In academic writing, you will need to cite (or 'refer to') other people's work or ideas. In order to do this accurately, you will need to use reporting verbs to link your in-text citation to the information cited. This section looks at what reporting verbs are, then looks at the strength and grammar of reporting verbs. Finally, there is a table which lists some of the most common reporting verbs, giving meaning, strength and usage.
What are reporting verbs?
Reporting verbs, also known as referring verbs, are verbs which are used when you report or refer to another writer's work. They are needed to connect the in-text citation to the information which you are citing. See the following examples, in which the reporting verbs (point out and imply) are shown in bold.
The most common reporting verb is state. However, while it is simpler to use the same verb over and over, this will not give your writing much variation. In addition, each reporting verb has a slightly different meaning, depending on what the writer you are citing is saying. It is therefore important for you to be aware of and try to use a range of reporting verbs, depending on the information you are citing.
Note that According to is another common way to refer to a writer's work. This is not a reporting verb, but is used in the same way. A common student mistake is to use this with a reporting verb such as state, which makes the sentence grammatically incorrect. See the following examples.
- According to Smith (2016), using According to and state in the same sentence is a common student error.
- Smith (2016) states that using According to and state in the same sentence is a common student error.
Strength of reporting verbs
Reporting verbs vary in terms of strength. Consider the following examples.
Although both verbs have the same general meaning, namely believe, the verb assume is quite weak, while the verb insist is much stronger. The second verb most closely matches the information above and how it is presented, i.e. as a fact, and is therefore more accurate than the first one.
Grammar of reporting verbs
Reporting verbs are often followed by a that clause. However, not all verbs follow this pattern. It is important, when using reporting verbs, to check the grammar usage to make sure that your writing is accurate. Consider the following examples.
Note that it is usually acceptable to use reporting verbs in either the past or present tense. The present tense is more common as this brings the past research into the present and therefore makes it more current and important. There may, however, be special requirements for your course, so it is always useful to check the style guide for assignments.
Examples of usage for the most common reporting verbs are given in the table in the following section.
Examples of reporting verbs
The table below lists some of the most common reporting verbs. They are listed according to their general meaning. Usage and strength are also given. Verbs which are in the same cell have the same general meaning, usage and strength (e.g. admit and concede both mean agree, are both followed by that clauses, and are both weak verbs).
|General meaning||Reporting verb||Usage||Strength|
|accuse||accuse||sb of sth||strong|
|blame, criticise||sb for sth||strong|
|accept, acknowledge, confirm, recognise||that||neutral|
|feel, hold, profess||that||neutral|
|argue, believe, claim, insist, maintain||that||strong|
|conclude||discover, find, infer, discern||that||neutral|
|challenge||sb to do sth||strong|
|cast doubt on, contradict, discount, dismiss, disprove, dispute, oppose, refute, reject, object to||sth||strong|
|analyse, assess, evaluate, examine, investigate, study||sth||neutral|
|compare||sth to sth||neutral|
|contrast||sth with sth||neutral|
|define||sth as sth||neutral|
|articulate, clarify, explain||that||neutral|
|guess||speculate, suppose, suspect||that||weak|
|include||take into consideration||weak|
|see||view||sth as sth||weak|
|state||comment, note, remark||that||weak|
|describe, express, outline, present||sth||neutral|
|add, declare, inform, mention, point out, remind, report, state||that||neutral|
|imply, intimate, suggest||that||weak|
|hypothesise, posit, postulate, propose, theorise||that||neutral|
|warn||sb of sth/that||strong|
|exhort||sb to do sth||strong|
|advise, advocate, affirm, recommend, urge||that||strong|
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Below is a checklist for this page.
Bailey, S. (2000). Academic Writing. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer
EIT Online (n.d.). Reporting Verbs. Available at: http://www2.eit.ac.nz/library/ls_guides_reportingverbs.html (Access date: 17/6/16)
Hampton, M. (n.d.). Writing about others’ work: verbs for citations (Harvard APA style). Available at: http://www.port.ac.uk/media/contacts-and-departments/student-support-services/ask/downloads/Verbs-for-citation.pdf (Access date: 17/6/16)
Sharpling, G. (2012). Reporting Verbs. Available at: https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/globalpad/openhouse/academicenglishskills/grammar/reportingverbs/ (Access date: 17/6/16)
University of Adelaide (2014). Verbs for Reporting. Available at: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/learning_guides/learningGuide_verbsForReporting.pdf (Access date: 17/6/16)
Brown (2009, p. 36) …
This page explains how to choose and use reporting verbs effectively:
Use the correct tense for reporting verbs
Mostly, students are encouraged to use present tense to report findings from literature. Past tense is mainly used to report findings from personal research or to refer to information that was once true, but is no longer valid. This can vary, however, according to subject areas (e.g. Past tense is mainly used in the Sciences and Psychology). Always refer to your subject guides for advice on appropriate style.
In her study on Internet privacy, Johnson (2005, p.197) concludes that a person can be identified by name on the Internet using age and address details./glossary_exclude]
Previous studies on Internet usage throughout the 1990s ignored the notion of Internet security and focused mainly on the benefits of accessing information via the Internet (Black, 2013, p. 39).
In their study on suburban Internet usage, Smith et al. (2012, pp. 34-126) demonstrated that 90% of 2000 surveyed participants were concerned about violations of their privacy.
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Use reporting verbs correctly to incorporate the ideas of others
When you are going to support your argument with a paraphrase or a direct quotation from another writer, you must avoid just ‘dropping in’ the information. Instead, use a reporting verb (or signal phrase) to prepare your reader that you are using information obtained from another author.
The right to privacy of Internet users has been challenged as the use of the WWW spreads at an exponential rate throughout the world. Governments are now passing acts to support consumer rights to privacy. “”. (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002).
The right to privacy of Internet users has been challenged as the use of the WWW spreads at an exponential rate throughout the world. Governments are now passing acts to support consumer rights to privacy. The Commonwealth of Australia (2002, p. 21) have established legislation that clearly states that “organisations are required to safeguard personal information they hold from unauthorised access and disclosure”. As a result, companies are forced to consider ways of ensuring that they have adequate data security to protect the privacy of their customers.
Use reporting verbs and signal phrases to integrate paraphrases, summaries and direct quotations into your own writing.
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Use grammatically correct verbs to match your intended meaning
There are many examples of reporting verbs from which you can choose. It is important that you think very carefully about the meaning you wish to convey as your choice of reporting words will indicate to the reader your stance on the information that you are discussing. Moreover, your use of signal verbs and phrases will influence your reader’s/marker’s interpretation of your work so that he/she is more likely to agree with the conclusions you have reached in your essay.
Smith et al. reject the proposal that . . .
is a far stronger indication of your claims than
Smith et al. discuss the proposal that . . .
Take care to construct grammatically correct sentences when you incorporate paraphrases, summaries and direct quotations into your writing. The following verbs are written in singular form and present tense, so you will need to modify these words to suit the grammar of your sentences:
REPORTING VERB + THAT + MAIN IDEA
Peterson et al. (2013, para. 36) acknowledge that Internet privacy is a growing issue in the modern world of communication.
Examples of verbs suitable to be used in this way
accepts, acknowledges, adds, admits, advises, announces, agrees, alleges, argues, asserts, assumes, believes, claims, comments, complains, concedes, concludes, confirms, considers, contends, decides, declares, denies (deny), determines, discovers, doubts, emphasises, estimates, explains, feels, finds, guarantees, holds, hypothesises, knows, implies (imply), indicates, infers, insists, maintains, mentions, notes, observes, objects, points out, postulates, predicts, professes, promises, proposes, proves, reasons, realises, recommends, remarks, reports, requests, restates, reveals, says, shows, states, stresses, suggests, thinks, theorises, understands, verifies (verify), warns
|Grammar alert: some reporting verbs cannot be followed immediately by ‘that’.|
REPORTING VERB + SOMETHING + CONNECTING WORD
Jackson (2012, pp. 23-38) refutes the claim made by Smith that …
Studies by Campbell (2005, 2008) highlight the disadvantages in terms of …
Research by Smith et al. (2006, para. 36) validates the argument that …
These findings illustrate the importance of Internet privacy as … (Brown, 2007; Jackson, 2011)
Brown and Peters (2013, pp. 3-5) describe Johnson’s findings as ‘disturbing’ …
Jackson and Peters (2013, p. 35) applaud the Green Party for their stance on …
Cleary (2009, para. 6) advocates for the rights of Internet users because …
Joseph et al. (2010, p. 6) question all previous research on the subject in terms of …
TechTimes (2013, p. 73) discusses the reasons behind the increase in Internet bullying by …
Examples of verbs suitable to be used in this way
advocates (for), alerts, analyses, appraises, applauds, assesses, assures, blames, challenges, characterises, congratulates, classifies (classify), criticises, defines, demonstrates, defends, describes, discusses, depicts, encourages, endorses, evaluates, examines, expresses, faults, identifies (identify), illustrates, interprets, investigates, objects (to), portrays, praises, presents, puts forward, questions, refers, refutes, rejects, studies (study), substantiates, supports, takes issue with, throws light on, validates, verifies (verify), views
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