If I say "This methodology can/could be used in the research in this area, e.g. (the relevant paper)", should I use can?

If no examples is given, should I use could? (to emphasize possibility?)

  • 3
    For generic word choices like this, I think you should look to the English stack exchange instead of Academia. As you can find there, the two words have somewhat different meanings. Generally, 'can' would work if it's known that the method would apply, and 'could' if you propose that it the method might apply.
    – Anyon
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 17:44
  • You can use "could" or "might" as an alternative to "can" when suggesting less force or certainty. It is THAT SIMPLE. The answer to this question (or any question like that i.e. about the usage/meaning of any specific word) should be looked up in a dictionary (best option). Another option is advice from an American/British/Canadian/Australian colleague. The Stack Exchange English is mainly used by ESL students, and ESL students are giving answers there, which is 100% unreliable when compared with the options I suggested. It's a serious fault of the system.
    – Ken Draco
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


This seems like a fine line with no objective answer. It depends how ready you are to defend your point of view. If you believe firmly (i.e. have good evidence that the method is valid, even if it hasn't been used yet), you can use can. Else, if you consider that your opinion (that the method is valid) may be contested, and you are not sure that it's defensible, use could.

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