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Let's assume I want to compare the nutrient content of selected beverages available on the market. The number of beverages is limited to about 10 items. The aim of this small project is to show that all beverages differ substantially with regard to a particular nutrient. I perform a descriptive comparison.

Should I provide trademarks (e.g. Cola, Pepsi, ... ) or should I call them "Item 1" , "Item 2", etc? I am asking because I am not affiliated to any company and this is not meant to be an advertisement. I received no money from any company and I have no conflicts of interest. I would like that to be clear for the reader.

Note: this is just an example. The real background is not about beverages but I selected that example for illustrative purposes. It is not meant to be a comparative study in a way of promoting a particular item but in a way of showing that differences exist and that the selection should be done wisely.

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It is perfectly fine to use trademarks in publications. I would argue that if you compare those, you should include their names or brands etc. This is important for the reproducibility of the study.

I would only make sure that you keep it very systematic and objective your assessments. You don't want that it seems that you have a bias.

If you are worried, you can always add a disclaimer that you are not affiliated in any way with any of those brands or projects.

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    Also in the name of reproducibility specify the location and/or source. This is common in biology (different sources of the same reagent may have different properties). For a more real-world example, the blend of certain worldwide brands of cigarettes is actually different in different countries. Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 8:06
  • @ Stefan Thank you so much for your insights. I am worried a little as I compare a specific kind of supplements. I heard that some journals in medicine suggest to use trademarks only when absolutely necessary.
    – Dr.M
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 8:34
  • @Dr.M I don't know medical journals. But, in engineering, it wouldn't be an issue. Also, have a look at the journal guidelines and ask your supervisor if you are unsure. In any case, the journals are peer-reviewed, so they will let you know if you need to make them anonymous. One last thought: Make sure you pick a sufficiently large set of different products, with an objective selection: for instance, the top 10 products of the market (largest market shares, most expensive + least expensive, or something similar). Otherwise, you will get the question, why do you pick those?
    – Stefan
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 8:44
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In general, use whatever names are necessary to clearly present your results. Whatever you end up using, you should include all the details (brand name, manufacturer, lot number, etc...) in your methods.

More specifically, if the goal of your study is to investigate specific formulations of a common supplement (for example), you should use the brand names - that's what you're investigating. Abstracting your objects of interest to "item 1, item 2, item 3..." is clunky to write and difficult to read. No-one wants to repeatedly search through your paper to figure out which "item" is which.

The only exception might be a generic, lab grade control, which you could safely refer to as "control" and define in the methods.

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