Different types of time: Making sense of verb tenses in research writing

DoctoralWriting SIG

This week’s post comes from Cassily Charles who is the Academic Literacy Learning and Numeracy Coordinator for postgraduate students at Charles Sturt University. Here she tackles the tricky subject of tense in research writing.

People often ask about the right verb tenses to use in the thesis or research article – e.g. is it better to write ‘Wang (2011) noted’, ‘Wang (2011) has noted’, or ‘Wang (2011) notes’? Does it make any difference? Should it be consistent in the paragraph / section / chapter?

Experienced research writers, including supervisors, often know instinctively what verb tense will do the job, but don’t always find it easy to explain why. In workshops and discussions with research candidates, I use a simple model which seems to be very helpful: the 3 different types of time in research writing.

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Will my children be damaged by my PhD?

The Thesis Whisperer

"Mummy Studying" by Brendan Mewburn, aged 4 “Mummy Studying” by Brendan Mewburn, aged 4

Thesis Whisperer Jnr was eight months old when I started my Masters degree by research at RMIT and was seven years old when I graduated with my PhD from the University of Melbourne. In retrospect, the decision to go back to post graduate study with a very young child seems slightly insane, but I remember it making perfect sense at the time.

Some thesis tasks fit around parenting quite well. I remember reading Foucault in the playground and doing edits of my PhD printouts while waiting to pick Thesis Whisperer Jnr up from primary school. I treated both degrees like an extra job (which they were as I continued to work part time), so I didn’t spend time doing parent helper stuff or making stuff for the mothers day stall. I don’t remember feeling like I was ‘fully present’ for about 3 of…

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after the viva is over…


Jonathan Downie is a conference interpreter, researcher and writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His PhD was at Herriot Watt University and examined stakeholder expectations of interpreters. He recently passed his viva. He tweets as @jonathanddownie.

It’s Friday morning and I should be wearing a party hat and letting off party poppers. The day before, I passed my viva (pending corrections) and got to have lunch with three of the finest minds in my field. Not bad for a day’s work. Yet why did I find myself spending most of the next day, slumped in front of my laptop, feeling absolutely flat. In fact, if it wasn’t for the duties and joys of being a dad of two (with one more on the way), I would have probably spent the day unshaven, in my pyjamas, watching youtube videos.

What on earth happened? How come achieving the goal I had been working for over…

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blogging helps academic writing

…it also helps academic writing community too #blogging


Why do academics blog? What do academic bloggers get from blogging?

Discussions about scholarly blogging most often centre on the need for we academics to write in ways that attract new audiences. If we write blogs, we are told, we can communicate our research more effectively. Blogs enhance impact, they are a medium for public engagement. The advocacy goes on… Blogs (and other social media) can point readers to our (real) academic publications, particularly if they are held on open repositories. Blogging it seems is a kind of essential add-on to the usual academic writing and academic publication that we do.

Of course, some people do argue – and I’m in this camp – that blogging is in and of itself academic writing and academic publication. It’s not an add-on. It’s now part and parcel of the academic writing landscape.  As such, it is of no less value than any…

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