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  1. #1
    hedgehog is offline Newbie
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    Question Tense use in thesis

    Hi,

    can anybody clarify for me which tenses I use correctly for which parts of a science based master thesis? If differences between AE and BE exist, I would prefer BE.

    Searching the internet, so far I just found partly answers but none giving a good overview.
    Thus if you know a good webpage giving an overview I would be as well more than happy about that.

    Thanks,
    hedgehog

  2. #2
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Tense use in thesis

    Quote Originally Posted by hedgehog View Post
    Hi,

    can anybody clarify for me which tenses I use correctly for which parts of a science based master thesis? If differences between AE and BE exist, I would prefer BE.

    Searching the internet, so far I just found partly answers but none giving a good overview.
    Thus if you know a good webpage giving an overview I would be as well more than happy about that.

    Thanks,
    hedgehog
    If you are writing a Master's thesis, I assume you have access to a university library where you can read previous theses. This will give you an idea of what the accepted practice is. Also, look at a few scholarly journals through your university collection.

    Here is an example:
    Aim: This study attempts to test the hypothesis ... (present)
    Background: Smith and Smith in their 1909 paper, showed that
    Methods: Lab rats were used ..
    Results: We found ...
    Discussion: It seems ... (present)

    Naturally, you'll use different tenses within each section depending on what you're trying to say. But I think that actually checking a few theses in your own field is your best option.

  3. #3
    hedgehog is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Tense use in thesis

    Thanks for your answer with the nice overview

    Unfortunately, in my university library they do not have all the Bachelor and Master theses of previous students. Only PhD theses are available there, although in a storage room and not on a normal shelf, thus it is necessary to order them. But anyway, just the minority of theses is written in English. And the same is true for some theses / dissertations I have of the same field...

    Somewhere else I read that for facts from text books or reviews present tense is used whereas for experimental observations from journal publications past tense is the choice (like your example for the background).
    Does that mean that if in the methods part I have an explanatory note giving a widely known fact, e.g. why something is used, I use as well present tense?

    And another detailed question: If in the discussion I first revisit an observation from the results (past tense), then draw my conclusion (present tense) about it to finally compare it with findings of another study / make a remark from another study (past tense), then the tenses are as written in brackets?

    Sorry for asking further but writing I realised that I changed the tense from time to time without recognising it and then later on asked myself if it is correct like that or rather thought that the tenses are too mixed up.

    Thanks again,
    hedgehog

  4. #4
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tense use in thesis

    Quote Originally Posted by hedgehog View Post
    Thanks for your answer with the nice overview

    Does that mean that if in the methods part I have an explanatory note giving a widely known fact, e.g. why something is used, I use as well present tense?
    You will use the passive voice of the present or past often.
    Instead of "We used lab rats because other researchers normally use lab rats" you can say "Lab rats were used since this is the normal method"

    And another detailed question: If in the discussion I first revisit an observation from the results (past tense), then draw my conclusion (present tense) about it to finally compare it with findings of another study / make a remark from another study (past tense), then the tenses are as written in brackets?
    In the discussion, you'll use various tenses.
    Smith (1990) found ... Our results, however, show ...
    Further research will need to be done to confirm our findings ...

    Sorry, but this is all hypothetical. You really need to either 1) read some actual theses 2) Find a book that tells you how to write a thesis, or 3) ask your supervisor.
    If you do a search for "Thesis writing" you'll find some clues:
    9 The Thesis Writing Process


  5. #5
    hedgehog is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Tense use in thesis

    Thanks a lot for taking again your time to answer me.

    From your suggestions (which seem to go well with my own opinion) and what I found elsewhere I made a little overview for me which I think I should show to my supervisor and ask if those choices of tenses look appropiate.

    hedgehog

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