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Using accurate reporting verbs

Reporting verbs help your reader understand how a scholar presents their work. Does the author argue, state, refute, claim, observe or suggest?

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1 Underline reporting verbs

Look through your essay and underline your reporting verbs. Group the verbs into three categories: neutral, tentative and strong.

  • A neutral reporting verb, such as states, explains or describes, tells us what the writer says in factual terms but doesn’t given any clue as to the writer’s intention.
  • A tentative verb is used when a scholar is speculating or suggesting: implies, speculates, hypothesizes, recommends.
  • A strong verb is used when a writer wishes to convince their readers of their argument: argues, contends, maintains, rejects.

2 Check suitability

Decide whether you have used the most suitable verb in each case. For example, ‘suggests’ creates a different impression of the author’s intentions from ‘argues’:

a) Following her UK study, Badawi suggests that online learning does not improve student engagement. She recommends further research using international data.

b) Drawing on extensive international studies, Badawi argues that online learning does not improve student engagement.

In a), the verbs suggests and recommends tell us that Badawi is tentative about their findings due to the limited study sample. In b), the verb argues shows that Badawi believes strongly in their study findings.

3 Widen your vocabulary

Listing your reporting verbs can show you if there are default verbs you tend to overuse. Use a thesaurus to choose alternatives, ensuring your choices accurately reflect your standpoint on the research you’re exploring.

Anna Barker
5 May 2022

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