One of the most common ambiguities I (Amanda) see in reviewing research papers in the use of the word ‘including’ and its variants (e.g. ‘include’ and ‘included’).
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word ‘including’ is used for saying that a person or thing is part of a particular group or amount.
Notice the words ‘part of’?
That means that when you use the word ‘including’, there’s a possibility that you may be talking about just a part of something bigger. For example, consider the following sentence.
The picnic included crackers, olives and feta cheese.
If I were to read that sentence in a research paper, I’d immediately start wondering whether the picnic consisted only of crackers, olives and feta cheese, or whether crackers, olives and feta cheese were just part of all the foods in the picnic, and the other foods just hadn’t been mentioned.
Do you see how the word ‘included’ makes things ambiguous? In research papers, that kind of ambiguity is not acceptable. It would be better to either …
… explicitly state that these three foods were just a selection of all the foods in the picnic, like the examples below …
The picnic consisted of 8 foods, including crackers, olives and feta cheese.
The picnic included crackers, olives and feta cheese, among other foods.
… or list all of the foods in the picnic, like the following example.
The picnic consisted of crackers, olives, feta cheese, sun dried tomatoes, cream cheese, bread, green salad and fruit salad.
With either of the above three examples, it’s clear that crackers, olives and feta cheese were just three of the larger number of foods in the picnic.
On the next page we’ll look at a few examples from a published research paper.