Many of you have asked us questions about seemingly conflicting rules about which tense to use in a research article abstract, so we wrote this article to clarify the issue.
When writing and editing an abstract for a research article, several tenses can be used. The tense you would use largely depends on the subject of your sentence. As a general rule:
In the case of the abstract, you may have been taught to use the present tense because your professors want you to focus on sharing your interpretations in your abstract rather than simply stating what the results are. (And we agree since the main reason for reading your research papers is to understand the significance of your findings!)
To illustrate the different use of tenses in an abstract, let’s take a look at this abstract from an article published in Nature.
As you can see from the example we linked above, most of this abstract is written in the present tense. This is because it focuses on the authors’ interpretations and not on specific observations and methods. We hope this addresses any questions you have about tense use. We know how complicated these grammar rules can be!
For rules about which verb tenses to use in your research paper, check out our infographic! For additional information about how to write a strong research paper, make sure to check out our full research writing series! You can also find these resources plus information about the journal submission process in our FREE downloadable e-book: Research Writing and Journal Publications.
If you require editing and proofreading for your abstract, be sure to check out our Manuscript Editing Services. Our editors revise your work for grammar, punctuation, style, readibility, and conciseness. After all, a polished abstract is key to getting researchers to read your research paper in its entirety.