Are you using the right verbs in your research paper?

by Arushi Gupta

Most researchers are focused on ensuring that their work not only gets the attention it deserves but is also published in leading international journals. However, this is a challenging task, given that journals often reject papers due to issues with language even if the research presented was groundbreaking. Writing an academic research paper is not just about conducting and reporting one’s work – the language one uses plays a significant role in how the research paper is received.

Academic writing needs to be formal and precise and researchers must possess the requisite language skills and knowledge about the correct words to use in scientific writing. This is a skill that early career researchers must acquire and perfect over time. Consistent writing will help you gain the experience you require to create error-free, submission ready research manuscripts. You will for example, learn that one proven way to make your manuscript more compelling is by using strong verbs for essays.

This article provides a brief overview of the different types of verbs to use in research papers. It also offers interesting insights into how verbs can be used effectively in academic writing.

What is a verb?

Let us first understand what a verb is. Verbs are words that convey an action, occurrence, or state of being. Given that most manuscripts contain explanations and descriptions of processes and methodologies, it is important to understand and choose the right kind of action verbs to be in for maximum impact. 

Types of verbs

Broadly, verbs can be categorized into three different types.

  • Action verbs – Action verbs verbs communicate precise actions
  • Auxiliary verbs – Auxiliary verbs display the tense of the verb used. Sometimes referred to as helping verbs, they reveal if the verb is positive or negative
  • Modal verbs – Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that denote abilities

When using verbs in academic writing, it is very important for early career researchers and authors to ensure that colloquial or informal verbs should not make their way into their academic writing.  Adhering to a formal structure of language with appropriate verbs is essential to maintaining the right tone and to accurately convey the author’s thoughts. For example, the use of action verbs in research objectives or strong verbs for thesis statements goes a long way in making the manuscript more impactful.

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Usage of verbs

Researchers and authors must be careful in their selection of verbs to convey the proposed meaning. It is important to understand the context in which the verbs are to be used, and the way the language must be structured. Let us look at some examples of how verbs are used in academic writing.

If researchers want to present an analysis of the work that has been done, then verbs like analyze, appraise, define, diagnose, explore, identify, investigate, or observe may be a used effectively. Attest, confirm, contend, demonstrate, document, indicate or reveal are some verbs researchers can use when they discuss the findings of their research. When trying to convey that a researcher has taken a specific stand of their research findings, they can use words such as like, comment, convey, elaborate, establish, identify, or propose.

Phrasal verbs

It is important for early career researchers and authors to learn how to avoid phrasal verbs in academic writing. Phrasal verbs are words that we use to convey what we think or speak about, see, or experience. These kinds of phrasal verbs tend to be informal and out of place in an academic setting. Some common phrasal verbs and their alternative single verb that may be used are: Find out (discover), Looked at (discovered), Put into (contribute). However, phrasal verbs like carried out, consists of, discussed by, based on, or subjected to may be used while writing research articles or papers.

Contractions and abbreviations

Another aspect that early career researchers and authors must be mindful of when writing their manuscript is to avoid the use of contractions and abbreviations like “isn’t”, “won’t” or “don’t” as they have an informal flavor that is typically not accepted as formal writing. Academic writing demands that the expanded forms of these abbreviations must be used – so ‘is not,’ ‘will not,’ and ‘do not,’ are the correct versions to be used.

It is also highly recommended that researchers check the American or British style guides to make sure that the verbs they are using align with them.

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