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Explore the helpful verbs you can use when citing academic work

In many kinds of academic writing you'll need to cite work that you've read.

As long as the source is properly acknowledged citation can be done through direct quotation, or by paraphrasing or summarising what an author has written. But however you decide to use a citation, you may need to use a reporting verb to integrate it into your text.

In the following case, we've used the verb 'to find':

Malley (1998, p.26) found that study skills are increasingly used by Higher Education institutions.

Verbs you can use

This table shows useful reporting verbs for citing others. These verbs are not all interchangeable — make sure you've read the source carefully and clearly understand the author’s claim(s) before choosing a verb. It's up to you to report others’ work accurately.


Reporting something the author did Reporting something the author stated Reporting the author's opinion
Acceptable  Stronger Acceptable Stronger
  • observe
  • discover
  • notice
  • demonstrate
  • find
  • report
  • describe
  • determine
  • discern
  • show
  • assess
  • study
  • analyse
  • calculate
  • examine
  • investigate
  • identify
  • prove
  • establish
  • conclude
  • comment
  • describe
  • discuss
  • point out
  • note
  • remark
  • write
  • affirm
  • emphasise
  • stress
  • maintain
  • stipulate
  • explain
  • conclude
  • clarify
  • identify
  • accept
  • believe
  • consider
  • view
  • see
  • question
  • query
  • think
  • suggest
  • propose
  • suspect
  • speculate
  • argue
  • assert
  • claim
  • contend
  • deny
  • recommend
  • reject
  • advocate
  • maintain
  • conclude

If you're unsure about the exact meaning of any of the verbs in the table above you should consult a dictionary which shows the word's usage, such as the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary.

Using verbs

You can use reporting verbs in the present tense or past tense, as long as you are consistent throughout your assignment.

Many of the verbs in this table are used with the conjunction 'that':

  • Mahoney (1998, pp.10–12) established that this reaction is in fact…
  • When Smith and Sampson (1989, p.98) contended that this position was untenable, they were…

However, some of the verbs can't be used with ‘that’, such as:  

  • Martin and Baker (1980) examined the issue from a different perspective.

Words like 'view' are used with the conjunction 'as' after the subject of the sentence: 

  • Hui (2001, p.49) views this explanation as too simplistic. She maintains that…

All the above examples use the reporting verb actively, but you can also use verbs passively. Both of the following sentences are acceptable:

  • Dominguez (2002, pp.76-79) suggested three possible interpretations of these results.
  • Three possible interpretations of these results have been suggested (Dominguez, 2002, pp.76–79).

Other examples of using reporting verbs in the passive form:

  • It has been claimed (O’Shea, 1997, p.45) that…
  • It has been shown that this is not the case (Akabi, 1979, pp.310–319).
  • The practice of…has been questioned (Chopra, 1990, p.92) because of its… 
  • These findings have been extensively analysed (e.g. by Stamford, 2001a, 2001b; Ma, 2002) and interpretations vary from…

You can add adverbs to your reporting verbs if appropriate. These also need to accurately reflect the original material — for example, you would need to be sure that the findings in the above quote had been ‘extensively’ analysed. 

The passive from is often used when citing several authors to back up a single point. The example above uses two works by Stamford and one by Ma. 

You can also cite an author without using a reporting verb by restating the author’s point or using the phrase ‘according to’. For example: 

  • Study skills are increasingly used by Higher Education institutions (Malley, 1998, p.28)
  • According to Malley (1998, p.28), study skills are increasingly used by Higher Education institutions.

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