I have draft where I want to say something like," At first sight, the problem seems intractable, but a careful analysis shows ..."
I feel "at first sight" seems a bit un-academic. Is there a better way to say the same thing?
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Consider at first glance and at first blush.
at first glance and at first blush: when first examined; at an early stage.
Alternately, how about "on first consideration?"
I think using "At first sight" or something similiar is particularly bad in an academic framework because it contradicts the scientific method. Science is not "first-sight" based but relies on careful and thorough examination.
Essentially what you are saying is: "From an un-academic point of view it seems like X but when seen from a scientific approach it is actually Y." But then the question arises why you would even state the unacademic approach. I guess what you want to say is that your results are against intuition, this is imho a much more powerful statement than at first sight. It implies that a preliminary analysis has already taken place whereas jumping to conclusions "at first sight" seems kind of lazy.
I think a way to regard this is to actually state the intuition behind the "first sight" conclusion. Something like "It may seem intuitive to think that X implies Y. However our research shows that this general relationship does not always hold true."