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In a research paper, how do I list things in order of their effectiveness?

For example,

The order of antagonistic effect of acetic acid against E. coli O157:H7 was salt > glycine > glucose > sucrose.

Is it okay to use ">" or "<" in a sentence for a research paper? It looks a bit weird to me. Is there a better way or any other way to write this down correctly?

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2 Answers 2

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It is extremely important to state within the sentence the nature of the order:

The order of antagonistic effect of acetic acid against E. coli O157:H7 in decreasing order was salt > glycine > glucose > sucrose.

The symbol > should not be expected to represent 'greater than' in a plain English sentence. It will most likely be seen as a list separator or delimiter only. That is, as equivalent to:

The antagonistic effect of acetic acid against E. coli O157:H7 in decreasing order was salt, glycine, glucose, sucrose.

However,

The levels of antagonistic effect of acetic acid against E. coli O157:H7 were:
salt > glycine > glucose > sucrose

could probably invoke the 'greater than' sense of the symbol.

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This is a matter of style. The ultimate authority will be whatever style guide you are supposed to adopt, such as the APA.

Without a style guide to guide you, you would normally write as you speak. If you would say

The order of antagonistic effect of acetic acid against E. coli O157:H7 was salt, glycine, glucose, and sucrose.

then that is how you would write it.

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I'll also add that since you're (probably) not writing this paper as a weekend hobby, but in the context of a specific university, a specific department, and a specific professor, you should probably just ask. Chances are, this has come up before in your close environment. –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jan 27 '13 at 6:10
1  
@MετάEd Thanks for the answer. But can you tell which one is more effective? "The order of antagonistic effect of acetic acid against E. coli O157:H7 was salt, glycine, glucose, and sucrose." Maybe adding or stating strong to weak order or starting with strongest first? –  handicop Jan 27 '13 at 6:25
    
@handicop: Yes, if you wanted to be crystal clear I would say: "The order was (strongest to weakest) A, B, C, D." –  Lynn Jan 27 '13 at 6:29
    
@Lynn Thanks a lot for the comment. –  handicop Jan 27 '13 at 6:37
    
@Avner Shahar-Kashtan Yes, I would do that if this was my paper. I am just helping my friend writing her paper in English. Writing a research paper in English without a writing center supporting students would be very tough but I guess it's a common thing in Asia. –  handicop Jan 27 '13 at 6:42

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