I am a non-native English speaker writing a scientific paper.

I have question concerning the word corroborate. In my native language, one might say that a research project aim to corroborate findings from previous studies. Such a phrase (in my language) imply an equally and objectively balanced approach that may or may not confirm findings from previous studies.

However, I am concerned that corroborate as used in: We aimed to (1) corroborate previous findings of x, y and z does not imply that we may reject what have been found and reported in previous studies rather than seeking to confirm it.

In a scientific context investigating whether x may or may not correlate to a specific outcome, e.g. death, can corroborate correctly describe that we seek to investigate the correlation between x and death, which consequently results in either confirmation or rejection of previous findings?

I am concerned that corroborate used as in We aimed to (1) corroborate previous findings of x, y and z simply implies that we "aim to confirm what have been previously found" rather than meaning "confirming or rejecting previous findings".

Thank you in advance.

  • 3
    Please add references, linked & attributed. I dont't see the problem as being the meaning of 'corroborate'. 'We aimed to corroborate ...' does not sound like a felicitous statement to me for an impartial investigation. 'We sought to corroborate ...' is more felicitous, recognising that such a quest, while aiming to add weight to a theory, recognises that results might not support the theory. Mar 21, 2020 at 14:28
  • 2
    To corroborate means to confirm. But that's not a problem; the verbs aim and seek allow you to reject—you can aim and miss, seek and not find. If you can't corroborate, then reject. Mar 21, 2020 at 15:11
  • Why not use something like 'test'?
    – Řídící
    Mar 21, 2020 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


OED defines corroborate:

to provide evidence or information that supports a statement, theory, etc.

By this definition, corroborate means that it supports the existing theory. It cannot mean that it rejects the existing theory.

Here is where it gets tricky. If the existing statement rejected an idea (say, that Corona beer transmits the coronavirus), then a new study could corroborate this rejection.

Corroboration also works for rejecting hypotheses. Say an existing study rejects a null hypothesis (which is a good thing in scientific circles). A new study that also rejects the same null hypothesis will be said to be corroborating both the existing study and the rejection.

  • corroborate - verb, to support with evidence or authority : make more certain. MW. To strengthen or support with other evidence; make more certain. See Synonyms at confirm. TFD

If you say that your study corroborates previous studies, it only means that you and previous workers reached the same conclusion, irrespective of the results.

These papers may be about the effectiveness of a drug, the results of a surgical procedure or the side-effects of an environmental agent, but it doesn't matter whether the results will be of any benefit.

You may also say that "the present study bears out the results found by so-and-so. "Corroborate" certainly sounds more scientific, though.

  • bear out - confirm, substantiate MW. Back up or confirm, as in The results bear out what he predicted. TFD

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