As far as I know, both work and works may be correct in different contexts. For example, we say I had much work today. But when referring to different pieces of work we say works, e.g., related works in a paper. However, In these sentences I'm not sure which one is correct:

  1. This survey sheds light on the differences between our approach and the previously proposed works/work.
  2. Thanks to X and Y for their help in surveying the related work/works.
  • As far as I know, "work" when used as a countable noun represents any kind of physical object (maybe intellectual too) that's the result of someone's work. "work" as a noncountable noun refers to physical or mental activity whose goal is to produce something. So, two meanings. Just pick the one that more closely fits your particular example. – Michael Rybkin Nov 21 '17 at 16:05
  • 1. work. 2. could be either, depending on context. Cookie Monster's comment is correct. – Mark Hubbard Nov 21 '17 at 16:05
  • Why 1 work? Doesn't the sentence refer to different pieces of work? For example, there were 10 papers on the subject and we want to compare our approach to each of those 10 papers and explain the differences. So why use work? – Shayan Nov 21 '17 at 16:09

I'd say that in academic writing, either is correct. At least to my ear though, the singular "work" sounds more comprehensive and the plural "works" sounds more selective. "Works" are a set of countable papers, but "work" is the whole body of relevant literature. In that second sense, "work," like "literature," is singular.

So I'd say, "...the previously proposed work," if I was trying to contrast with the entire history of published literature on this subject, but "...the previously proposed works," if I was contrasting with a particular set of papers that I had already mentioned earlier.

Note that in your sentence 2, you should use "thanks to..." and use the singular "help."

Thanks to X and Y for their help in surveying the related work.

  • Just one question. why help instead of helps? – Shayan Nov 21 '17 at 16:59
  • 1
    "Help" is always a mass noun. You can have a lot of help or a little bit of help. You cannot have one help or seven helps. – Canadian Yankee Nov 21 '17 at 21:00

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