Dissertations & projects: Tenses

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“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?

tense while writing thesis

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..."

Example abstract 

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...

Useful links

  • 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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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Verb Tenses

What this handout is about.

The present simple, past simple, and present perfect verb tenses account for approximately 80% of verb tense use in academic writing. This handout will help you understand how to use these three verb tenses in your own academic writing.

Click here for a color-coded illustration of changing verb tenses in academic writing.

Present simple tense

The present simple tense is used:

In your introduction, the present simple tense describes what we already know about the topic. In the conclusion, it says what we now know about the topic and what further research is still needed.

“The data suggest…” “The research shows…”

“The dinoflagellate’s TFVCs require an unidentified substance in fresh fish excreta” (Penrose and Katz, 330).

“There is evidence that…”

“So I’m walking through the park yesterday, and I hear all of this loud music and yelling. Turns out, there’s a free concert!” “Shakespeare captures human nature so accurately.”

Past simple tense

Past simple tense is used for two main functions in most academic fields.

“…customers obviously want to be treated at least as well on fishing vessels as they are by other recreation businesses. [General claim using simple present] De Young (1987) found the quality of service to be more important than catching fish in attracting repeat customers. [Specific claim from a previous study using simple past] (Marine Science)

We conducted a secondary data analysis… (Public Health) Descriptional statistical tests and t-student test were used for statistical analysis. (Medicine) The control group of students took the course previously… (Education)

Present perfect tense

The present perfect acts as a “bridge” tense by connecting some past event or state to the present moment. It implies that whatever is being referred to in the past is still true and relevant today.

“There have been several investigations into…” “Educators have always been interested in student learning.”

Some studies have shown that girls have significantly higher fears than boys after trauma (Pfefferbaum et al., 1999; Pine &; Cohen, 2002; Shaw, 2003). Other studies have found no gender differences (Rahav and Ronen, 1994). (Psychology)

Special notes

Can i change tenses.

Yes. English is a language that uses many verb tenses at the same time. The key is choosing the verb tense that is appropriate for what you’re trying to convey.

What’s the difference between present simple and past simple for reporting research results?

  • Past simple limits your claims to the results of your own study. E.g., “Our study found that teenagers were moody.” (In this study, teenagers were moody.)
  • Present simple elevates your claim to a generalization. E.g., “Our study found that teenagers are moody.” (Teenagers are always moody.)

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Biber, Douglas. 1999. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English . New York: Longman.

Hawes, Thomas, and Sarah Thomas. 1997. “Tense Choices in Citations.” Research into the Teaching of English 31 (3): 393-414.

Hinkel, Eli. 2004. Teaching Academic ESL Writing: Practical Techniques in Vocabulary and Grammar . Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Penrose, Ann, and Steven Katz. 2004. Writing in the Sciences: Exploring the Conventions of Scientific Discourse , 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

Swales, John, and Christine B. Feak. 2004. Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills , 2nd ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Use Tenses in Academic Writing Effectively

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Verb tenses inform readers when a specific event or action occurs. In formal writing, though, tense usage goes beyond the basic representation of chronology. Tense choice also shows the degree of generality intended and reveals an author’s attitude toward the idea/theory that is reported.

To obtain insight into tense usage in formal writing , a standard academic paper can be divided into its most general framework, and grammar usage can be molded according to the standard framework used in the specific subject area. This article will mainly explore and expand on the common usage of tenses in quantitative and scientific studies.

Table of Contents


The Introduction section contains background information, which is usually accepted as facts in a specific subject area. The study’s significance also needs to be stated; along with this, a brief summary of the author’s opinion is also expressed. This section is normally written in the present tense considering its contents—presentation of accepted facts and current opinion of the facts and theories being reported.

The Methods section describes the processes that were followed to arrive at a particular outcome. Since these processes usually take place before arriving at a result, the methods are generally written in the simple past tense. Moreover, the passive voice is frequently used in this section.

Discussion & Conclusion

Authors may use a meticulously selected (and contextually relevant) combination of the present and past tense in this section. For example, the conclusions and processes can be summarized in the past tense, while the implications and future relevance can be expressed in the present tense. The Conclusion section can also be created in a similar way considering the contextual significance of the facts and implications (for instance, the past tense can be used to refer to a theory or fact that has been sufficiently debunked in a field).

The table given below can be used as a simple reference.

As there are no absolute rules of tense usage when writing literature reviews, either the past or the present tense can be used (for instance, it may seem prudent to discuss the literature in line with present-day arguments rather than as accepted facts). It is essential to make sure that the tense usage is consistent, or it may confuse the readers.

Tense usage in the humanities varies considerably from that in scientific papers. For instance, the field of Literature uses the “literary present” when expanding on a work of fiction—the authorial intent exists in a timeless world that is best represented in the present tense. Nonetheless, qualitative studies in the humanities still stick to the standard framework for tense use described in this article.

Besides, if you are looking for an AI-driven writing tool to enhance your writing, then check out Trinka , the world’s first language enhancement tool that is custom-built for academic and technical writing. It has several exclusive features to make your manuscript ready for the global audience.

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Grammar: Verb Tenses

Most common verb tenses in academic writing.

According to corpus research, in academic writing, the three tenses used the most often are the simple present , the simple past , and the present perfect (Biber et al., 1999; Caplan, 2012). The next most common tense for capstone writers is the future ; the doctoral study/dissertation proposal at Walden is written in this tense for a study that will be conducted in the future.

Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999). Longman grammar of written and spoken English . Pearson. https://doi.org/10.1162/089120101300346831

Caplan, N. A. (2012). Grammar choices for graduate and professional writers . University of Michigan Press.

Simple present: Use the simple present to describe a general truth or a habitual action. This tense indicates that the statement is generally true in the past, present, and future.

  • Example: The hospital admits patients whether or not they have proof of insurance.

Simple past : Use the simple past tense to describe a completed action that took place at a specific point in the past (e.g., last year, 1 hour ago, last Sunday). In the example below, the specific point of time in the past is 1998.

  • Example: Zimbardo (1998) researched many aspects of social psychology.

Present perfect: Use the present perfect to indicate an action that occurred at a nonspecific time in the past. This action has relevance in the present. The present perfect is also sometimes used to introduce background information in a paragraph. After the first sentence, the tense shifts to the simple past.

  • Example: Numerous researchers have used this method.
  • Example: Many researchers have studied how small business owners can be successful beyond the initial few years in business. They found common themes among the small business owners.

Future: Use the future to describe an action that will take place at a particular point in the future (at Walden, this is used especially when writing a proposal for a doctoral capstone study).

  • Example: I will conduct semistructured interviews.

Keep in mind that verb tenses should be adjusted after the proposal after the research has been completed. See this blog post about Revising the Proposal for the Final Capstone Document for more information.

APA Style Guidelines on Verb Tense

APA calls for consistency and accuracy in verb tense usage (see APA 7, Section 4.12 and Table 4.1). In other words, avoid unnecessary shifts in verb tense within a paragraph or in adjacent paragraphs to help ensure smooth expression.

  • Use the past tense (e.g., researchers presented ) or the present perfect (e.g., researchers have presented ) for the literature review and the description of the procedure if discussing past events.
  • Use the past tense to describe the results (e.g., test scores improved significantly).
  • Use the present tense to discuss implications of the results and present conclusions (e.g., the results of the study show …).

When explaining what an author or researcher wrote or did, use the past tense.

  • Patterson (2012) presented, found, stated, discovered…

However, there can be a shift to the present tense if the research findings still hold true:

  • King (2010) found  that revising a document three times improves the final grade.
  • Smith (2016) discovered that the treatment is effective.

Verb Tense Guidelines When Referring to the Document Itself

To preview what is coming in the document or to explain what is happening at that moment in the document, use the present or future tense:

  • In this study, I will describe …
  • In this study, I describe …
  • In the next chapter, I will discuss …
  • In the next chapter, I discuss …

To refer back to information already covered, such as summaries of discussions that have already taken place or conclusions to chapters/sections, use the past tense:

  • Chapter 1 contained my original discussion of the research questions.
  • In summary, in this section, I presented information on…

Simple Past Versus the Present Perfect

Rules for the use of the present perfect differ slightly in British and American English. Researchers have also found that among American English writers, sometimes individual preferences dictate whether the simple past or the present perfect is used. In other words, one American English writer may choose the simple past in a place where another American English writer may choose the present perfect.

Keep in mind, however, that the simple past is used for a completed action.  It often is used with signal words or phrases such as "yesterday," "last week," "1 year ago," or "in 2015" to indicate the specific time in the past when the action took place.

  • I went to China in 2010 .
  • He completed the employee performance reviews last month .

The present perfect focuses more on an action that occurred without focusing on the specific time it happened. Note that the specific time is not given, just that the action has occurred.

  • I have travelled to China.

The present perfect focuses more on the result of the action.

  • He has completed the employee performance reviews.

The present perfect is often used with signal words such as "since," "already," "just," "until now," "(not) yet," "so far," "ever," "lately," or "recently."

  • I have already travelled to China.
  • He has recently completed the employee performance reviews.
  • Researchers have used this method since it was developed.

Summary of English Verb Tenses

The 12 main tenses:

  • Simple present : She writes every day.
  • Present progressive: She is writing right now.
  • Simple past : She wrote last night.
  • Past progressive: She was writing when he called.
  • Simple future : She will write tomorrow.
  • Future progressive: She will be writing when you arrive.
  • Present perfect : She has written Chapter 1.
  • Present perfect progressive: She has been writing for 2 hours.
  • Past perfect: She had written Chapter 3 before she started Chapter 4.
  • Past perfect progressive: She had been writing for 2 hours before her friends arrived.
  • Future perfect: She will have written Chapter 4 before she writes Chapter 5.
  • Future perfect progressive: She will have been writing for 2 hours by the time her friends come over.


Zero conditional (general truths/general habits).

  • Example: If I have time, I write every day.

First conditional (possible or likely things in the future).

  • Example: If I have time, I will write every day.

Second conditional (impossible things in the present/unlikely in the future).

  • Example : If I had time, I would write every day.

Third conditional (things that did not happen in the past and their imaginary results)

  • Example : If I had had time, I would have written every day.

Subjunctive : This form is sometimes used in that -clauses that are the object of certain verbs or follow certain adjectives. The form of the subjective is the simple form of the verb. It is the same for all persons and number.

  • Example : I recommend that he study every day.
  • Example: It is important that everyone set a writing schedule.

Verbs Video Playlist

Note that these videos were created while APA 6 was the style guide edition in use. There may be some examples of writing that have not been updated to APA 7 guidelines.

  • Grammar for Academic Writers: Common Verb Tenses in Academic Writing (video transcript)
  • Grammar for Academic Writers: Verb Tense Consistency (video transcript)
  • Grammar for Academic Writers: Advanced Subject–Verb Agreement (video transcript)
  • Mastering the Mechanics: Helping Verbs (video transcript)
  • Mastering the Mechanics: Past Tense (video transcript)
  • Mastering the Mechanics: Present Tense (video transcript)
  • Mastering the Mechanics: Future Tense (video transcript)

Related Resources


Knowledge Check: Verb Tenses

Didn't find what you need? Email us at [email protected] .

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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.

Definition: Tenses

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:

  • ProWritingAid
  • GrammarCheck.me

Note that each of these provides free demonstration versions.

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Verb Tenses to Use in a Research Paper

tense while writing thesis

Why Using the Correct Verb Tense is Important

When writing an academic paper, writers should follow the accepted grammar and style conventions: not only to abide by the institutional and domain standards, but to communicate clearly to readers what was studied, when it took place, and from what perspective you are discussing your research (and that of others) in your paper. One crucial writing element that you must consider when composing your paper is  verb tense . Which tense you use will determine the flow and coherency of your paper.

You might have found yourself thinking along these lines: “Everything in this study has already been completed, so shouldn’t I simply write everything in the simple past tense?”

The answer is no–at least not in a strict sense. The verb tense you use for a given sentence or phrase depends on your position as the author to the material you are discussing. As the author, you look at each element mentioned in your text from a distance in terms of your role: as a participant, critic, or messenger, among others. You must also take into account the chronological reasons for choosing between present and past tenses in a given instance.

Knowing which tense to use requires both knowledge of the exact guidelines set out for you in whichever formatting style you are following ( APA , AMA , etc.), as well as some discretion and savvy in choosing the tense that makes the most sense for a given statement in the paper.

While new authors should certainly familiarize themselves with the specific guidelines of the formatting style they are applying, this article will focus on the  most common rules of verb tense applied to research papers in journals and at academic institutions, reflecting basic verb usage rules in academic English and encompassing  all  formatting styles.

Bear in mind that these grammar and verb-tense issues will largely be corrected by any competent proofreading service or research paper editing service , and thus professional revision of all academic documents is recommended before submission to journals or conferences.

Rules for Present, Past, and Perfect Tense Verbs

First, there are three basic verb tenses used in research papers:  present  (simple present),  simple   past , and  present perfect . We will talk about how research paper sections determine verb tense in a minute, but first, let’s review when each tense should be used in general throughout the paper.


The present tense is used to talk about general facts, discuss current meanings and implications, and suggest future applications .

General facts are constant and do not change throughout time (the ultimate evolution of scientific progress notwithstanding). Always use the present when discussing general scientific facts.

Example: “Insulin and glucagon regulates blood glucose levels.” 

Implications are closely related to general facts and thus the same rule is applied.

Example: “An elevated glucose level indicates a lack of glucagon hormones in the pancreas.”

Further research is called for or stressed as important through a phrase in the present tense.

Example: “Further studies about glucagon receptors are needed.”


The simple past is generally used to discuss events that have been c ompleted in the past at some distinct time and/or place . It is most often applied to discrete events such as studies, experiments, or observed phenomena.

Example: “Scientists in Wales discovered a new enzyme in the liver.” Example: “Protocol X was used to analyze the data.”


The present perfect tense (or simply “perfect tense”) is used in research papers to refer to  events or actions that have taken place at some unidentified time in the past or have started but are still ongoing or only recently completed . It often establishes a general background in the Introduction section , adding a backdrop on which you can explain the motivations for and purpose of your study.

Note that it is the least frequently used tense in most research papers and should not be over-employed–focus more on detailed actions by using the simple past.

Example:  “Many studies have focused on glucagon as an important regulating hormone.” Example:  “Until recently, researchers have analyzed this kind of data using Chi-Square Statistics.” Example:  “Efforts have been made to understand more about this process.”  (passive)

Appropriate Verb Tenses by Research Paper Section

It bears repeating that the “best” tense to use is the one that is recommended (or demanded) by whichever formatting manual you are using. However, there is a high degree of continuity between the common styles, and the following rules for usage in each section will likely apply to your research paper no matter where it will be published.

Abstract verb tenses

In general, use the simple past for the abstract of your manuscript; for a concise introductory sentence, use the present perfect. To establish a need for your study—–for instance, by explaining the current circumstances of the world or the specific area in which you are working—–you can also use the present tense.

Example of introductory sentence (present perfect): “Recent studies of glucagon and insulin production have led to breakthroughs in medicine.” Example of establishing background/circumstances/purpose (present): “Diabetes  accounts for a higher number of deaths in the US than previously calculated.”

For general statements and facts, the paper itself, or analysis of findings, use the present tense.

Example of a statement of fact: “In the US, diabetes is the most common endocrine disease.”

If you are stating a fact or finding from an earlier specified time or place, use the simple past:

Example: “In 2016, diabetes was the most common endocrine disease.” Have a look at our more in-depth instruction to writing an abstract for a research paper or at these do’s and don’ts of abstract writing if you need additional input.

Introduction section verb tenses

Use a mixture of present and past tense in the introduction section .

The present tense is applied when discussing something that is always true; the simple past tense is used for earlier research efforts, either your own or those reported by another group.

Example of earlier research efforts (simple past): “This same research team discovered a similar enzyme in their 2012 study.”

If the time or location of the demonstration is unknown or not important, use the present perfect.

Example: “Prior research has indicated a correlation between X and Y.”

For the concluding statements of your introduction, use the simple past or present perfect.

Example of concluding statement (simple past): “The CalTech glucagon studies were inconclusive.” Example of concluding statement (present perfect): “Prior research in this area has been inconclusive.”

Use the past perfect when you talk about something that happened or was found to be the case in the past, but which has since been revised. Example of revised information (past perfect): “The Dublonsky study had determined that X was Y, but a 2012 study found this to be incorrect.”

Literature review verb tenses

Knowing which tenses to use for a literature review (either as part of a research paper or as a stand-alone article) can be a bit tricky, as your usage depends both on which style manual you are using (APA, AMA, MLA , or others) and on how you are discussing the literature.

The simple past is usually applied when using the researcher’s name as the subject of the sentence and discussing the methods or results of that study itself

Example of describing researcher’s actions: “Pearson (1997) discovered a new enzyme using similar methods.”

Other verbs commonly found in this usage context: investigated, compared, studied, analyzed, investigated, found, confirmed, performed, etc.

When giving your opinion on another researcher’s work or bringing up the results, discussion, and conclusions they make in their work, use the present tense.

Example of discussing another’s work: “Ryuku (2005) concludes that there are no additional enzymes present in the liver, a finding this current study directly refutes.” Other verbs commonly found in this usage context: stresses, advocates, remarks, argues, claims, posits. etc.

Methods section verb tenses

The Methods section fairly clearly delineates between sections written in past and those written in present tense.

Use the simple past tense to talk about what you did. (Note that you will generally find the passive voice used when describing the actions of the researchers. This puts more focus on the actions being completed and less on the agents completing the action. Passive voice has become the general standard for research papers in recent decades, but it is okay to mix passive and active voice in order to make your paper clearer and more readable.)

Example of methods of study: “A glucose molecule was added to the mixture to see how the peptide would respond.” Example of methods of analysis: “The results were analyzed using Bayesian inference.”

Use the present tense to refer to or explain diagrams, figures, tables, and charts.

Example: “Table 5 shows the results of this first isolated test.” Example: “The results of this first isolated test are displayed in Table 5.”

Results section verb tenses

The verb tense rules for the Results section are quite similar to those applied to the Methods section.

Use the past tense to discuss actual results.

Example: “The addition of 0.02 μg of glycogen activated receptor cells.” Example: “Receptor cells were activated by the addition of 0.02 μg of glycogen.”

Use the simple present tense to explain diagrams/figures/tables. Again, sentences may use both the active and passive voice.

Discussion section verb tenses

The Discussion section consists of an analysis of the findings and a kind of translation of the meanings and implications of these findings.

Use the simple past to summarize your own findings.

Example of summarizing own findings: “The experiment yielded a number of results associated with the processing of glucose.”

Use the present tense to interpret and discuss the significance of your findings.

Example: “[This study confirms that] synthetic glucagon is two-thirds as effective at decreasing fatty acid synthesis.”

Conclusions and further work

The conclusion and call for further work to be done are either provided in the last sentence or two of your paper or in a separate (but short) section at the end of the main text (check the target journal’s author instructions to be sure you follow the journal style) and summarize or emphasize the new insights your work offers.

Use the present perfect tense to clarify that your statements still hold true at the time of reading.

Example: “Results from this study have led to a deeper understanding about how different peptides interact in this enzyme.”

Use the present tense to apply findings, state implications, and suggest further research.

Example of wider implications: “This study confirms that endogenous glucagon is even more essential in metabolism than previously thought.”

When discussing further research that is either needed or intended to be carried out, the future or present tense (or subjunctive mood) can also be used, in addition to the present tense passive voice.

Example of call for future research: “Further clinical studies are needed/will be needed/must be carried out/should be carried out to isolate the cause of this reaction.”

Follow these general rules about tenses and your paper will be clearer, more chronologically correct, and generally easier to read—meaning the important implications of your study will be more easily understood. You can always go back and edit verb tenses—the more you practice, and the more papers you read, the easier it will be to identify which tense should be used for which kind of information.

How To Write Better Sentences For A Research Paper?

How To Write Better Sentences For A Research Paper?

  • Smodin Editorial Team
  • Updated: May 17, 2024

When you’re faced with writing a research paper, coming up with clear, impactful sentences can be a headache. This is especially true when you aim to convey complex ideas effectively.

If you struggle with sentence structure or cannot express your thoughts clearly, this guide will help you.

From basic grammar to using AI tools, we’ll look at how to craft sentences that resonate with readers and bolster your arguments.

Understand the Basics of Sentence Structure

Understanding the basics of sentence structure is important in academic writing. Every sentence in your research paper is a building block, contributing to the clarity and persuasiveness of your argument. A good sentence begins with a clear focus: every word should help convey your main idea directly and effectively.

First, recognize the importance of a strong subject and verb combination. The subject of your sentence performs the action, which is described by the verb. Ensuring these elements are clear and concise prevents ambiguity and keeps the reader on their toes. For example: “The experiment demonstrates…” is more direct than saying: “It is demonstrated by the experiment that…”

Think about the structure of your sentences. A well-crafted sentence follows a logical pattern: subject, verb, object. Following this structure can make your writing easier while enhancing the article’s readability.

Finally, remember that every sentence you write should support the main point of your paragraph. Think of each sentence as a mini-argument that adds to your thesis, logically linking your ideas. Mastering these basics is the first step in ensuring that every sentence you write contributes substance.

Techniques for Enhancing Sentences

No, we weren’t about to leave you hanging. Here are some practical techniques that you can use to make each sentence add value to your research paper.

Achieving clarity is extremely important, especially in scientific writing and within your thesis statement. The argument must be clear to the reader immediately. One common issue is the overuse of complex sentences that muddy your points. Counter this by focusing on using active voice rather than passive voice. Passive voice can simply obscure “who” is performing the action.

Here’s an example: “The researcher conducted the experiment” (active) is clearer than: “The experiment was conducted by the researcher” (passive).

Also, when explaining processes or results that occurred in your study, past tense should be used consistently to maintain clarity. Ensure every verb in your sentence drives home a clear idea, supporting the main argument. So, when it comes to clarity, be sure to choose the right verb tense.

Sentence structure is an important part of keeping your academic articles engaging. The general rule is to mix different types of sentences to keep the reader’s interest and highlight key points.

Start by varying the length of your sentences: pair a shorter, impactful sentence with a longer, more descriptive one. This can prevent your writing from becoming boring. After a punchy statement, for example, extend the next sentence with additional details.

It’s also important to experiment with different starts to sentences . Using an adverb, an adjective, or a phrase to lead your thoughts can be helpful. Discussing your topics with various verbs also adds rhythm and dynamics to your text. Do this carefully, though: getting too creative with your diction can make a sentence more complex than it needs to be.

Trust us, it’s worth the effort to rephrase sentences to avoid repetitive structures and ensure your ideas are expressed as clearly and vividly as possible. This is key to crafting a compelling narrative for your article.


Powerful transitions are the glue that holds your essay together, guiding the reader smoothly from one idea to the next. The first sentence of each paragraph should serve as a bridge from the previous paragraph. The most important point of a new section should be introduced clearly and succinctly.

This helps the reader follow your argument without struggling through abrupt changes and disconnected points. For example, if one paragraph discusses a specific aspect of your research, the next could link that aspect to another, deepening the reader’s understanding of the topic.

Within a paragraph, each sentence should logically flow to the next , using transition words and phrases to signal the connection between ideas. Using transitions effectively clarifies the relationship between paragraphs and sentences. It also reinforces the overall structure of your paper, ensuring each point contributes meaningfully to your thesis.

Write Better Sentences With Smodin

Using Smodin in your academic writing can transform how you structure sentences in your research papers. Smodin is equipped with tools to refine your writing and ensure it’s crisp, engaging, and informative. With it, you can expect meticulous attention to detail. This allows you to present more details clearly in your discussions.

The subject of your paper is handled with precision, backed by artificial intelligence (AI) that enriches your argument with well-structured ideas and only the relevant evidence.

Smodin’s AI tools help maintain a sharp focus on the topic at hand and select the best words to articulate your ideas. This can be particularly useful when you must express many research findings within a small word limit. Plus, Smodin’s ability to generate references accurately and integrate them seamlessly enhances credibility and saves you tons of time.

We should also mention that Smodin’s suite of AI writing tools goes way beyond just restructuring sentences. You can also do plagiarism checks and receive comprehensive research assistance, supporting your writing at every step.

Final Thoughts

To become a “good writer,” you must master sentence structure and clarity. It won’t be easy at first, but you can do it!

Present your subject in a way that resonates with your reader, ensuring that each sentence builds on the last to form a coherent argument. Eventually, with practice and attention to detail, you’ll improve.

Remember, you can speed this up by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence. Smodin lets you start for free, so what are you waiting for?

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Baruch College Writing Center

Tense Use in Literary Response Essays

This guide highlights verb tense in writing about literature.

It can be difficult to decide when to use the past and present tenses in any academic paper, but especially when writing about fiction. It is common practice to use the literary present when relating events from a story, novel, play, or movie, which means describing plot in the present tense ( “Frankenstein creates the monster . . “) even if the writer relayed the events in the past.

Sometimes, though, you need to shift between tenses. In the following excerpt from an essay on Max Frisch’s play, The Arsonists , notice the shifts in tense. While the writer consistently uses the present tense in her essay, she is required to switch to the past tense for specific purposes.

Max Frisch’s 1958 play, The Arsonists , serves as a parable for the bourgeoisie’s abstentious role during Hitler’s rise to power. In fact, the play is commonly considered a criticism of the middle class’s passivity in stopping the spread of Nazi ideology. The protagonist, Gottlieb Biedermann, lets two arsonists, Schmitz and Eisenring, enter his home and bring barrels of gasoline into his attic. Despite clear warning signs, Biedermann denies the potential danger in order to maintain his public image as a do-gooder, allowing the two beggars to sleep under his roof. By the end, he is convinced that they are not arsonists and even supplies them with matches, thus bringing about the destruction of the city. Biedermann represents all of German society, which did not actively try to stop the Nazis despite citizens’ knowledge of the Holocaust’s atrocities. But this play can be applied to a broader scope of social issues. Although it easily translates to Nazi Germany, its message depends on the audience’s personal interpretation, as Frisch leaves its morality open-ended.

← The present tense is used to describe a common interpretation of the work.

← The present tense is used to provide a plot summary .

← The writer switches briefly to simple past to describe a historical event .

← The writer switches back to present tense for the thesis statement , her own interpretation of the work.

Frisch subscribed to Bertolt Brecht’s theories, which pushed him to address historical issues. The older dramatist introduced a new form of theater, called epic theater, which rejected dramatic theater’s cathartic values for a more critical approach. Before, theater had been meant to allow the audience to identify personally with the characters, but for Brecht and Frisch, plays were supposed to engage the audience not emotionally but rationally (Brecht, 71). Thus, when Frisch wrote The Arsonists , he intended it as a representation of a historical moment, meant to heighten its audience’s awareness.

← In this paragraph, the writer uses past tenses to provide background information about the work. She describes the literary movement that influenced the author, as well as the author’s intentions when he wrote the play .

In The Arsonists , the chorus of firemen that intervenes between scenes brings up the main moral criticism in the play: Biedermann’s passiveness in stopping the arsonists. Frisch frames the issue as a choice between reason and fate. On the one hand, “Reason can save us from evil” (Frisch, 3). On the other hand, “Fate means we don’t need to ask / Why the city is burning / No need to ask how the terror began” (3). By accepting fate, Biedermann lets himself be transported by the events and ultimately allows for destruction. When the leader of the chorus confronts Biedermann by asking “What were you thinking?” the protagonist responds , “Thinking? … I have the right not to think at all” (42). Biedermann thus refuses to use reason, as it is easier to accept fate than to risk being blamed for inhumanity towards Schmitz and Eisenring. The chorus concludes the play by denouncing this choice: “Stupidity dressed up as fate, / Always stupidity / Blazing and burning / Until it can not be put out” (80). The chorus guides the audience towards a critique of Biedermann and blames him for not having used reason to understand what was happening in his house and to stop the arsonists.

← The writer switches back to present tense for further plot description and to provide evidence for her claims.

← Past tenses can sometimes be used during plot summary. The writer uses past forms here to show that these events happened before the main events of the narration, in this case before the chorus blames Biedermann for his actions

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Checks, not sex, and other takeaways from Trump’s New York hush money trial

Key takeaways from Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial.

The two-day tempest in a Manhattan courtroom raged through Thursday morning and quieted by the afternoon, when adult-film actress Stormy Daniels finished testifying against Donald Trump . The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to keep secret a $130,000 hush money payment made to Daniels in 2016. A day that began with testimony about pornography, strip clubs and a disturbing sexual encounter that Daniels says she had with Trump gave way to … a junior bookkeeper describing checks being signed and put in the mail, and Trump’s former White House assistant crying as she professed her deep admiration for him.

Here are key takeaways from Day 14 of the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

(Like what you’re reading? If so, sign up here to get the Trump Trials newsletter in your inbox every Sunday.)

Stormy Daniels can be just as combative as Trump’s attorneys

After bruising testimony Tuesday, in which Daniels depicted Trump as a man who used his age and stature to intimidate her into having sex in 2006, Trump’s attorneys were in charge of the questioning Thursday morning. They went all out in attacking Daniels’s credibility, seeking to portray her as an opportunistic woman chasing money and clout.

In the face of accusatory questions, Daniels fired back with barbs, denials and banter.

At one point, Trump attorney Susan Necheles said Daniels is a woman who has a “lot of experience making phony stories about sex appear to be real.” The attorney cited Daniels’s experience writing adult films and working on a reality show that purports to talk to dead people’s relatives — suggesting that since those are made-up scenarios, Daniels also lied about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

“Wow,” Daniels said in response. “If that story were untrue, I would have written it to be a lot better.”

Trump’s role in the hush money payment is key to the case. But Daniels doesn’t know about it.

In the final questions of the combative cross-examination, Necheles got to the crux of the charges laid out in the indictment: Did Daniels have any knowledge of whether Trump was personally involved in paying her $130,000 to keep their alleged affair quiet in 2016.

Daniels responded no — and said she also knew nothing about Trump’s paperwork.

“I know nothing about his business records,” Daniels said. “No, why would I?”

While much of the more salacious testimony in this trial has involved Daniels’s vivid retelling of her alleged sexual encounter with Trump, this questioning was key for the defense attorneys. It was a chance for them to remind jurors that while Daniels’s testimony about the alleged sexual encounter may have made Trump look bad, none of that will be on the verdict sheet.

Judge says trial is running slightly ahead of schedule

We don’t know exactly how long a trial will last or how many witnesses will be called, but at the onset, legal experts estimated that this trial could take anywhere from six to eight weeks. Since jury selection started April 15, we have been looking for hints from New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to determine this trial’s timetable.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said this week that the prosecution expected to finish calling and questioning their witnesses around May 21. After that, the defense will call whatever witnesses they want to testify.

On Thursday, Merchan told the jury that the trial was running on schedule, or even slightly ahead of schedule.

Trump attorney: ‘This is not a case about sex.’

By the end of the day, Trump’s lawyers were mad at the judge, and the judge was mad at Trump’s lawyers.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche tried for a mistrial and made a separate request for Merchan to ease the conditions of Trump’s gag order. Both failed.

Defense lawyers said now that Daniels is off the witness stand and her testimony has been widely reported around the world, it’s only fair that Trump should be able to publicly respond. They also wanted a mistrial over their belief that the court allowed Daniels to reveal too many details on the stand about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump.

Blanche’s focus was on the portion of Daniels’s testimony that suggested she had unwanted intercourse with Trump. The attorney repeated his argument that her narrative is unfounded and irrelevant to the charges against Trump — and is grounds for a mistrial because it could unfairly prejudice the jury against him.

He called her words “a dog whistle for rape.”

“It almost defies belief that we are here for a records case,” Blanche told the judge. “This is not a case about sex.”

He didn’t seem to come close to convincing Merchan, who blamed Trump’s attorneys for not making more objections during the testimony.

Question time

Q. Who hires courtroom sketch artists? How many attend trials?

In general, news outlets hire sketch artists so they can publish illustrations with their articles. For high-profile trials where photography isn’t allowed during the proceedings — such as the Trump trial — there are multiple artists in attendance each day. Many states allow cameras in their courtrooms, however, and sketches aren’t as valuable in those situations.

Cedric Hohnstadt — a Minnesota-based illustrator who has sketched high-profile trials — said he typically works out his own arrangement with local and national media. He often has to reach out to courthouse employees to ensure that he can get a seat in court when there is a high-profile trial. Hohnstadt said he prefers to draw his sketches on an iPad, which means he must contact staff at courthouses that prohibit electronics to get an exception. If he can’t, he will lug his big drawing board and bag of supplies and take a photo of his completed sketches to email them to the media.

“I only do a handful of trials each year, because many states allow cameras in the courtroom, and in the states that don’t, there just aren’t that many trials that warrant the expense of paying for a sketch artist,” Hohnstadt said in an email.

Have more questions on this or other Trump trials? Email us at [email protected] and [email protected] and check for answers in future editions.

Thanks for reading this midweek Trump Trials update. You can find past issues of The Trump Trials here . We’ve also started posting searchable PDFs of the daily transcripts from the New York trial. You can view those here .

Suggested reads

Live updates from Thursday’s cross-examination of Stormy Daniels

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  16. The use of tenses in a literature review

    Here are a few tips to consider when presenting a review of previously published work: Past tense: If your focus is on the study itself or the people who studied it, then it is better to use the past tense. In this case, the study would be the subject of your sentence, "e.g., Jones (2013) reported that..." The past tense is most commonly used ...

  17. What tenses should be used in the research paper and thesis? The most

    Ideally, Chapter 1 (introduction) should be past tense, chapter 2 (literature) can be present or past depending on how you quote, chapter 3( methodology) definitely past tense, chapter 4( results ...

  18. Which Tenses are acceptable for writing research conclusion?

    1 Answer to this question. Answer: The conclusion typically contains the author's final thoughts about the study findings, how they relate to the study aim, how the findings will be of relevance to future research, and what recommendations can be made basis the author's research. The final thoughts and concluding statements are usually written ...

  19. Writing in the Present Tense

    To form present perfect continuous verbs, we must use either "has" or "have" followed by the past participle "been" and the main verb ending in "-ing.". Examples: (singular subject) Matt has been writing his thesis paper since last month. (plural subject) The kids have been playing in the rain for about an hour now.

  20. Verb Tenses to Use in a Research Paper

    Rules for Present, Past, and Perfect Tense Verbs. First, there are three basic verb tenses used in research papers: present (simple present), simple past, and present perfect. We will talk about how research paper sections determine verb tense in a minute, but first, let's review when each tense should be used in general throughout the paper.

  21. How To Write Better Sentences For A Research Paper?

    Using Smodin in your academic writing can transform how you structure sentences in your research papers. Smodin is equipped with tools to refine your writing and ensure it's crisp, engaging, and informative. With it, you can expect meticulous attention to detail. This allows you to present more details clearly in your discussions.

  22. Which tense should be used in the results and discussion ...

    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 ...

  23. Tense Use in Literary Response Essays

    It can be difficult to decide when to use the past and present tenses in any academic paper, but especially when writing about fiction. It is common practice to use the literary present when relating events from a story, novel, play, or movie, which means describing plot in the present tense ("Frankenstein creates the monster . . ") even if the writer relayed the events in the past.

  24. A recap of Stormy Daniels's tense cross-examination, Trump trial day 14

    6 min. The two-day tempest in a Manhattan courtroom raged through Thursday morning and quieted by the afternoon, when adult-film actress Stormy Daniels finished testifying against Donald Trump ...