Scientific Writing: a Verb Tense Review

Research Writing

If you’ve been wondering about which verb tense to use in your research papers, below is a quick cheat sheet highlighting the main verb tenses to use in each section of a scientific paper. We provide further explanation in a separate article about which tense to use in abstracts.

Choosing the right verb tense for your scientific research paper 

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 E-Book.

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Scientific and Research Paper Writing: Choosing the right Verb Tense. 1. Abstract: Past Tense to talk about the results you gathered. 2. Introduction: Present Tense to talk about general background information. Present perfect tense to talk about previous research. 3. Methods: Past Tense to talk about what you did. TIP: passive voice is common. Present tense to explain diagrams and figures. Ex: Table 1 shows. 4. Results: Use past tense to talk about actual results. Use present tense to explain diagrams/figures. Ex: Table 1 shows… 5. Discussion: Use present tense to interpret and talk about significance of findings. 6. Conclusion: use past tense to refer to your completed research. Use present tense to talk about implications and suggest future research.
How to Use Past Tense:
To talk about events that have been completed.
Ex1: We found that…
Ex2: Protocol X was followed. [Passive voice]
How to use Present Perfect:
To talk about events that started in past but are still ongoing or recently completed.
Ex: Many experiments have focused on…
How to use Present Tense:
To talk about events that are general fact, discuss current meanings, and suggest future applications.
Ex1: Insulin and glucagon regulate blood glucose levels.
Ex2: Increased hormone production indicates…
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