What are the tenses used in writing a research paper?

While writing a research paper, one should ensure the paper is clear, precise, and brief. It lets the audience understand the paper without any effort.

Using the right tense

The tenses used in a scientific paper should be exactly as in ordinary writing.

Past tense is used to report the happenings of the past, such as the type of study conducted, the experiments carried out, and so on.

Present tense is used while writing the introduction and conclusions.

Future tense is not used as much as the other tenses. It is used while writing the future recommendation for an article or any roadmaps.

Appropriate Verb Tenses in Various Research Paper Sections

The proper usage of tenses actually depends on the type of content of the subject. It also depends on the Journal’s guidelines where it is clearly mentioned about the way a paper should be written. The manuscript is generally divided into sections that are discussed below. The guideline mentions about the content that should be written in each of the section.


  • It is of two types- structured and unstructured. In structured abstract, the introduction is written in present tense, methodology and results in past tense and the conclusion in the present tense. The unstructured abstract is not divided into different sections as in structured abstract but the usage of tenses is similar.


  • It includes both the present and past tense.
  • Present tense should be used when discussing something always true, while the simple past tense should be used when discussing earlier research efforts.

Literature review

  • When writing a literature review (whether for a research paper or as an independent article), it is crucial to know how to use tenses based on the style manual (APA, AMA, MLA, etc.).
  • Research methods or results are discussed using the simple past when the researcher’s name is used as the subject.
  • Present tense is used when commenting on a researcher’s work, discussing their results, and drawing conclusions.


  • Simple past should be used in this section as here you discuss the work/experiments that you have done.
  • Present tense should be used to refer to any tables, figures, or illustrations.


  • The results follow a similar verb tense rule as the methods section.
  • Past tense should be used.
  • Simple present tense should be used to explain diagrams/figures/tables.


  • Here the findings are analyzed and interpreted along with their implications.
  • Simple past should be used to summarize one’s findings.
  • Present tense should be used to interpret and discuss the important findings.


  • It is usually written at the end of the manuscript after the discussion section. 
  • Present perfect tense should be used.
  • Present tense should be used to state the findings and inferences.

These general rules about tenses should be followed to make your paper more transparent, chronologically correct, and easier to read.

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