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I'm currently writing a scientific report and repeatedly found myself sneaking sentences like "with the aim of..." or "with the purpose of" in my text. Despite how trivial this problem may seem, it isn’t.

The scientific process is repetitive in essence. We customarily do things with a purpose in mind: we apply methodology X with the aim of calculating Y or use theorem P with the purpose of solving Q, and that kind of mindset easily surfaces in our manuscripts. Also, given that our writing must convey rigour, certain constructions like "with the hope of" or "wishing" are proscribed and the abuse of passive is considered a burden put upon the readability of text that are already complex in itself. In summary, it isn't strange to run out of ideas on how to say why one did X, Y and Z...

So, I would like to ask, are there good formulas and sentence structures to express purpose and at the same time convey a sense of exactness without using too many "with the aim of" (or its derivatives) or too much passive?

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    You can use "in order to ..."; or reverse it sometimes: "We calculated Y using methodology X" or "... by means of methodology X". – TrevorD Jun 26 '16 at 22:36
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    What's the specific problem with to? – Kris Jun 28 '16 at 5:57
  • @Kris There is no particular problem except for the fact that I already used extensively in the document. See the answer by Doug Glancy – je_b Jun 29 '16 at 9:04
  • You could avoid monotony by using toward(s) or for. This site is ELU; if it were Writing, I would have offered rephrasing suggestions instead. – Kris Jun 29 '16 at 14:23
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    What makes you think you need to vary the way you say this? In a scientific paper, where precision is required, saying the same thing in different ways is probably a bad idea. The reader is left to decide if the choice of different words means that there is a subtly different meaning. Decide which formulation is the clearest and most concise way of saying what you want to say and stick to it. – user16226 Jul 17 '16 at 1:07
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How about to? For example "we apply methodology X to calculate Y" or "we use theorem P to solve Q". I find that pared-down technical writing alleviates some of the repetition.

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  • Yes. That's an option, but I already used whether in that order or "To calculate X, we apply methodology Y" – je_b Jun 26 '16 at 20:12
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Good news! You can say 'to' or 'in order to', and stop worrying about the rest.

Reasons to use 'to':

  • It's simple
  • It's clear
  • Readers will thank you for keeping your wordcount down

Reasons to use 'in order to':

  • It's simple
  • It’s even clearer, because it avoids any confusion with the other meanings of 'to' (prepositional 'to', or infinitive 'to', for example)
  • That means readers will parse your sentence on the first try, understanding what you mean without having to double back and reread.

Reasons to use wordy alternatives: 'with the aim of', 'with a view to', 'for the purpose of', 'with the goal of', 'with the intention of', 'for the objective of', 'in an effort to':

  • You're convinced that finding ways to complicate your vocabulary... equals... literary merit?
  • You're convinced that to your audience this notion of literary merit is more important than communicating your ideas clearly.

Of course, I hope you’ll take my cheeky tone in the cheery spirit it’s intended. But seriously… just think! A shocking amount of academic prose, when trying to read it, feels like hacking through jungle with a blunt machete. But you can spend less time — less! — fumbling around looking for unnecessary vocab, and make yours feel like gliding down a crystal-blue river of clarity.

…Okay, okay, if you really want variety for its own sake, you can have ‘so as to’ ;)

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  • Now I've had time to think about it, I'm swithering over 'so as to'. My gut is telling me it works in cases where there's an element of how — where you mean that you did X in a certain way to achieve Y — but it will sound odd if there's no such element of how. For example: 'We decorated so as to make the place look festive' is probably fine, but 'We opened the door so as to let him in' sounds stilted. It would be much more natural to say to let him in or in order to let him in. – Cakebox Aug 18 '16 at 14:25
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You could vary your sentence structure to minimize your monotony. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

In calculating Y we applied methodology X. This gave the advantage of using the flux capacitor model from Steven Spielberg, et. al.

Solving problem Q vexed the research team for weeks. Theorem P offered the strongest potential solution because it answered the difficult operator question.

Although we considered J as the unknown protein, it lacked the 3-D construction we find in K.

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