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Reporting verbs

Academic writing requires you to use citations to refer to the original source when you have used someone else’s ideas or concepts in your writing.

One of the most common ways to incorporate these citations into your writing is to use reporting verbs to help you to present the information.

The use of reporting verbs in your written academic work can help to reflect your attitudes to the 'sourced information' or help you to voice your opinions/arguments better in your assignment work.

There is a wide variety of reporting verbs in the English language, some of which are detailed below:

 

Part 1: Advanced ways to show your attitude

Reporting verbs are a way for you, the writer, to show your attitude towards the source of information you are citing. These attitudes are either ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘neutral’.

____________________________________________________________________________

Do you agree with what the author has said? If so, use reporting verbs with a positive meaning to them. Here are some reporting verbs that tend to be positive:

acknowledges

affirms

analyses

applauds

argues

contends

explains

identifies

observes

persuades

proves

supports

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Do you disagree with what the author has said? In this case, you can use a negative reporting verb to indicate this. Here are some reporting verbs used when there is a belief that the literature is incorrect:

accuses

alleges

apologises

asserts

comments

confuses

doubts

guesses

hopes

intimates

questions

speculates

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Perhaps you feel neutral about the source you are citing. In this situation, you should use a neutral reporting verb. Here are some reporting verbs that tend to be neutral:

accepts

acknowledges

adds

agrees

assures

claims

concludes

confirms

describes

expresses

maintains

recognises

reports

says

thinks

 

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Keep in mind that there are many more reporting verbs you can use to more fully express how you feel about the sources you are using in your essays and papers.

Adapted from: The Independent Learning Centre (opens external site), Chinese University, Hong Kong, n.d. Reporting verbs, viewed 26 October 2012

 

Part 2: Your "writer's" voice

Academic writing at university normally requires you to use multiple information sources, and to evaluate the quality of these ideas. One important tool for doing this is reporting verbs.

Reporting verbs tell us that someone said something. However, careful selection of reporting verbs can help show your assessment of the quality of what they have said. This is a vital academic skill. It not only helps turn ordinary Pass-level work into much better work, but it also develops your critical thinking skills.

Reporting verbs can show your opinion of others’ ideas:

  • a belief that the literature is correct (stronger position)
  • a neutral attitude towards the veracity of the literature (i.e. neither correct nor incorrect – neutral position)
  • a belief that the literature is incorrect (weaker position)

 

The grammar of reporting verbs

Reporting verbs have simple basic grammar. However, it can be confusing because there are two basic patterns.  Some reporting verbs belong to one pattern, some to the other, and some to both.


Pattern 1: Verb + Noun (noun phrase)
The authors show the devastating results of this policy (Smith and Jones 2008, p. 12). For example:
Gillard (2012) indicated her negative opinion of Abbott’s proposal.
Pinker (2002) frequently approves of Chomsky’s theories.


Pattern 2: Verb + That + clause (i.e. sentence)
Examples: The authors show that this policy had 'devastating economic results' (Smith & Jones 2008, p. 12).
Gillard (2012) indicated that Abbott’s proposal was untenable in her opinion.

 

Tense

Reporting verbs are normally present simple – especially for recent articles and books. For example:
Turner (2010) states that the modern nation wields more power in new ways.

However, use the past tense if presenting the results of past research – even in recent literature. For example:
The groups observed during the research showed a range of leadership styles (Kang 2006).

 

For more help

For more help with grammar issues affecting your assignment work, there are many useful resources on the HELPS website, as well as in the UTS Library. You can also come and talk to the HELPS Advisors who can assist you.

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Adapted from:

Office of Student Success 2010, Reporting verbs, Australian Catholic University, viewed 17 October 2012. (opens external site)
University of Adelaide, Common reporting verbs for academic writing (PDF 80kB, four pages), viewed 25 October 2012.

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Reporting Verbs 1 (PDF, 130.88kB, 1 page)
Reporting Verbs 2 (PDF, 160.22kB, 3 pages)