APA Style Refresh: Choosing the Right Verb Tense -->

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APA Style Refresh: Choosing the Right Verb Tense

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Join us for our blog feature where we give readers, students, and scholarly writers an APA Refresh. These posts will help you to understand common (and not-so-common) APA rules, guidelines, and style considerations. We hope you find them informative and helpful. Just like a cold beverage on a hot, hot day, you'll definitely enjoy this APA Refresh!

APA style refresh: Choosing the right verb tense

One element of writing style that varies across the different citation styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) is the use of verb tenses to discuss source material and results. As you revise your writing, you’ll want to make sure that your choice of verb tense aligns with APA Style’s recommendations.

If you are discussing sources from your literature review or your procedure if it took place in the past, you can choose to use either the past tense or the present perfect tense:

Olson discovered

Researchers have found

If you are describing the results of a study, you should use the past tense to indicate that the study has already taken place:

Student performance improved

When you discuss and analyze your results and present your conclusions, you should use the present tense. This invites your readers to join you in considering the results and conclusions:

These results indicate

In any case, be sure to use the chosen verb tense consistently throughout a passage. This will ensure that your writing moves along smoothly rather than surprising your reader with abrupt changes in verb tense.

Do you have questions about which verb tense to use in a particular situation? Ask them in the comments below.

Cheryl Read Author Image

Cheryl Read is a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center who seems to learn something new about APA Style just about every week. When she’s not helping student writers at Walden, Cheryl stays busy playing with her son and working on her dissertation.

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