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Writing about your research: verb tense.
Consistency of verb tense helps ensure smooth expression in your writing. The practice of the discipline for which you write typically determines which verb tenses to use in various parts of a scientific document. In general, however, the following guidelines may help you know when to use past and present tense. If you have questions about tense or other writing concerns specific to your discipline, check with your adviser.
Use Past Tense…
To describe your methodology and report your results. At the time you are writing your report, thesis, dissertation or article, you have already completed your study, so you should use past tense in your methodology section to record what you did, and in your results section to report what you found.
- We hypothesized that adults would remember more items than children.
- We extracted tannins from the leaves by bringing them to a boil in 50% methanol.
- In experiment 2, response varied .
When referring to the work of previous researchers . When citing previous research in your article, use past tense. Whatever a previous researcher said, did or wrote happened at some specific, definite time in the past and is not still being done. Results that were relevant only in the past or to a particular study and have not yet been generally accepted as fact also should be expressed in past tense:
To describe a fact, law or finding that is no longer considered valid and relevant.
Use Present Tense. . .
To express findings that continue to be true . Use present tense to express general truths or facts or conclusions supported by research results that are unlikely to change—in other words, something that is believed to be always true.
To refer to the article, thesis or dissertation itself.
To discuss your findings and present your conclusions .
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th Ed. The Comprehensive Guide to Writing in the Health Sciences , University of Toronto.
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What tense to use when writing a thesis?
I am well aware of the fact that there are a number of questions that talk about tenses in research, but I still have not found exactly what I am after.
Basically my question is this, in a Master dissertation, should the tense be the same throughout the entire text? Or is it acceptable (or even required) to use different tenses in different structures?
Assuming the following structure, if you believe that there should be separate tenses, would the suggestions in brackets be correct?
- Title ( Present )
- Abstract ( Imperfect Past )
- Introduction ( Present + Future )
- Methodology ( Past Perfect, Present, Future or Mix? )
- Results ( Past Perfect )
- Discussion ( Present* )
- Conclusion ( Mix?, conditional present )
*Would the choice of any present tense put all preceding sections in a past tense?
Looking at that structure I find it hard to see that only one tense should be adopted throughout the entire text.
Sources: This , this and that .
- I was about to say "The correct tense for the correct sections" but I see you are already thinking in terms of sections. Good question. It might be interesting to run corpus linguistics on this to find out. – Frames Catherine White Jul 4, 2017 at 15:39
- 1 I would use the past only for discussion of prior work. – gerrit Jul 4, 2017 at 17:09
- @gerrit: In papers involving experiments, the experiments are typically described in the past tense. – Peter Shor Jul 4, 2017 at 18:51
- @PeterShor Maybe so. That makes me a minority. I don't destroy my instruments after use so when I describe them, I do so in the present tense. I might use them again! Consistency is most important, however. – gerrit Jul 4, 2017 at 18:57
- @gerrit: I can see writing "The apparatus consists of ..." , but do you mean you would also write "500 observations are taken for each value of the electric field" ? – Peter Shor Jul 4, 2017 at 19:27
The answer to this question varies across disciplines. Your dissertation presumably falls within some academic discipline. Look at other papers in the same discipline, and see what tenses they use. For example, unlike your suggestion, in math papers the abstract is usually present tense.
If some of the premier journals in your discipline have a style guide, look at these style guides and see what they say.
The journal Nature , in which the majority of articles are in the sciences, has the following suggestions for verb tense (I've left out a few of their examples):
Past tense Work done We collected blood samples from . . . Consequently, astronomers decided to rename . . . Work reported Jankowsky reported a similar growth rate . . . In 2009, Chu published an alternative method to . . . Observations The mice in Group A developed, on average, twice as much . . . The conversion rate was close to 95% . . . Present tense General truths Microbes in the human gut have a profound influence on . . . The Reynolds number provides a measure of . . . Atemporal facts This paper presents the results of . . . Section 3.1 explains the difference between . . . Behbood's 1969 paper provides a framework for . . . Future tense Perspectives In a follow-up experiment, we will study the role of . . . The influence of temperature will be the object of future research . . .
- "We collected blood samples from . . ." That's strange. I thought they want you to avoid I and We? "Blood samples were collected from..." sounds much more like a nature paper. – user64845 Jul 4, 2017 at 22:01
- @DSVA: There has been a rethinking of the tradition of never using we or I in scientific papers. While some journals still maintain this rule, many welcome use of the first person plural. Another quote from that same link: 'As a second argument against a systematic preference for the passive voice, readers sometimes need people to be mentioned. A sentence such as "The temperature is believed to be the cause for . . . " is ambiguous. Readers will want to know who believes this — the authors of the paper, or the scientific community as a whole? ' (continued ...) – Peter Shor Jul 4, 2017 at 23:55
- 'To clarify the sentence, use the active voice and set the appropriate people as the subject, in either the third or the first person, as in the examples below. Biologists believe the temperature to be . . . Keustermans et al. (1997) believe the temperature to be . . . The authors believe the temperature to be . . . We believe the temperature to be . . . ' – Peter Shor Jul 4, 2017 at 23:55
- And let me modify the Nature suggestions. I have the impression that work done and observations are usually past tense, but work reported is often present perfect tense — Jankowsky has reported a similar growth rate ... Of course, if you mention a year with work reported, then for grammatical reasons it has to be past tense. – Peter Shor Aug 27, 2017 at 20:16
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Dissertations & projects: Tenses
- Research questions
- The process of reviewing
- Project management
- Literature-based projects
On this page:
“You will use a range of tenses depending on what you are writing about . ” Elizabeth M Fisher, Richard C Thompson, and Daniel Holtom, Enjoy Writing Your Science Thesis Or Dissertation!
Tenses can be tricky to master. Even well respected journals differ in the guidance they give their authors for their use. However, their are some general conventions about what tenses are used in different parts of the report/dissertation. This page gives some advice on standard practice.
What tenses will you use?
There are exceptions however, most notably in the literature review where you will use a mixture of past , present and present perfect tenses (don't worry, that is explained below), when discussing the implications of your findings when the present tense is appropriate and in the recommendations where you are likely to use the future tense.
The tenses used as standard practice in each of these sections of your report are given and explained below.
In your abstract
You have some leeway with tense use in your abstract and guidance does vary which can sometimes be confusing. We recommend the following:
Describing the current situation and reason for your study
Mostly use the present tense, i.e. "This is the current state of affairs and this is why this study is needed."
Occasionally, you may find the need to use something called the present perfect tense when you are describing things that happened in the past but are still relevant. The present perfect tense uses have/has and then the past participle of the verb i.e. Previous research on this topic has focused on...
Describing the aims of your study
Here you have a choice. It is perfectly acceptable to use either the present or past tense, i.e. "This study aims to..." or "This study aimed to..."
Describing your methodology
Use the past tense to describe what you did, i.e. "A qualitative approach was used." "A survey was undertaken to ...". "The blood sample was analysed by..."
Describing your findings
Use the past tense to describe what you found as it is specific to your study, i.e. "The results showed that...", "The analysis indicated that..."
Suggesting the implications of your study
Use the present tense as even though your study took place in the past, your implications remain relevant in the present, i.e. Results revealed x which indicates that..."
An example abstract with reasoning for the tenses chosen can be found at the bottom of this excellent blog post:
Using the Present Tense and Past Tense When Writing an Abstract
In your methodology
The methodology is one of the easiest sections when it comes to tenses as you are explaining to your reader what you did. This is therefore almost exclusively written in the past tense.
Blood specimens were frozen at -80 o C.
A survey was designed using the Jisc Surveys tool.
Participants were purposefully selected.
The following search strategy was used to search the literature:
Very occasionally you may use the present tense if you are justifying a decision you have taken (as the justification is still valid, not just at the time you made the decision). For example:
Purposeful sampling was used to ensure that a range of views were included. This sampling method maximises efficiency and validity as it identifies information-rich cases and ... (Morse & Niehaus, 2009).
In your discussion/conclusion
This will primarily be written in the present tense as you are generally discussing or making conclusions about the relevance of your findings at the present time. So you may write:
The findings of this research suggest that.../are potentially important because.../could open a new avenue for further research...
There will also be times when you use the past tense , especially when referring to part of your own research or previous published research research - but this is usually followed by something in the present tense to indicate the current relevance or the future tense to indicate possible future directions:
Analysis of the survey results found most respondents were not concerned with the processes, just the outcome. This suggests that managers should focus on...
These findings mirrored those of Cheung (2020), who also found that ESL pupils failed to understand some basic yet fundamental instructions. Addressing this will help ensure...
In your introduction
The introduction generally introduces what is in the rest of your document as is therefore describing the present situation and so uses the present tense :
Chapter 3 describes the research methodology.
Depending on your discipline, your introduction may also review the literature so please also see that section below.
In your literature review
The findings of some literature may only be applicable in the specific circumstances that the research was undertaken and so need grounding to that study. Conversely, the findings of other literature may now be accepted as established knowledge. Also, you may consider the findings of older literature to be still relevant and relatively recent literature be already superseded. The tenses you write in will help to indicate a lot of this to the reader. In other words, you will use a mix of tenses in your review depending on what you are implying.
Findings only applicable in the specific circumstances
Use the past tense . For example:
In an early study, Sharkey et al. (1991) found that isoprene emissions were doubled in leaves on sunnier sides of oak and aspen trees.
Using the past tense indicates that you are not implying that isoprene emissions are always doubled on the sunnier side of the trees, just that is what was found in the Sharkey et al. study.
Findings that are still relevant or now established knowledge
Mostly use the present tense , unless the study is not recent and the authors are the subject of the sentence (which you should use very sparingly in a literature review) when you may need to use a mixture of the past and present. For example:
A narrowing of what 'graduateness' represents damages students’ abilities to thrive as they move through what will almost certainly be complex career pathways (Holmes, 2001).
Holmes (2001) argued strongly that a narrowing of what 'graduateness' represents damages students’ abilities to thrive as they move through what will almost certainly be complex career pathways
Both of these imply that you think this is still the case (although it is perhaps more strongly implied in the first example). You may also want to use some academic caution too - such as writing 'may damage' rather than the more definite 'damages'.
Presenting your results
As with your methodology, your results section should be written in the past tense . This indicates that you are accepting that the results are specific to your research. Whilst they may have current implications, that part will not be considered until your discussion/conclusions section(s).
Four main themes were identified from the interview data.
There was a significant change in oxygen levels.
Like with the methodology, you will occasionally switch to present tense to write things like "Table 3.4 shows that ..." but generally, stick to the past tense.
In your recommendations
Not everyone will need to include recommendations and some may have them as part of the conclusions chapter. Recommendations are written in a mixture of the present tense and future tense :
It is recommended that ward layout is adapted, where possible, to provide low-sensory bays for patients with autism. These will still be useable by all patients but...
- Verb tenses in scientific manuscripts From International Science Editing
- Which Verb Tenses Should I Use in a Research Paper? Blog from WordVice
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Q: Which tense should be used in the results and discussion section of a paper?
Which tense should be used in the results and discussion section of a paper?
Asked by Yu Yang on 14 Nov, 2015
The results section describes experiments that were completed before the paper was written. Therefore, the simple past tense is the natural choice when describing the results obtained.
Example: Overall, there was a significant reduction in the blood pressure of more than 60% of the patients.
However, you should use the present tense to refer to tables, figures, and graphs that you are using to present your results.
Example: Table 4 shows the blood pressure levels of patients before and after administration of the recommended dose of the drug.
In the discussion section, the past tense is generally used to summarize the findings. But when you are interpreting the results or describing the significance of the findings, the present tense should be used. Often, a combination of both the past and the present tense is used in sentences within the discussion section.
Example: 63% of the children demonstrated an elevated level of at least one risk factor, indicating that children with obesity are at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Note that the first part of the sentence refers to the results; hence the past tense has been used for this part. On the other hand, the present tense has been used for the second part as this part explains what the result means.
You may also need to use the future tense in the discussion section if you are making recommendations for further research or providing future direction.
Example: The methods reported here will open up avenues for further research in the field.
You will also find this ebook useful: Write a convincing discussion section – The key to journal acceptance
For further reading, you can refer to these posts:
Getting the tenses right: Materials and methods section
Using past and present tenses in research writing
Answered by Editage Insights on 30 Mar, 2017
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Frequently asked questions
What tense should i write my results in.
Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.
Frequently asked questions: Dissertation
When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .
The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.
Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .
However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:
- Feasibility and specificity
- Relevance and originality
The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.
In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.
The abstract appears on its own page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .
Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:
- The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
- The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.
There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.
The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis or paper.
An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:
- To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
- To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.
Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarises the contents of your paper.
A theoretical framework can sometimes be integrated into a literature review chapter , but it can also be included as its own chapter or section in your dissertation . As a rule of thumb, if your research involves dealing with a lot of complex theories, it’s a good idea to include a separate theoretical framework chapter.
A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You’ll likely need both in your dissertation .
While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work based on existing research, a conceptual framework allows you to draw your own conclusions, mapping out the variables you may use in your study and the interplay between them.
A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.
Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation, such as:
- Your anticipated title
- Your abstract
- Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)
Your list of tables and figures should go directly after your table of contents in your thesis or dissertation.
Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:
- Your instructor requires one, or
- Your paper is a group project
In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.
The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.
The title page of your thesis or dissertation should include your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date.
A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, dictionaries are more general collections of words.
Glossaries are not mandatory, but if you use a lot of technical or field-specific terms, it may improve readability to add one to your thesis or dissertation. Your educational institution may also require them, so be sure to check their specific guidelines.
A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, an index is a list of the contents of your work organised by page number.
Definitional terms often fall into the category of common knowledge , meaning that they don’t necessarily have to be cited. This guidance can apply to your thesis or dissertation glossary as well.
However, if you’d prefer to cite your sources , you can follow guidance for citing dictionary entries in MLA or APA style for your glossary.
A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. Your glossary only needs to include terms that your reader may not be familiar with, and is intended to enhance their understanding of your work.
APA doesn’t require you to include a list of tables or a list of figures . However, it is advisable to do so if your text is long enough to feature a table of contents and it includes a lot of tables and/or figures .
A list of tables and list of figures appear (in that order) after your table of contents, and are presented in a similar way.
A list of figures and tables compiles all of the figures and tables that you used in your thesis or dissertation and displays them with the page number where they can be found.
Copyright information can usually be found wherever the table or figure was published. For example, for a diagram in a journal article , look on the journal’s website or the database where you found the article. Images found on sites like Flickr are listed with clear copyright information.
If you find that permission is required to reproduce the material, be sure to contact the author or publisher and ask for it.
Lists of figures and tables are often not required, and they aren’t particularly common. They specifically aren’t required for APA Style, though you should be careful to follow their other guidelines for figures and tables .
If you have many figures and tables in your thesis or dissertation, include one may help you stay organised. Your educational institution may require them, so be sure to check their guidelines.
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Tense Tendencies in Thesis and Dissertations
Score high grades with proper use of tenses in dissertation and thesis papers, tense trends in a dissertation: which tense to be used in which chapter.
However well and thoroughly researched your dissertation or dissertation may be, it will fail to impress and secure good grades if it has distorted grammar and spelling errors. So, before the submission of dissertation, you need to be doubly sure about your work by proofreading again and again to make it free from grammatical errors.
Let us discuss one of the most commonly made queries here. What tense to be used in which section of the dissertation? If you are confused about the same read on….
Consistency of verb throughout the dissertation ensures a smooth expression and leaves the impression of your dissertation as an impeccable one. So, which type of verb tenses should be used in the different sections of the dissertation? Here is a quick look:
When to Use Past Tense?
For describing Methodologies and Reporting Your Results:
Methodologies used is to be written in the past tense as it is something you have already attempted or completed so it should be written in the past tense only. Also, the results section is for the purpose of recording what you have found so it has to be written in past as well.
Citations or when referring to the work done by past researchers
When you cite any previous research in your dissertation, you need to use past tense. Citations of dissertation are to be written in the past tense. Whatever the previous researcher has said, did or wrote happened in the past at a specific point of time and hence it cannot be written in the present or future tense.
To describe a fact, law, finding or any other similar thing used in the dissertation which is no longer relevant or valid is to be mentioned in the past tense.
When to Use Present Tense?
For the findings that are general or universal truths or for the findings that are relevant and valid till date:
Present tense is used in the dissertations to express the findings that are still valid, relevant or true. Not only this, all the facts, general truths, conclusions, etc. that are supported by the research results and that cannot be changed are to be written in the present tense.
To refer any section or any portion which is a part of dissertation
If you refer to certain charts, tables or graphs etc. mentioned in the paper itself you should use a present tense only. Also, when you need to discuss your current findings or conclude depending on your current findings then you should use present tense.
Title: This is the place where no other tense accept present tense can be used.
Abstract of the Dissertation
Abstract of a dissertation is a short summary of a long and elaborative work. It enables the potential readers to identify what the paper is all about and decide whether the paper is worth reading or not. It includes statement of the topic, its purpose and objectives of the research. This is to be written in perfect past.
Introduction of the Dissertation:
It provides preliminary background information that puts research in context. It also clarifies the focus of study and also points out the value of research. This particular section specifies the aims and objectives of research work. It is to be written in (present and future) tense.
In this section of the dissertation all the methods adopted for gathering and collecting data have to be mentioned along with their proper details. The section should be written in past perfect, present or in future tense.
Result of the Dissertation:
In this section of the dissertation work, you report the findings of study that are based on the methodologies used in conducting the dissertation. This section of the research work states the finding of research where researcher puts all the findings of the research logically without any interpretations. The section is to be written in Past perfect tense.
Discussions of Dissertation:
The purpose of discussion is to interpret and describe the importance of findings in the view of what is already known about the problem and to investigate and explain the understanding of dissertation. Since it is direct and straightforward, it should be written in present tense only. Since it is like a direct discussion with the readers, it needs to be in present tense only.
Conclusion of a dissertation is an important section of dissertation work as it is the last part of dissertation and when you write it effectively, you will be able to create a lasting impression. So, aim towards making it the last impression and clearly state the answer of your research, make a summary of the entire research work and reflects your research. Conclusion is to be written in present tense mentioning the scope of further study on the topic.
Background: A Quick Look
There are three types of tenses that make 98% of the tensed verbs that are used in the academic writing. One of the most common tense used in writing dissertations is the present simple. Past simple and present perfect are also widely used.
Where to Use Present Simple Tense?
It is used for framing the Research paper. When you open the dissertation and begin to write what the readers already know about the topic and in the conclusion to tell what is not known.
Apart from that Present Simple is used for the following:
- To point out the main focus, or argument or aim of the research paper.
- To make general statements, interpretations, conclusions and other findings of the past and current research.
- To refer to the findings of previous studies without the mention of author’s name.
- To refer to charts, tables or figures etc.
- To describe the events or plots.
Where to Use Past Simple Tense?
The past simple tense is used for referring the activities that took in the past. There are some specific places where this tense is used.
- To make general statements or the conclusions past simple tense is used. Sometimes, interpretations about the findings of the previous and current research are also done in past simple.
- To describe methodologies or data.
- To report the results of studies.
Where to Use Present Perfect Tense?
This tense is used to refer that the previous research work is valid and relevant today. This tense has three following functions.
- For introducing any new topic or used for introducing a new report or a research paper.
- For summarising or briefing the previous research.
- For pointing out any gaps in the existing research work and to set a connection between the past and the present.
- To explain any past findings without referring to the original paper.
Different sections of the dissertation take up different tenses. You need to be well aware and use your rationale to apply the correct form of tense. Future tense is used in the rare case but it can be used when future scope of any study done is discussed. There are times when you can switch tense within a paragraph or even within a sentence but you should have a good reason for doing so and the sentence should not sound weird anyway.
A glimpse of which tense to use where in dissertation
- Chapter one which is an introduction or a prelude is to be written. Both the present and the past tense are used.
- Chapter two is the literature review and it is to be written only in the past tense as they are the previously carried out works.
- Chapter three is research analysis (specific methods chosen by the writer to carry out research work. It is to be written in past.
- hapter four caters to results derived from research studies. It explains the results of objective, question and point out the salient results. It is to be written in combination of present and past.
- Chapter five is conclusion, further discussions or future scope. It has to be in present tense only.
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Tenses – A Guide to Using Tenses in Academic Writing
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Adherence to the correct tenses is essential in academic writing , directly impacting its conciseness, clarity, and readability. At times, deciding on the appropriate tense could be somewhat perplexing, entailing a careful application of language rules . Yet, the situation is not as complex as it may initially seem. As indicated by Cambridge University Press, the majority of students will only need a handful of tenses to express their ideas effectively, once they grasp the associated language rules.
- 1 Tenses – In a Nutshell
- 2 Definition: Tenses
- 3 Most commonly used tenses in academic writing
- 4 Tenses used in different sections of a paper
Tenses – In a Nutshell
Certain verb tenses are suitable for specific situations. Here are some main takeaway points:
- Three verb tenses will suit the majority of your academic writing needs.
- Each tense can be used when addressing specific scenarios .
- Using the correct tense can help to convey insight and clarity .
- Do not hesitate to refer back to this article for future reference.
Verbs alert the reader that a specific action is occurring or has occurred. However, these very same vehicles illustrate slightly more when found within an academic paper.
Tenses are often employed to display how the author feels about the subject being reported. They may also be leveraged to demonstrate the chronology of specific events.
Most commonly used tenses in academic writing
Three tenses are commonly used in academic writing: the present simple, the past simple, and the present perfect. The following paragraphs introduce the functions as well as give examples.
The present simple
Often considered to be the most common tense, the present simple serves several functions:
- To emphasize the primary focus of the article.
- To reinforce what is presently known about a topic.
- To make general observations and statements.
- To reference previous papers as well as current tables and figures.
- This study highlights the effects of climate change.
- Research indicates that a gender pay gap exists.
- Scholars agree that professional careers are regarded as the best way to earn more money.
- This chart presents the results from prior control groups.
The past simple
Let us now examine when the past simple can be used as well as some examples:
- Reporting findings from a previous study where the author is named.
- Discuss what methods and/or data were utilized.
- Highlighting the results of ongoing research.
- Emphasizing that an event occurred in the past.
- Smith et al. found that the initial results were spurious.
- Quantitative analyses were employed.
- Our team implemented a double-blind study.
- The subjects had to report back weekly.
The present perfect
Let’s finally discuss the present perfect tense, as well as when it is most often used.
- When introducing new subject matter.
- Generally summarizing what has already taken place.
- Citing prior findings without mentioning other authors.
- Making connections between the past and the present.
- An impressive body of research has shown.
- Prior findings have been illustrated.
- Others have discovered.
- Previous research has indicated a relationship.
Tenses used in different sections of a paper
A scientific paper is made up of different sections, like the abstract or methodology . Each of these requires a certain tense. The following segments will state and explain which tense is used in which component.
Tenses in the abstract
Most experts agree that the present simple tense is best utilized within the abstract. This is a clear way to state facts and highlight the subsequent results. ㅤ
Tenses in the introduction
Introductions are normally used to present background details as well as information that is already assumed to be valid. Therefore, both the present perfect and the present simple tense can be used.
- Depression correlates with weight gain.
- Research indicates that a relationship exists.
- Present perfect : Research has shown that mutations protect plants against certain illnesses.
- Present simple : Our study shows that confirmation bias exists.
Tenses in the theoretical framework
Theoretical frameworks are intended to reinforce an existing theory, as well as why the issue in question exists. Therefore, the majority of the information should be addressed with the present simple or the present perfect.
- Present perfect : Prior research has uncovered …
- Present simple : The table below presents details…
Tenses in the methodology and results section
The methodology of the study and the results will always occur before a conclusion is reached. Therefore, it is best to employ the past simple tense.
- Our team established specific parameters…
- The subsequent studies correlated with…
- The results seemed to reinforce…
Tenses in the conclusion
In many cases, a combination of past and present tense verbs can be used when presenting a conclusion (depending upon what is being discussed).
Tenses in the literature review
As literature reviews discuss and interpret previous findings, the past simple tense is often the best choice. ㅤ
- Past simple : Our research indicated …
- Present perfect : These results have shown that…
- Present simple : Ultimately, evidence indicates that…
- In his groundbreaking study, Smith et al. found that…
- Longitudinal analyses confirmed that…
- Exploratory research coincided with our ultimate findings.
What tenses are frequently seen within academic papers?
Three verb tenses represent the lion’s share of those utilized within an academic paper. The most common tenses are:
- Present simple
- Past simple
- Past perfect
Why might only three tenses be necessary?
One of the main reasons behind this approach involves clarity . Superfluous text can be confusing to the reader, and it may even detract from the subject material being presented. Simplifying verb conjugations will also free up space for additional information.
Could other verb conjugations be used?
There are certain times when other tenses can be used.
One example may occur if the writer wishes to convey the importance of a prediction or possible event. In this case, the future simple tense (the results will show…) may be employed.
Are there any online tools that can assist?
Three popular options include:
Note that each of these provides free demonstration versions.
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Common Mistakes in Writing the Results Section
In this part of our series on drafting a strong journal manuscript, we’ll give you tips on how to write an effective Results section. As a preface, please note that some journals require you to have separate Results and Discussion sections, while other journals require you to combine the two into one. Please double-check your target journal’s Guide for Authors to confirm its requirements.
What is the purpose of the Results section?
The Results portion of a manuscript presents the important data you acquired during your research. Yes, that sounds obvious, but there are a few common pitfalls to avoid while drafting this part of your scientific paper.
This article will cover some general rules for writing the Results section of your research paper. We’ll also explain how to navigate some of the drafting issues frequently encountered by research writers like you. As you write or edit your manuscript, keep these points in mind!
General Results Section Tips
- Use the past tense . Your Results section describes observations of events that have happened already, so the use of the past tense makes sense.
- Make sure that your data and numbers are consistent throughout the manuscript. The last thing you want is someone going, “Wait a minute. Earlier, didn’t you say…?”
- Number figures and tables consecutively in the order in which you mention them. You want to avoid making readers hop back and forth. Wandering eyes lead to confusion!
- Clearly (and appropriately) label all figures and other images . We provide some great tips on how to draft titles and legends for figures in a separate post.
Common mistakes and how to avoid them
In the table below, we identify common mistakes people make drafting their Results section (the “Don’ts”) and suggest ways to correct these problems (the “Dos”).
We hope that the above list of dos and don’ts for writing the Results section of your research paper will help you as you edit and prepare your journal manuscript for submission. If you apply these 10 tips, we are confident that your Results section will be clearer and more concise, thus making it easier to properly share your new discoveries with the world!
And after finishing your first manuscript draft, submit it to a professional English editing service for revision before turning into journal editors. Professional editors edit for style errors such as vocabulary and wordiness and ensure that your manuscript is 100% free of errors in grammar, punctuation, formatting, and mechanics.
For more articles and videos on writing the sections of your academic manuscript, visit Wordvice’s Resources page.
Wordvice Writing Resources
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- Knowledge Base
- How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples
How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples
Published on August 30, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on July 18, 2023.
A results section is where you report the main findings of the data collection and analysis you conducted for your thesis or dissertation . You should report all relevant results concisely and objectively, in a logical order. Don’t include subjective interpretations of why you found these results or what they mean—any evaluation should be saved for the discussion section .
Table of contents
How to write a results section, reporting quantitative research results, reporting qualitative research results, results vs. discussion vs. conclusion, checklist: research results, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about results sections.
When conducting research, it’s important to report the results of your study prior to discussing your interpretations of it. This gives your reader a clear idea of exactly what you found and keeps the data itself separate from your subjective analysis.
Here are a few best practices:
- Your results should always be written in the past tense.
- While the length of this section depends on how much data you collected and analyzed, it should be written as concisely as possible.
- Only include results that are directly relevant to answering your research questions . Avoid speculative or interpretative words like “appears” or “implies.”
- If you have other results you’d like to include, consider adding them to an appendix or footnotes.
- Always start out with your broadest results first, and then flow into your more granular (but still relevant) ones. Think of it like a shoe store: first discuss the shoes as a whole, then the sneakers, boots, sandals, etc.
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If you conducted quantitative research , you’ll likely be working with the results of some sort of statistical analysis .
Your results section should report the results of any statistical tests you used to compare groups or assess relationships between variables . It should also state whether or not each hypothesis was supported.
The most logical way to structure quantitative results is to frame them around your research questions or hypotheses. For each question or hypothesis, share:
- A reminder of the type of analysis you used (e.g., a two-sample t test or simple linear regression ). A more detailed description of your analysis should go in your methodology section.
- A concise summary of each relevant result, both positive and negative. This can include any relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., means and standard deviations ) as well as inferential statistics (e.g., t scores, degrees of freedom , and p values ). Remember, these numbers are often placed in parentheses.
- A brief statement of how each result relates to the question, or whether the hypothesis was supported. You can briefly mention any results that didn’t fit with your expectations and assumptions, but save any speculation on their meaning or consequences for your discussion and conclusion.
A note on tables and figures
In quantitative research, it’s often helpful to include visual elements such as graphs, charts, and tables , but only if they are directly relevant to your results. Give these elements clear, descriptive titles and labels so that your reader can easily understand what is being shown. If you want to include any other visual elements that are more tangential in nature, consider adding a figure and table list .
As a rule of thumb:
- Tables are used to communicate exact values, giving a concise overview of various results
- Graphs and charts are used to visualize trends and relationships, giving an at-a-glance illustration of key findings
Don’t forget to also mention any tables and figures you used within the text of your results section. Summarize or elaborate on specific aspects you think your reader should know about rather than merely restating the same numbers already shown.
A two-sample t test was used to test the hypothesis that higher social distance from environmental problems would reduce the intent to donate to environmental organizations, with donation intention (recorded as a score from 1 to 10) as the outcome variable and social distance (categorized as either a low or high level of social distance) as the predictor variable.Social distance was found to be positively correlated with donation intention, t (98) = 12.19, p < .001, with the donation intention of the high social distance group 0.28 points higher, on average, than the low social distance group (see figure 1). This contradicts the initial hypothesis that social distance would decrease donation intention, and in fact suggests a small effect in the opposite direction.
Figure 1: Intention to donate to environmental organizations based on social distance from impact of environmental damage.
In qualitative research , your results might not all be directly related to specific hypotheses. In this case, you can structure your results section around key themes or topics that emerged from your analysis of the data.
For each theme, start with general observations about what the data showed. You can mention:
- Recurring points of agreement or disagreement
- Patterns and trends
- Particularly significant snippets from individual responses
Next, clarify and support these points with direct quotations. Be sure to report any relevant demographic information about participants. Further information (such as full transcripts , if appropriate) can be included in an appendix .
When asked about video games as a form of art, the respondents tended to believe that video games themselves are not an art form, but agreed that creativity is involved in their production. The criteria used to identify artistic video games included design, story, music, and creative teams.One respondent (male, 24) noted a difference in creativity between popular video game genres:
“I think that in role-playing games, there’s more attention to character design, to world design, because the whole story is important and more attention is paid to certain game elements […] so that perhaps you do need bigger teams of creative experts than in an average shooter or something.”
Responses suggest that video game consumers consider some types of games to have more artistic potential than others.
Your results section should objectively report your findings, presenting only brief observations in relation to each question, hypothesis, or theme.
It should not speculate about the meaning of the results or attempt to answer your main research question . Detailed interpretation of your results is more suitable for your discussion section , while synthesis of your results into an overall answer to your main research question is best left for your conclusion .
I have completed my data collection and analyzed the results.
I have included all results that are relevant to my research questions.
I have concisely and objectively reported each result, including relevant descriptive statistics and inferential statistics .
I have stated whether each hypothesis was supported or refuted.
I have used tables and figures to illustrate my results where appropriate.
All tables and figures are correctly labelled and referred to in the text.
There is no subjective interpretation or speculation on the meaning of the results.
You've finished writing up your results! Use the other checklists to further improve your thesis.
If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.
In quantitative research , for each question or hypothesis , state:
- The type of analysis used
- Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
- Whether or not the alternative hypothesis was supported
In qualitative research , for each question or theme, describe:
- Recurring patterns
- Significant or representative individual responses
- Relevant quotations from the data
Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.
Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.
The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.
In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.
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How Can You Decide on Tense Usage in Your Dissertation?
The corpus research suggests that the most often used tenses in academic writing are the simple present, the simple past, and the present perfect. Then, what comes next is the future tense.
Which tenses are most common in academic writing?
The corpus research suggests that the most often used tenses in academic writing are the simple present tense, the simple past tense, and the present perfect tense. Then, what comes next is the future tense.
Simple present tense: You can use the simple present to define a general truth or a habitual action. This tense demonstrates that what you state is usually true in the past, present, and future.
Example: Water generally boils at 100C.
Simple past : You may employ the simple past tense to call a completed action that occurred at a specific point in the past (e.g., last month, one hour ago, last Sunday). The specific point of time is 2019 in the following example.
Example: The first known COVID outbreak started in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in November 2019.
Present perfect tense: The present perfect indicates an action occurring at a nonspecific time or repeatedly in the past. However, this action has a close connection with the present time. The present perfect tense may introduce background information in a paragraph, reinforcing the main idea mentioned there. Following the first sentence, switching to the simple past is possible.
Example: Many scientists have employed this method.
Example: Many researchers have investigated how a small firm can succeed after its poor start. They gradually learned what is essential in the market.
Future tense: You may use the future tense to describe an action that will occur at a particular point in the future (It is imperative when writing a research, grant, or dissertation proposal).
Example: I will conduct the ANOVA procedure in my study’s statistical part.
APA guidelines concerning verb tenses
In its last published guideline, APA accentuated the consistency and accuracy in tense verb usage (APA 7, Section 4.12 and Table 4.1). It suggests that you must avoid unnecessary shifts in verb tense within a paragraph or adjacent paragraphs. This avoidance helps secure smooth expression and improves readability. It would be best if you used the past tense (e.g., scientists posed ) or the present perfect (e.g., researchers have concluded ) for the literature review . Thus, you must present the procedure description if you discuss past events. Nonetheless, it would help if you resorted to the past tense to describe the results (for example, ANOVA results revealed that the treatment improved food's shelf-life substantially). In discussing the implications of the results and present conclusions, you must use the present tense (i.e., our results suggest that alcohol consumption increases the accident incidence rate).
When you need to explain what an author or scientist stated or did, you must use the past tense.
Milliken (2012) reported, revealed, stated, found that…..…
Nevertheless, you can shift to the present tense if your research findings can be generalized or held in general:
Hunt (2010) revealed that revising a manuscript improves its chance of acceptance.
Kropf (2016) discovered that color is an essential trait of fresh meat.
Which tense should I use referring to my document (thesis, dissertation, research proposal, etc.)
If you wish to preview what is ahead in your text or elaborate on what is happening at that moment in your document, you must use either the present or future tense.
In this research, I will specify …
In this research, I specify …
In the last chapter, I will elaborate on …
In the last chapter, I elaborate on …
You can also refer back to already presented information, such as a synopsis of discussions that have already occurred or conclusions to your chapters or sections. Then, the tense you have to use is the past tense:
Chapter 1 contained the literature review.
In closing, in this section, I posed information on…
Should I use simple past tense or present perfect tense?
British and American English have slightly varying rules for using the present perfect tense. Scientists have also reported that individual preferences may dictate the usage of the simple past or the present perfect tense in American English. Put differently, an American English writer may opt for the simple past on specific occasions, whereas another American English writer may prefer the present perfect without apparent reasons.
However, you must note that the simple past tense denotes a completed action. Therefore, it usually employs signal words or phrases, including "yesterday," "last year," "a week ago," or "in 2020," to designate the specific time in the past when the action occurred.
I went to Greece in 2011 .
He finished the team member performance report last week .
The present perfect concentrates more on the action without accentuating the specific time it occurred. Note that the action has occurred even though the specific time is unavailable.
I have seen this movie three times .
The present perfect also concentrates more on the result of the action.
He has finished reviewing the manuscript.
You should be able to understand the usage of the present perfect with some signal words such as "since," "already," "just," "until now," "(not) yet," "so far," "ever," "lately," or "recently."
I have already finished the book on the Turkish economy.
Researchers have used this term since it was coined.
He has recently defended his Ph.D. dissertation.
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This article explains how can you dictate on tense usage in a dissertation or thesis. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.
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- Australia edition
Coco Gauff recovers from set down against Laura Siegemund in tense US Open win
- American sixth seed beats German 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in first round
- Gauff frustrated by Siegemund’s stalling tactics in New York
Coco Gauff demonstrated poise and experience as she moved into the second round of the US Open by recovering from a set down to defeat Laura Siegemund 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in a tension-filled encounter on Arthur Ashe Stadium that lasted nearly three hours.
Gauff, the sixth seed, became increasingly frustrated with the significant amount of time Siegemund took between points, with the German’s stalling tactics initially going unpunished. On Siegemund’s serve, the shot clock ticked down to zero numerous times while she continually made Gauff wait on her own serve.
As Gauff led 3-0 in the third set, Siegemund put up her hand, forcing the American to serve again and prompting Gauff to firmly explain her frustrations to the umpire, Marijana Veljovic. Her arguments appeared to be convincing as, later in the third set, Siegemund received a second time violation and a point penalty. As she left the court, Siegemund refused to shake Veljovic’s hand.
“I don’t know exactly what I said. I said: ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a long game,’” said Gauff. “Endurance is part of tennis. If I’m going in the gym four hours and I’m running tracks and doing cardio, that’s to prepare me for these long moments so she should be as prepared.
“I think that was the situation [at which] I was getting frustrated. I felt like the rules were being bent. That’s why a lot of players get mad when these time violations are called because one ref is letting them go over, the other is more strict on the time. I think tennis needs to be more strict on the rules for everybody regardless of every situation.”
Afterwards, the US Open held a presentation featuring Michelle Obama to celebrate Billie Jean King and 50 years of equal prize money at the US Open, which became the first grand slam tournament to offer equal prize money after coming under significant pressure from King before the 1973 edition. Barack and Michelle Obama also visited Gauff after her match.
“They told me it was just her [Michelle] initially,” she said. “Then Mr Obama was there in the room, too. I was like: ‘Oh my God.’ I haven’t soaked it in because I literally just walked in here. I think I’m going to never forget that moment for the rest of my life. Yeah, I went from being really upset after a win to, like, being really happy. So I’m glad I got to meet them. They gave me some good advice, too.”
Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki marked her return to grand slam tennis with a satisfying victory as she eased past Tatiana Prozorova 6-3, 6-2 in her first round match to set up a marquee second round with her old rival Petra Kvitova.
“It feels amazing to be back,” Wozniacki said. “Obviously, I was very nervous coming out here. I haven’t been out here since 2019 and a lot has happened since then. It feels amazing to come out here, playing the night session and get a match under my belt.”
Since coming out of retirement earlier this month, Wozniacki has enjoyed mixed results in her two tournaments back, losing in the second round of the Canadian Open in Montreal to Marketa Vondrousova, the Wimbledon champion, before suffering a disappointing loss to Varvara Gracheva in Cincinnati.
Against Prozorova, a 19-year-old qualifier ranked No 227, Wozniacki took advantage of a good first round draw, smothering the teenager with her consistency and solidity as she advanced.
Wozniacki will next rekindle her rivalry with Kvitova, who she has battled 14 times over the past 14 years. Both born in 1990, Wozniacki and Kvitova are currently the youngest players with more than 30 WTA titles.
“I actually didn’t know that I had the potential of playing her in the second round. I don’t think she knew it either. We were talking yesterday in the locker room. She was like: ‘When are you playing?’ ‘Tomorrow night.’ She goes: ‘Yeah, me too. I play tomorrow night.’
“We talked about each other’s opponents. She was like: ‘It’s so cool to see you back.’ Just kind of talking about family. I think she didn’t have any idea that she was potentially playing against me either.”
Late on Tuesday night, Novak Djokovic ensured that he will reclaim the No 1 ranking from Carlos Alcaraz after the US Open by reaching the second round with a composed 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 win over Alexandre Muller of France.
Despite starting his opening round match around 11pm, Djokovic was sharp from the beginning and wasted minimal energy in an extremely efficient performance. After winning the first eight games of the match, the Serb cruised to victory in 95 minutes. He will face Bernabé Zapata Miralles on Wednesday.
“I’ve probably had the answer for every shot he had in his book,” he said. “Overall I’m very, very pleased with the way I feel, with the way I’m playing. Hopefully I can maintain that level. It’s just the beginning of the tournament, but I already like the level of tennis.”
- US Open Tennis 2023
- US Open tennis