I'm working on the abstract of my paper. According to the edition of my professor, the last sentence of the abstract is like:

The results also reveal some limitations of current outlier detection systems, which ...

My question is:

  1. Should I add "the" before "current outlier detection systems" because they are aforementioned and this is thus not the first time the reader sees them. Is this a general statement so that we should use zero article?

  2. What if I instead say: "... limitations of (the) existing outlier detection systems, ..."? Should I use "the" or not?

The difficult part I find in choosing whether to use zero article or not is to determine "how general is general".

Many thanks for your advice.

1 Answer 1


Using the definite article always adds specificity. Your example seems to make a statement about all current outlier detection systems. If you say "the current outlier detection systems" it would indicate you are setting them apart from some other systems. That could mean other systems that are not 'current', but if you have previously referred to a set of systems (for example, the ones owned or used by a specific organisation) then it could mean you are referring to just those systems.

For example, if a professor said "English students don't understand articles", it sounds like he is saying this about all English students everywhere. But, if he said "the English students don't understand articles" then it would be taken to mean he meant his current class, or the students in that school, or whatever his previous context had confined his statement to.

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