Literature Review Verb Tense

By: Writing Tips Today

Literature Review Verb Tense: The verb tenses in the literature review will depend on two main factors.  First, you need to consider the type of citation you are using.  Second, you need to think about the status of the information you are providing.

On this page, we give some guidelines for the use of tenses in citations in the literature review.

These are just guidelines, not "rules" so you may see other forms of verb tense in your academic reading.

Why not make a note of the patterns mentioned below?  This page would certainly serve as a useful reference when you are writing your literature review.

Here are the three primary patterns of verb tense in citations in the literature review:

Past tense - When you use the past tense, the reporting verb often occurs as an integral citation.  In other words, you give the researcher's name as the grammatical subject of the sentence.

In the example below, the citation reports the results of a single study:

Carlson and Benton (2007) found that as they increased the participants stress levels, the results of their performance deteriorated.

Common verbs in the past tense are: investigated, studied, compared, analyzed, found, and examined.

Present tense - Verbs showing your opinion on another person's research often occur in the present tense.  However, the simple past and present perfect are also possible verb forms in this case.
 
Look at these examples in the present tense:

  • Nelson (1995) remarks
  • Jones (2005) stresses
  • Morison (2000) advocates
  • Zhang (2007) claims
  • Zhambhi (2008) argues 

Present perfect - The present perfect tense can be used to state that the research results are recent.

Look at this example:

Although the results of pervious studies showed that further research was warranted in this area, recent studies have demonstrated that educational methodology is now moving in a new direction (Jones, 2007; Karstal, 2008).

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