3

I am now writing a research paper that tries to distinguish two computational methods. These two methods have very similar mathematical formulations but they are actually quite different.

I am wondering what word or phrase I could use to describe this? I found on the surface but not sure if the choice is correct as Webster tells me the synonyms are actually different than I am expecting.

Here is the sentence I have now.

On the surface, both methods use small number of labeled samples during training and validation. But they have contrasting statistical implications as [...]

2 Answers 2

6

"On the surface" is a reasonable phrase to use here, other options would be "superficially", or "at first glance".

I'd say that your example sentence is good but could be improved a little, as there's a connotation that both methods actually do not use a small number of labelled samples for training and validation, and that they only appear to "on the surface". The fact that they both do this isn't superficial, as they both actually do that - it's the similarity between the algorithms that's superficial. I would rephrase it as:

On the surface/superficially/at first glance, both methods appear similar in that they use a small number of labeled samples during training and validation. But they have contrasting statistical implications as...

In conversation or with broader context the sentence doesn't sound particularly odd, and you'd likely be reasonably well understood, but it would be best to say that the similarity overall is superficial, rather than than implying superficiality of specific things that actually are the same.

2
  • 1
    Just go for “superficially”. It’s an academic paper so one can assume a certain type of literacy. Of course, without understanding the mathematics one cannot be sure, but that’s the poster’s deficiency.
    – David
    Jul 29, 2021 at 19:22
  • Or better still just delete "on the surface." The word "but" already places the statement that the methods have contrasting statistical implications (whatever that means--you might want to rework that too) in stark contrast to the statement that both methods use a small number of labeled samples. You're not being paid by the word--on the contrary, the more words you use to convey the same basic information, the more likely your reader is to circular-file your paper.
    – David K
    Jul 30, 2021 at 3:06
4

This is not quire a correct use of on the surface.

As you have seen in the Merriam-Webster definition, the phrase has a meaning very similar to apparently, or seemingly. And like those words, this phrase is typically used like an adverb, to modify another word or clause.

With the inclusion of on the surface in your example, you appear to be saying something like this: It seems like both methods use a small number of labeled samples, but that's not correct. The truth is that they have contrasting statistical implications.

That doesn't seem to be what you mean, and it's logically inconsistent.

You probably want to say something more like this: On the surface, the methods appear similar, because they both use a small number of labeled samples during training and validation. But though the methods appear similar, they have contrasting statistical implications.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.