Quick Tip 10: Past & Present Tense

How do you know when to use past and present tense in scientific writing?

Verb tense in English can be hard to get right. When discussing what happened in your study, you should stick with the past tense. For example:

Overexpression of this gene weakened collagen formation.

“weakened” is past tense.

Facts and well-accepted research findings should appear in the present tense.

This family of proteins is composed of several closely-related proteins.

“is composed” is present tense.

Learning to use tense correctly is hard. To improve your skills, try looking for tense when you next read a paper. You’ll see wide use of the past tense, but try to find where the authors chose use the present tense.