.
will depend on your overall context but both versions are ok in English
Automatic update in 00:
4 hrs confidence: peer agreement (net): +4
Explanation: Both your examples are grammatically correct, though "it could be concluded that" in the first is not very elegant, and moreover it is ambiguous, because "could" could be either past or conditional (it could mean either "it was possible to conclude that" or "it would be possible to conclude that"). But in any case, there is a strong preference nowadays for the active voice in medical research writing, and "we concluded" is definitely preferable.
It is also worth mentioning that your two versions are not exactly equivalent; the first refers to the possibility of drawing a given conclusion, whereas the second states that a given conclusion was drawn. If you wanted to use the active voice, as in the second version, but retain the idea of possibility expressed in the first version, you could say "we were able to conclude that".
Charles Davis Spain Local time: 09:59 Works in field Native speaker of: English PRO pts in category: 68