I am looking for an adjective/adverb to describe something which related to a distinction between categories, e.g.:

Although it is occasionally useful to consider the comments of historians on a given period of history, when identifying their characteristics a [in a way looking at distinctions] analysis is often better.

I am looking for a simpler word or expression to go in place of the square brackets - in this example, meaning something something along the lines of 'where the historians draw the boundaries between periods'. I initially considered 'liminal', but I'm not so much looking at the thresholds themselves as at distinctions between groups.

Any suggestions? Bonus points if you can find a name for a field of study looking at distinctions - that would be even more fitting for me.

  • 2
    I am not sure it is an adjective you need there. In your sentence it looks like an adverb is missing. Please edit to make that clear. Also, it would help to clarify what this refers to in your sentence. Review what?
    – fev
    Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 21:00
  • @fev I completely agree; there were a number of issues with my original verbiage and example - take a look now. Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 21:16
  • What is your antecedent for their? I think you're wanting it to be periods of history, which isn't there. Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 22:07
  • @TinfoilHat in the example sentence, their is supposed to refer to the periods of history. Commented Jun 27, 2021 at 22:09
  • I would go for 'comparative analysis' in this context.
    – piccolo
    Commented Jun 28, 2021 at 8:28

3 Answers 3



showing the differences between things:

  • a contrastive analysis of English and Spanish


Vocabulary.com explains:

The adjective contrastive means "showing the difference between two things when you compare them" — like a contrastive analysis of American and British English.

To contrast two things is to think about how they are different. So, the adjective contrastive is used to describe things that differ from one another.

As for the field of study, I am not sure this is what you are looking for but there is

Comparative history:

Comparative history is the comparison of different societies which existed during the same time period or shared similar cultural conditions.


In fact, this is not necessarily a field of study but a method which simply compares, but is not restricted to finding differences.


are you looking for "a comparative analysis"

  • comparative - "relating to, based on, or involving comparison. Of or relating to the scientific or historical comparison of different phenomena, institutions, or objects, such as languages, legal systems, or anatomical structures, in an effort to understand their origins or relationships.

Some Book Titles from Google Books:

  • Towards a Comparative Analysis of Social Inequalities between Europe and Latin America.
  • A Comparative Analysis of Regression Methods.
  • A Comparative Analysis of Employee Benefit Programs.

I may be misinterpreting your question, but the word that instantly came to mind to fill the brackets was comprehensive.

Although it is occasionally useful to consider the comments of historians on a given period of history, when identifying their characteristics a [comprehensive] analysis is often better.

From reading just your example sentence I wouldn't know what specific distinctions might need to be made, so a word like comprehensive covers the bases by asserting that there are important distinctions, and that they will be elaborated on further as I continue reading.

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