# Using a statistical method in an applied context for (probably) the first time. How do I convey this?

I am a graduate student in statistics, writing the methods and data analysis section of an epidemiology paper. I used an obscure but highly relevant statistical method to analyze our data. I genuinely believe this is the first novel application of this method outside of toy problems in highly theoretical paper.

What I want to say is: Previous research on METHOD XX has been limited to statistics and econometrics literature

This seems too sweeping a claim for me to make though. It's entirely possible that someone, somewhere has used this method before. It is also a nightmare to cite. How do you cite the absence of evidence?

So, what is the best way to convey this? Is it as simple as tempering my initial statement a bit: Previous research on METHOD XX has largely been limited to statistics and econometrics literature. Should I get rid of this statement all together?

• Cool! You may want to do a thorough look at Google Scholar, Web of Science, etc. to specifically look for the papers that cite that original method. (If it is a recent innovation, this is fairly doable...) Alternately, are there terms like "descriptive statistics" or "limitations" you could add to your search, which would almost certainly be found in empirical applications of the method, but rarely in theory? Commented May 14, 2018 at 19:58
• I've done a thorough search. Is there any way I can include that information?
– Eli
Commented May 14, 2018 at 20:26
• Then corey979's answer sounds great. If you ask professors if they know of any such papers, you can say, "I've done a thorough search, but have you seen any papers that...?" Commented May 15, 2018 at 15:00

In lots of papers I've seen a phrase:

According to (or to the best of) the author's knowledge, this is the first time that method XX has been applied to YY.

which seems fair and safe enough.

I guess the contribution of your work is the applications of the method XXXX to statistics and econometrics. Only a few research has applied the method such as XXXX to address problems in statistics and econometrics. So, your work will be the next one..... I will say that

"To our knowledge, the method such as XXXX has a few applications in statistics and econometrics [give citations to the exceptional papers where the methods similar to XXXX has been used in statistics and econometrics]."

Or you may say...

"To our knowledge, only a few research [citation] has applied the method such as XXXX to address problems in statistics and econometrics"

But be careful about differentiating your reason for applying this method against the existing way that the method XXX have been used in statistics and econometrics.