Choose your words: what your data suggests, indicates, or demonstrates

What is the difference between indicate, suggest, imply, demonstrate, prove, and show?

The difference is in the degree of certainty.

High certainty: if your data definitely supports a conclusion, you can use demonstrate, prove, or show. You can also use reveal, which has the idea of bringing something hidden into open view.

Moderate certainty: if your data lead you to think a particular conclusion is most likely true, use suggest or indicate. Use imply for conclusions that are a logical consequence of your findings but are not supported directly by your data.

Low certainty: for potential explanations or intriguing possibilities, use words such as might or possibly.

Can your data suggest anything?

Some people say that data cannot say, suggest, or show anything, and that these verbs can only be used with people. (See anthropomorphism for more information). Although some journals (and editors) still cling to this rule, scientific writing in English is moving toward livelier, more idiomatic (natural) wording, and “our data suggests” is both effective and idiomatic.





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