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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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
Below is a checklist for this page.
|I know what reporting verbs are.|
|I understand about the different strength of reporting verbs.|
|I understand about the grammar of reporting verbs.|
|I know a range of different reporting verbs and can use them accurately in my writing.|
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)