Writing

La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Writing

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Writing

Achieve@Uni

Reporting verbs

Academic writing must draw on ideas from other scholarly sources. You can refer to these sources in your writing using reporting verbs. 

The reporting verb you choose can show the original author’s view or your view of the ideas. This shows the marker that you can understand and evaluate the source. 

Reporting verbs can be tentative, neutral or strong. Some verbs can fit in more than one category. Each reporting verb has a different meaning, so use a dictionary to check that you have chosen the right verb for your context.

Tentative reporting verbs

Tentative reporting verbs indicate less certainty and acknowledge other views may exist. 

Example sentence: Jones (2019) suggests that water pollution damages children’s health.

Neutral reporting verbs

Neutral reporting verbs describe the information as fact and tell the reader that you consider the source to be credible.

Example sentence: Watson (2018) notes that water pollution damages children’s health.

Strong reporting verbs

Strong reporting verbs can be used for information that is not factual but supported by sound evidence.

Example sentence: Adams (2016) disagrees with Jones (2019) and rejects the idea that water pollution damages children’s health.

Common reporting verbs

The following table categorises reporting verbs by their strength.

Tentative reporting verbs Neutral reporting verbs Strong reporting verbs
assume 
appear to 
think
doubt
guess 
hypothesise 
imagine 
question    
suppose
seem to 
believe 
speculate 
suggest
accept
acknowledge
add
analyse 
compare 
consider 
contrast 
define
describe 
discuss 
estimate     
evaluate 
examine 
explain 
explore 
find
identify 
illustrate 
indicate 
inform 
investigate 
note
advocate
affirm
agree
announce
argue
articulate
assert 
attack
blame
complain
contend
criticise
demonstrate
deny
disagree
dispute
emphasise
establish
highlight 
insist
maintain
object to
reason 
reject
recommend

Grammar of reporting verbs

Many reporting verbs are followed by ‘that’.

Example: Wallis (2019) argues that the policy failed to protect children.

However, some reporting verbs follow other patterns.

Example: Papadopoulos (2016) rejects the idea that the policy was a failure.

Check a dictionary if you are not sure how to use a particular reporting verb.

Tense

Reporting verbs are usually written in the present tense.

Example: Playing golf appears to have significant benefits for a person’s physical and mental health (Woods & Norman, 2018).

Use the past tense when reporting specific findings of a previous study or describing how the study was conducted.

Example: The authors examined the relationship between golf and heart disease. Fifty professional golfers participated in the study.

Use the present perfect tense when summarising research with general subjects (e.g., “Researchers have found…”).

Example: Several studies have found that playing golf can reduce the risk of falls in the elderly (Brown, 2018; Green, 2019; White, 2018). 

Pathfinder link

Still have questions? Do you want to talk to an expert? Peer Learning Advisors or Academic Skills and Language Advisors are available.

References

Content on this page adapted from:

The Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre. (n.d.). Reporting verbs. https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/asc/sites/files/asc/public/shared/pdf/tip_sheets_writing/Reporting_Verbs_web_v1_XH.pdf Used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.