Such is the case with the use of like and as. These two words seem very much the same. And yet the appropriate use of each word is distinctly different.
Experienced writers use like in phrases and as in clauses. Phrases are sentence fragments which have no verb. Clauses, on the other hand, are sentence fragments which do have a verb.
To illustrate the difference, let’s consider the example sentence in the graphic above. The writer here chose to use as instead of like. But like is the appropriate word since the sentence fragment which contains it is a phrase.
To identify the sentence fragment, start at the end of the main verb in the whole sentence. In the case of our example sentence, this yields a high cost per unit volume as tungsten. Note that this fragment contains no verb. It is therefore a phrase, and like is preferred over as in phrases. The writer should revise this sentence.
I do sense that some reasoning exists, though I don’t know what it is. Sometimes you don’t really understand until you have enough experience. I’m quite experienced already, but I’m willing to walk by a little faith, as it were.
So for the moment, it’s like in phrases and as in clauses. And if I ever learn the reason, I’ll return to my post here and amend it.