My question is similar to this one and this one. However, I think I need further elaboration to understand at what points I am supposed to use present tense, and where to use past tense.

Now, my prior was that present tense should generally be used to present research results. Some examples:

  1. Overall, value traded of members ranges from 14% to 20% in our sample
  2. Some members account for up to 34% of total trading
  3. For members of group A, total trading is estimated at 25%

However, both 1. and 3. would sound better in past tense, I think. Is there a specific rule that I can follow with regard to tense, both in general as with regard to my examples?

  • This is better asked on Writing -- style requirements vary. – Kris Oct 30 '14 at 14:15

A statistical finding is a general truth for your sample, which is specified in time and space. Although all of the statements may change for a new sample of the population at a different time, they remain the same for the sample you are discussing. So you should use the present tense, and best usage is to state, as you do in #1, that this finding is for your sample.


This is a matter of style. The convention can vary within different fields. So look at other papers in your particular field, ask your peers/colleagues/supervisor. If there is no clear pattern to make out, go with whichever variant you personally prefer. Just make sure to be consistent.


The tense of the verb you need depends on whether your statement refers to something which happened in the past or is true at present. In your cases the verbs are 1 ranges; 2 account; 3 is estimated.

If you wish to imply that the statement is still true at the present, you should be able to insert the word 'currently' in front of the verb without upsetting your meaning. If you are saying that the statement was true some time ago (and may since have changed) then use the past tense.

I would be inclined to use past tense in most cases simply because, by the time I'd finished the report, my statistics might no longer be true! If you are reporting on something which changes only slowly with time the present tense is fine.

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