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I looked at several related questions (here or here) but still am not sure if this is a correct way to use which:

Papers were only kept for the review which explicitly discussed or applied the proposed software.

I believe another way to say this would be:

Only papers which explicitly discussed or applied the proposed software were kept for the review.

My main question is: is the first formulation correct?

And then, are there better ways to express this?

Thanks for any advice!

  • Yes indeed! I did not think about this, but I believe it does the best job at clearly expressing the sentence. I'd say it is as clear as @j-taylor 's last example, while being also more concise. If you'd like I'd mark your answer as correct, thanks in any case. – sc28 Mar 17 '17 at 10:45
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A simple rewrite for clarity and conciseness:

Papers were only kept for review if they explicitly discussed or applied the proposed software.

In this way, the plural they can only refer to papers.

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Papers were only kept for the review which explicitly discussed or applied the proposed software.

This is not easy to follow as written. Emphasizing "Papers" and "which" in speech would help some, but it would be silly to try that in writing. "Which" needs to refer to something, and, "review" stands directly before, ready to accept the reference.

Of course, "which" surely refers to "papers", although a reader would have some difficulty determining so. The second example:

Only papers which explicitly discussed or applied the proposed software were kept for the review.

Now "papers" is directly before "which", and the meaning is clear.
The sentence could be rewritten:

The only papers kept for the review were those which explicitly discussed or applied the proposed software.

It would be a matter of personal preference which of the last two to use.

  • Thanks for this response! In short, you're not saying the first option is incorrect, rather just unclear? In any case, I'll probably go for one of the two latter, for clarity's sake :) – sc28 Mar 16 '17 at 15:02
  • @sc28...unclear, yes. and, as it is unclear , you shouldn't use if if you have better options. – J. Taylor Mar 16 '17 at 15:43

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