I want to write a scientific paper, the sentence is "remote sensing technology encompasses two primary methods". I'm not sure which one should I use: encompass, include, or incorporate?

I've looked up these words in dictionary, and my understanding is as follows:

Encompass - Generally means to surround or cover completely. When referring to ideas or methods, it suggests that the entity (in this case, remote sensing) comprehensively covers or involves the two methods mentioned.

Incorporate - Implies that something is integrated or merged into something else. When you say "remote sensing technology incorporates two primary methods," it suggests that remote sensing has taken in and made use of these two methods as a part of its broader framework or system.

Include - Simply means that something is a part of a group or a whole. "Remote sensing includes two primary methods" would mean that these methods are part of what remote sensing uses or consists of, without emphasizing integration or comprehensive coverage.

But after referring to dictionary, I still don't know which one word should I use, or people usually use. Could you help me?

  • What's wrong with uses?
    – TimR
    Aug 24 at 16:38
  • 1
    Personally I'd probably go for this [technology, system, approach, whatever] comprises two main [methods, whatever]. But it looks like Off Topic "writing advice" to me. Aug 24 at 17:02
  • 2
    Here’s a perhaps very fine analysis. Technologies don’t encompass, include, or incorporate methods. Nor do they even comprise (though, like @FumbleFingers, I suspect that this last verb is kind of what you have in mind). There’s a category error here because technology denotes a different kind of entity than method does. Do you mean something like, “Remote sensing technologies fall into two classes”? or “There are two broad varieties of remote sensing technologies”? Aug 24 at 18:19
  • If you say what you don't want but not what you want - not what you mean in your words - how can we know? Does your new tech have those other two within it? Aug 24 at 21:32
  • Are the two alternatives, are they things that are basically the same, would you use both together, or are the two rivals? Are they methods, theories, approaches, techniques, ideas, justifications? Are you going to argue that one is better than the other, compare the two, contrast the two, show that they're both the same, or set out situations when you might use each? How many other methods are there, and how significant they are? You need to think about the relationship between them.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 25 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


Well... these definitions are accurate, and carry three distinctions of meaning. I'm afraid I don't know enough about "remote sensing technology" to know of them is the most true, but let's try constructing some simple sentences that would also convey each shade of meaning.

For encompass:

  • These two primary methods are all about remote sensing technology. They don't have applications in other areas.

For incorporate:

  • Remote sensing technology takes these two primary methods and uses them, or makes them part of itself

For include:

  • Remote sensing technology is a group, and two of the items in that group are these two primary methods

If none of these are true, then it might be that other words would be a better choice. I think your intent is that there are two main "kinds" of remote sensing technologies, in which case "include" might be best, or maybe you mean that it makes use of two primary tools, in which case, well, "makes use of" would be fine.

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