Should You Use Past or Present Tense When Citing Researchers’ Work?
  • 2-minute read
  • 18th July 2022

Should You Use Past or Present Tense When Citing Researchers’ Work?

There’s a lot that researchers have to think about when writing papers.

Not only do you have to actually write the paper, research intensely, and structure your argument well, the details of how you should present your writing can take up a lot of time and brain power.

One of those nitpicky details is presenting the work of other researchers. Should you use the past or present tense? Luckily, unlike many other aspects of academic writing, the answer to this question is simple.

With every major style guide for academic writing (e.g., MLA, Chicago, AP) except one, you should use the present tense when you’re citing researchers’ work in your papers.

Appleby (2005) claims that around 40% of birds can migrate.

The exception to the rule is the APA style guide. If your school follows the APA style guide, you can use either the past or present tense when citing the work of researchers. It’s your choice.

So, in short, if you stick to the present tense, you won’t go wrong. However, if you want to use the past tense, make sure your school accepts the APA style guide.

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Appleby (2005) claimed that around 40% of birds could migrate.

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