past tense


Hiya, in the midst of my corrections- I have a question! Should I be using past tense through out the research?  specifically in the literature review?
I know its sounds a bit daft and maybe really obvious to some but I had a few issues with whether I should be saying things as past while my type of research could be an ongoing scenario--

Just read this back I don't even know if this makes sense? Oh well - any  suggestions? ta!:-)


Hi Naturalme

(Thanks for the reply to my ques, btw!)

I use present tense throughout except for my methodology where I spoke in the past tense about what I actually did. One of my pre submission 'to do' things was to conduct a tense check and I did spot a few inconsistencies and that's probably the most important, ie be consistent. I was a little unsure as a couple of people I was referencing are dead (!!) but I decided to go with 'Jones states' and 'Smith advises...'

One thing, if your examiners didn't mention it, should you be changing things??


Hi Ady, thanks for the response- they did mention it- I think its more to do with the fact that I wasnt consistent especially in my lit review so I am going through all of it with a fine toothed comb( figuratively :p). cheers and again all the best with your prep.(up)


hate to put a spanner in the works, but in my particular field, it's past tense all the way, because you're reporting about work that has been done already in the literature review, and studies that you carried out in the past...


I had to look at my thesis for this one! I've done it similar to what Ady did.

As it appears we have different ways pending on the field, maybe you could check a few papers from your field to double check Naturalme?

Good luck with corrections!


This is part suggestion, part question since I'm not sure about tense either (forgive hijacking thread). Currently I'm using past tense to report work I've done or someone else has done and the results but present tense to report discussion and conclusions on the basis that the work is finished but the conclusions drawn still exist in the publication referenced

e.g Jones and Smith studied tail tickling in mice and found that 90% enjoyed it.
Jones and Smith suggest that all rodents may benefit from tail tickling.

Does this seem to make sense or is it likely to get criticised for inconsistency?


Hi Clupea,

It sounds fine to me. I think providing you're using present tense when talking about a paper you're continuing referring to (rather than a stand alone mention) you'll be fine.


thanks alot everyone for the suggestions, I am making sure I am consistent in a similar way to how you have mentioned clupea- I have also asked my sup. waiting for his feed back on this - will keep you posted (up)