Reporting verbs Link in-text citations to the information cited

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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. At the end there are some exercises to help you practice.

What are reporting verbs?


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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 state) are shown in bold.

  • Sharpling (2012) points out that reporting verbs have subtle differences in meaning.
  • University of Adelaide (2014) states that using the same reporting verb all the time is both repetitive and boring.

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.
  • According to 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.

  • Smith (2016) assumes that reporting verbs have different strengths.
  • Smith (2016) insists that reporting verbs have different strengths.

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 on this page, 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.

  • Smith (2016) insists that reporting verbs have different strengths. [insist + that]
  • Smith (2016) agrees with Sharpling (2012) that reporting verbs have subtle differences in meaning. [agree with sb]
  • Smith (2016) challenges writers to use reporting verbs accurately. [challenge sb to do sth]

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 meaningReporting verb UsageStrength
accuseaccusesb of sthstrong
blame, criticisesb for sthstrong
contributeto sthstrong
agreeadmit, concedethatweak
accept, acknowledge, confirm, recognisethatneutral
endorse, supportsthstrong
concurwith sbstrong
subscribe tosthneutral
feel, hold, professthatneutral
argue, believe, claim, insist, maintainthatstrong
concludediscover, find, infer, discernthatneutral
disagreequestion, querysthweak
disapproveof sthstrong
challengesb to do sthstrong
cast doubt on, contradict, discount, dismiss, disprove, dispute, oppose, refute, reject, object tosthstrong
disagreewith sbstrong
counter, rebuffstrong
emphasisehighlight, underscoresthstrong
emphasise, stressthatstrong
analyse, assess, evaluate, examine, investigate, studysthneutral
comparesth to sthneutral
contraststh with sthneutral
explainidentify, illustratesthneutral
definesth as sthneutral
articulate, clarify, explainthatneutral
guessspeculate, suppose, suspectthatweak
includetake into considerationweak
seeviewsth as sthweak
prove, revealthatstrong
statecomment, note, remarkthatweak
describe, express, outline, presentsthneutral
add, declare, inform, mention, point out, remind, report, statethatneutral
suggestput forwardsthweak
imply, intimate, suggestthatweak
hypothesise, posit, postulate, propose, theorisethatneutral
warnsb of sth/thatstrong
exhortsb to do sthstrong
advise, advocate, affirm, recommend, urgethatstrong
contend, reasonthatstrong


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Below is a checklist for this page.

Item OK? Note/comment
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: (Access date: 17/6/16)

Hampton, M. (n.d.). Writing about others’ work: verbs for citations (Harvard APA style). Available at: (Access date: 17/6/16)

Sharpling, G. (2012). Reporting Verbs. Available at: (Access date: 17/6/16)

University of Adelaide (2014). Verbs for Reporting. Available at: (Access date: 17/6/16)

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Sheldon Smith

Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 03 February 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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