Which is better English (if either)?

  • The results are within the range of values from the literature.
  • The results are within the range of values in the literature.
  • 4
    I'd prefer: "The results are within the range of values found in the literature." – Edwin Ashworth Oct 27 '12 at 15:01
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    @Edwin Ashworth: Absolutely. Presumably we both think it "flows" better with "found". I also think it has the benefit of explicitly stating that the writer has "done his research" (went looking in the literature for the relevant values). Google Books agrees, with 340 results for "the range of values found in the literature", but only 5 for the same without the word "found", and just 4 for "the range of values from the literature". – FumbleFingers Oct 27 '12 at 16:09
  • Thank you for this answer; it confirms my thinking that, while there is no specifically grammatical point at issue, usage would trend towards "[found] in the literature". – mister_pluto Oct 29 '12 at 7:24

Per mine and Edwin's comments above, Google Books confirms an overwhelming preference for

...the range of values found in the literature.

As a native speaker, I expected that before checking usage figures, but explaining why isn't so easy. Partly it's just a matter of established idiomatic usage, but I do think "found" is more consistent with the [research/testing] context, in that it shows the writer has made an effort to locate and quantify the relevant values.

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  • 2
    I think it might have to do with locality of reference. If you parse it as (range of values) (in/from the literature), rather than range of (values in/from the literature), both in and from are very subtly wrong, because the range isn't directly in or from the literature; it's the values that are in or from the literature. For some reason, it sounds to me like found fixes that. – Peter Shor Oct 27 '12 at 16:56
  • @Peter Shor: I was thinking something along those lines myself, but couldn't see how to express it clearly. I think "found" in OP's context implies actively identified/established, using more or less rigorous methodology. Which allows us to get round that small but potentially irritating distinction between "raw" data values and meaningful ranges (usable information, such as you might find/establish by "mining" the data). – FumbleFingers Oct 27 '12 at 18:11
  • @ Peter Shor and FumbleFingers. Thank you both for the time and effort put into answering my question, the comments from both of you have been most helpful. – mister_pluto Oct 29 '12 at 7:28

The data was taken "from" the literature, but it remains there, in the literature because you aren't taking anything away from the document when you use the data in the document. Hence, "in the literature" is more correct than "from the literature," syntactically although either would be correct grammatically.

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  • I don't know where you "got this idea from". I'm sure in every single one of the 10,000+ instances there, the idea was still potentially available to be taken repeatedly by other people. Intangibles such as ideas and results can be taken from somewhere as easily as they can be [found] in that place. – FumbleFingers Oct 27 '12 at 16:00

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