It is normal to analyze a dataset in a paper. I am not sure when to use present/past tense to describe how you analyze the data and what your results are. Here I use a short example text to illustrate this:

We analyze the epidemic spreading dataset in 2008. Let I(t) represent the number of individuals that are/were infected at t. I(t) is/was averaged between 1am and 3pm when the spreading is/was stable. Our analysis shows/showed that the epidemic has/had infected 100 individuals, and most of them are/were in EU. The results show that on average each individual has/had three neighbors.

Could you please help decide the tense of the verbs in the cited paragraph? It would be good if some explanation were provided.

I ask this because I see that in many papers they use the present tense for analysis results of an old data. I am not sure that is correct.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Edwin Ashworth, tchrist, Jim, Drew, ScotM Mar 31 '15 at 15:55

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My take would be that "We analyzed" would start the passage. You are stating that the work was done. However using the present all the way through would make sense because your analysis is re-living the past. Like watching a movie about the old west but everyone speaks in the present. This would also help with translations because the straight forward present exists in each language but there are many different past tenses. I'm approaching this as a linguist rather than a scientist. Perhaps we need some scientists to weigh in also.

  • Can you elaborate on "using the present all the way through would make sense because your analysis is re-living the past." Are there any examples from publications (Books, papers, etc.)? – Changwang Zhang Mar 29 '15 at 21:10

I searched Google Books for:

tense reporting experiments analysis paper

and I got references such as these:

From Research to Manuscript: A Guide to Scientific Writing By Michael Jay Katz

Past Tense On the other hand, use the past tense when referring to specific events that have already happened. The past tense is historical. The particular observations you made during a research study are bits of history, so use the past tense when you report experimental results.

Communication Skills for Biosciences Maureen Dawson, ‎Brian Dawson, ‎Joyce Overfield - 2013

  1. When you are reporting experiments, you must use the past tense; that is, you must say what was done (or what you did).

However, it's publish or perish, thus see several recent papers in your target journal. Perhaps the board there loves only the present tense :-)

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