When you decide to write for academic journals, you face a highly competitive and challenging task since you should consider all rules and principles to write a perfect paper that will be immune to rejection.

One of the concerns of the authors of research manuscripts is choosing the correct verb tense in an article.

In many scholarly journals, members of the editorial board always consider correct verb tense use as an important aspect of academic writing.

Using different verb tenses varies with the section of an ISI paper. Complying with the rules of using correct verb tenses and keeping the consistency of tense through different sections of a paper helps ensure smooth expression in your writing.

The practice of the discipline for which you write typically determines which verb tenses to use in various parts of scientific work.

In previous blog posts, we explained that all scientific and research-based papers provide a method for scientists to communicate with other scientists about the results of their research.

They have the same general format and distinct parts that demonstrate a specific type of information. The number and the headings of sections may vary among journals, but for the most part, you should maintain a basic structure that contains different sections: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion.

Here we will clarify the correct verb tense use, for the sake of clarity, separately in the various sections of an ISI paper:

Verb Tense in Introduction

Briefly speaking, in the introduction section, you should answer the question ‘why’, explaining why the research you are reporting is important, and clarify your reasons regarding choosing that topic for research, its importance, the methods or approaches to your research, and so on. 

In the introduction section, a researcher provides the reader with background information which is generally accepted as fact in a discipline.

The introduction often applies different tense, each defining a different time frame for the event in question.

Use simple present for:

  • Your goals of doing research
  • Literature review on the topic of research
  • Facts that are generally true and probably won't change
  • The results of prior studies believed to be correct and relevant to the present study

Use simple past for:

  • The facts that were true in the past but is are no longer considered valid and relevant
  • Describing the methodology of previous researches

Verb Tense in Literature Review

A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources on a specific topic. It provides an overview of current knowledge, allowing you to identify relevant theories, methods, and gaps in the existing research.

You will use simple past tense to express past researches related to your study. But sometimes you have to use different verb tense:

  • Use past tense when your focus is on the study itself or the authors
  • Use present tense to express your own opinion about a particular research
  • Use present perfect tense to talk about recent researches
  • Use present perfect tense to express an overview of previous studies in that field

Verb Tense in Methods & Materials

In this section, the author describes what happened during the study, as well as the specific techniques and the overall experimental strategy. Materials and Methods section strengthens your conclusions and can increase the chance of your paper to be published in a good journal. You can and include statistical tests and experimentations as complete as possible and avoid referring to the advantages and disadvantages of certain methods or results of any kind.

  • Use simple past tense to describe the tasks you did during the research and how they were done since at the time of writing your ISI article they are over.
  • Use present perfect tense only if necessary to describe the early stages of experimental procedures.

Verb Tense in Results

In this section, the achievements, findings, and numerical values ​​of the test results, their importance and validity, as well as statistical characteristics, should be clearly and precisely explained. Verb tenses used in the results section are a combination of simple present, simple past  

  • Use past tense to describe the experiments that have been completed while writing the article.
  • Use present tense to refer to tables, figures, and graphs related to the research results.
  • Use present tense to generally talk about your article.

Verb Tense in Discussion

The discussion section deals specifically with the interpretation of research results and achievements. In the discussion section of an article, previous researches related to the topic of the article, presented in the Introduction section, are discussed and addressed. The researcher can make comparisons, and analyzes the findings and results of research. He/she also carefully explain the advantages and disadvantages of current research and whether the findings are consistent with previous findings.

  • Use past tense to summarize the results.
  • Use present tense to interpret the results, elaborate on the significance of your findings, or conclusion.
  • Use the future tense to offer further suggestions.