The Yoga of Verb Tense in APA Style

Verb tenses in reviewing literature can convey different to readers. So please be careful.

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Use of Tense in Scholarly Writing

The other occasion when the use of verb tenses is critically important is to refer to the document itself.


APA Style Guidelines on Verb Tense

APA calls for consistency and accuracy in verb tense usage (see APA 3.06). 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 studyshow…).

Per APA 3.18, refer to the work of another researcher in the past.

  • 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…

Thing 23

I am really grateful to the CreATE for the Moodle course of 23 Things. I thought I learned how to use these technologies to facilitate my academic career. This is a big change for me. But I must confess that to maintain such a habit of updating my blogs, social networks, and exposing myself to the public online is still a big challenge to me. Anyway, I have been given a robust reason to conquer that psychological barrier.

Thing 14 & Thing 15

Thing 8: Professional social networks

I met a PhD student working on digital forensics. He showed me how easily he could hack into any type of phone and how hard he is trying to protect his own digital information. He also told me know how he used these professional social networks in his daily life, for he believed that HRs are using the information on these websites to get some information about you before the interview, instead of your CV and recommendation letter. Maybe in the near future, it is a must. But at present, I feel to update it and keep an eye on it is not so easy for me.

Thing 5 RSS Feeds

I clearly remembered the first time I got my hands on the RSS feeds. That was to read news on my first iPod. Then, I got my Kindle. The combination of Google Reader and Amazon service to push news to the Kindle, to read on the way home. I must confess that my interest is more in the process of sucessfully doing these things, instead of reading the news. Anyway, I think it is changing peoples’ way of reading news, though a little bit slow.