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I am so confused about the singular and plural forms of observation in academic writing.

Here is an example:

The improved model showed a better performance than the prior model based on observations.

The context of the example sentence is: I compared the improved model with the prior model in terms of different variables (e.g., precipitation, temperature, radiation). Due to so, different observational datasets were used.

Should I use observation or observations?

Thank you so much.

  • Do you mean number of observations? If it is the number of rows you are talking about in your data set, then it should be observations. But I am not sure if that is what you are talking about. – AIQ Sep 14 at 22:41
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observation can be both a singular and plural. If you have more than one observation for your testing, you use a plural form. In this context, in my opinion, you may go for a plural word because when you test a software tool with its previous versions, you have many parameters each one having a particular way to observe/mark its efficacy.

So, I would prefer a plural word.

  • There is something very fishy in the question. He says "I compared the improved model with the prior model in terms of different variables" He does not say anything about changing the number of observations in the new model. The new model simply has a different set of variables. Then he says "different observational datasets were used" which indicates the new model used a data set with different number of observations. I have a strong feeling he is using the wrong word (i.e., it should be variables not observations). – AIQ Sep 15 at 6:03
  • I believe it should be "... the new model performed better than the prior model because the model specification was revised (or due to the inclusion of additional variables) " May be I have gone too far. – AIQ Sep 15 at 6:03
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Longman Dictionary:

Observation: the process of watching something or someone carefully for a period of time.

Collins Dictionary:

Observation: is the action or process of carefully watching someone or something.

The observation is an action or process carried out by singular existence. Which gives us the conclusion it is one point of view in a time can be looking at multiple objects yet it is a singular action.

As you can see in term of multiple action of observing we can say "observations" but not if a singular action is taking place;

-I compared the improved model with the prior model in terms of temperature.

Singular action is taking place so it should be observation.

-I compared the improved model with the prior model in terms of different variables (e.g., precipitation, temperature, radiation).

Multiple actions are taking place so it should be observations.

Hope it helps..

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