Dissertation methodology

The Right Dissertation Methodology Tense

Verb Tense and Language for a Dissertation Methodology

It is often common for masters and even PhD scholars, to send questions to their supervisors, especially if the instructions are vague. One of the common issues that students tend to ask has to do with the language and verb tense of each dissertation chapter. If you are one of the students that need more clarification on the tense of a methodology section, then this post is for you. Use it to ensure you submit a quality chapter that meets the expected standards at that academic level.


Should you use the future, present, or past tense when writing a methodology for a dissertation? While the literature review section is often in the continuous present tense for methodology will change. This depends on whether you have finished the research process or plan to analyze it before writing the procedures. For instance, if you have already finished carrying out the research, your methodology will be in the past tense.

You can say, “Sending questionnaires to social workers was one of the methodologies used to collect data.” However, if the research or data analysis is ongoing, then your statement would be in the present tense, “I am going to use an interview as my main data collection technique.” By the time the supervisor will be reading the methodological chapter, will the dissertation be complete? Hence the tense should be in the past tense, or do you make changes depending on the results?

It does make sense to write in the present tense as soon as you analyze it and change it to the past when you are reorganizing the whole dissertation. If you have completed the data collection method and research at the time of writing the dissertation chapter, then your methodology should be in the past tense.

For example, “we extracted citric acid from lemons by bowling them in 70% ethanol.” In some disciplines, the methodology section involves gathering data from previous researchers.

When incorporating such information in the methodology section using the past tense. This is because what previous researchers wrote a few years ago is in the past. Therefore, any data collected from a past study but helps to answer your hypothesis should be written in the past tense. But if the scholarly material is current and is still considered relevant, then shift to present tense.

For instance, “fifteen-century physician believed that women lived longer because they had stronger genes. However, current research shows that female life expectancy is not related to genes.”

Facts or information that is believed to be accurate should always be expressed in the present tense. For such an explanation, a source id not required. It also ideal to use past tense when talking about what you did, what you found, and shift to present tense when making an assumption or expressing what the results imply.

You can also use a simple past tense to describe procedures that have already been completed.

However, the trick to ensuring you do not confuse the tenses is to use that which makes your data feel more authentic. When you are editing and feel the tense does not flow with the rest of the paper, you can change it.

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