You can indicate your attitude to the sources you cite by choosing specific verbs to refer to them. Don’t just keep repeating “Smith says.” There is a wide choice of such verbs in English. Use a dictionary to check that you have chosen a verb with the nuance you intend.
Here are some grammatical patterns to follow in using these verbs: Pattern 1: reporting verb + that + subject + verb
- Da Souza argues that previous researchers have misinterpreted the data.
- Researchers have demonstrated that the procedure is harmful.
- Positivists find that social disorders are exacerbated by class factors.
- Singh infers that both states are essential.
Note that these verbs all differ in meaning-they cannot be used interchangeably. For example, the verb argue in sample sentence (a) indicates your judgement that the author’s conclusion is based on evidence and reasoning, but that other conclusions might be possible. The verb demonstrate in sentence (b) indicates your judgement that the researchers’ evidence and reasoning are so convincing that no other conclusion is possible.
Beware of using the verbs discuss or express followed by that. For example, it is incorrect to write, “The reviewer expressed that the movie is not worth seeing.” You can, however, write the following: “The reviewer expressed the view that the movie is not worth seeing.” N.B.: Verbs in this category may also appear in a subordinate clause beginning with As:
- As Da Souza argues, misinterpretations by previous researchers need to be corrected.
- As researchers have demonstrated, the procedure is harmful.
Pattern 2: reporting verb + somebody/something + for + noun/gerund
- Smith criticized Jones for his use of incomplete data (OR for using incomplete data).
- Both Smith and Jones condemn previous researchers for distorting the data.
- Banting thanked Best for his contribution to the discovery of insulin.
Pattern 3: reporting verb + somebody/something + as + noun/gerund/adjective
- Jones describes the findings as resting on irrefutable evidence.
- Smith identifies the open window as a source of contamination.
- Smith and Jones both present their data as conclusive.
Revised by Rebecca Smollett, Margaret Procter, and Jerry Plotnick.
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. The next most common tense is the future; some major assessments, course assignments, and the doctoral study proposal at Walden are written in this tense for a study that will be conducted in the future.
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.