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The (U.S.) National Institutes of Health website has a webpage that states that it contains

reports, data and analyses of NIH research activities

I feel as though this sounds awkward. Would "reports, data and analysis of NIH research activities" be better phrasing, or is the current one technically correct?

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  • 1
    I'm not sure it's a dupe but: What is the plural form of analysis?
    – Alenanno
    Jul 12, 2011 at 16:38
  • 2
    @Alenanno: I think we can assume OP is aware of that. I think his problem is simply that he's not too familiar with the fact that the plural is often appropriate. Jul 12, 2011 at 16:44
  • @Joe Blow: I wait with bated breathe for OP's response. Meantime, note the final paragraph I just added to my answer. Whichever way it goes, OP has some justification, I feel. Jul 12, 2011 at 16:53
  • @Fumb Hey Fumb!! -- You rock. We'll never hear from the OP again. A typical one-time hit and run user :-/ I will aggressively eat my hat, if he actually knows the difference.
    – Fattie
    Jul 12, 2011 at 16:54
  • @Joe: You also, my man! But we must remember that - refreshing as your 'up-front' style may be to some of us - it could be seen as intimidating (not to say, derogatory) to some folks here. Jul 12, 2011 at 17:13

3 Answers 3

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There is nothing at all wrong with the original phrasing, technically or otherwise.

Converting analyses to the singular is at best misleading, since it implies there is only one analysis, which is unlikely to be true.

Perhaps it goes some way to explaining OP's misgivings about the plural if I point out that it's common practice for UK tv news programmes, for example, to end by saying something like "For more in-depth analysis of the news, go to our website..." In that construct we probably wouldn't hear the plural, even though obviously it's more 'accurate'. I think the mass media tend to assume analyses is a 'technical' term, too 'highbrow' for many of their audience.

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  • Good to hear, I thought I was going insane for a second
    – user10890
    Jul 12, 2011 at 16:58
  • @user10890: Thanks for the acknowledgement. Was I on the right track thinking that you've mainly only heard analysis in the singular, even when there might actually be more than one? Jul 12, 2011 at 17:11
  • 3
    I've heard analyses before, but so rarely compared to the singular version that I just felt like it sounded weird even if it was used properly. Pretty much everyone I know uses analysis to refer to both singular and multiple cases, since groups of analyses (ie interpretations) can still be considered an analysis (interpretation) of a greater scope. I think.
    – user10890
    Jul 12, 2011 at 17:17
  • @user10890: Ah, well. I think because of how this site got started we have a fairly high proportion of 'programmer' types here, so we're more used to the plural. If we need to talk about your 'greater scope' meaning, we call it meta-analysis (with or without space/hyphen). Jul 12, 2011 at 18:51
  • 1
    This is reminiscent of how "datum" is a rarely seen word and "data" is often used with singular agreement.
    – Ben Lee
    May 29, 2012 at 20:06
9

"Analysis" can be used as a collective noun, so multiple analyses can be described as "analysis", unless you talk of it in units.

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  • "Analysis from Prof A and Prof B" (without the article) could either be one they worked on together or two lots of independent analysis. Most newspaper style guides are pretty strict on the use of the words for precisely that reason. Jul 12, 2011 at 17:23
  • On the off chance, I entered "analysis from different sources" (exact string) into Google. It got a lot more hits than I expected, and none of them from "look at me!" blogs, farcebook, or twatter (results like "Integrate analysis from different sources and different parts of the business into decisions and improvement plans.". It's a really common usage, but unless you looked for it (or had editors insist that you look for it), you probably wouldn't notice it. Jul 13, 2011 at 6:10
  • Okay, you're right. Many people either don't know/care about using the plural, or are happy to accept the singular as a collective noun anyway. I'll delete my earlier comments - they're wide of the mark. Jul 13, 2011 at 16:05
4

"Analysis" is the singular noun; "analyses" is the plural. Since your object is plural ("NIH research activities"), the inference is that at least one "analysis" has been made of each single "NIH research activity", and thus there are many "analyses" of the "NIH research activities".

This is further borne out by the other subjects: "reports" and "data", both of which are plural ("data", though often used to describe a single piece of information, is the plural of "datum").

If you wanted to specify that, indeed, there was only one analysis made of all NIH research activities, you would say "reports, data, and an analysis of all NIH research activities", using an indefinite article to reinforce the singular.

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  • I don't think the fact that "NIH research activities" is plural has any bearing on whether the website contains one or more analyses. It's just common or garden logic that tells me there will almost certainly be several. Jul 12, 2011 at 16:42
  • Since the subject is "of" a plural object, the inference is that the objects each "own" or "have" one. However, you have a point as well. I think my second reason is stronger; there are other plural subjects, so unless an indefinite article is used to differentiate one or more of the subjects as singular, the inference is that they should all be plural.
    – KeithS
    Jul 12, 2011 at 16:48
  • Yes, the second point seems good to me. Third (unmentioned) point is that if I were writing text intended to 'big up' my site, I'd strive to pluralise every feature I possibly could - even to the extent of misrepresentation, if it truly were the case that there's only one thing anywhere on the site that could reasonably be called an analysis. :) Jul 12, 2011 at 16:57

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