I'm currently reading a scientific paper, in which the words "second-order approaches" are supposed to inform me about a certain solution to a problem. However, I don't have the slightest clue on what these words mean.

English is not my mother tongue, so it may be something very obvious. I've never seen it before so I'm not sure what it implies.

I'd be very happy to know what it means.

  • 2
    Second-order generally indicates an extended or higher complexity. You have told us nothing. Title of paper, author, subject, and the textual context. Jun 16 '18 at 15:43
  • 1
    Without context this may be hard if not impossible to answer.
    – JJJ
    Jun 16 '18 at 15:43
  • Sorry, of course context is helpful. researchgate.net/publication/… . It's located on page five, the third paragraph of section B. "Uncertainty may again be captured with second-order approaches."
    – Albert
    Jun 16 '18 at 16:08
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    Sorry to point this out and if "we have to define appropriate ways to model that uncertainty (e.g., second-order distributions over parameters of class distributions in a probabilistic framework)…" is a problem of English not being your mother tongue, you need to find better translators. Although the passage you quoted doesn't make sense in general English that's not a problem with general English… it's clearly a problem with jargon, which even the most perfect of native speakers will never overcome. Truly, your only hope is to find better translators. Jun 30 '18 at 20:10
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    You probably want to ask this on a domain specific site, for example Cross Validated.SE.
    – Mitch
    Dec 14 '18 at 14:21

OK. Machine learning. In this context a 'second-order' approach to a problem appears to be a statistics/mathematics term. I am not qualified to say more than that. Maybe ask in Mathematics or Computer Science Stack Exchange?

In mathematics and logic

Second-order approximation, an approximation that includes quadratic terms

Second-order arithmetic, an axiomatization allowing quantification of sets of numbers

Second-order differential equation, a differential equation in which the highest derivative is the second

Second-order logic, an extension of predicate logic

In perturbation theory, a second-order perturbation may be obtained iteratively


Your paragraph:

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  • I don't think that it is math-related because the paper itself uses a more descriptive way of explaining how certain methods could be applied. It wouldn't make much sense to use these words in this context.
    – Albert
    Jun 16 '18 at 21:13
  • Well, there you go. Jun 16 '18 at 21:21

As far as I can tell, in asking ELU what this sentence means, you are using a third order approach.

The first order approach would be to ask the author or an expert in the field the author is writing about. The second order approach would be to ask people in the same broad field or in closely related fields. The third order approach, which is what you are using, is to ask people (us) who find the paragraph nearly opaque and are trying, with difficulty, to make sense out of it.

I hope that there is a person on ELU who knows enough about what the author means to qualify as a second-order approachee.

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