Many scientific papers (at least in computer science) use present tense in the evaluation section to describe the setting of the evaluation (e.g., "In our experiments we use dataset A.)". Wouldn't past tense be more appropriate?

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    If you think it is better then do it, but I doubt that it matters much or is even noticed by very many people. Use what seems better to your own "ear".
    – Buffy
    Sep 27, 2018 at 11:52
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    @Buffy I wish that method worked also for us non-native speakers... :) Sep 27, 2018 at 12:08

2 Answers 2


There are several reasons to use present tense.

1) It is present time for the reader. But everyone understands the work was done before.

2) There are several versions of past tense. It simpler not to have to choose among them by putting everything into present tense.

2) English has become the international language of science. For most non-native speakers, present tense is simpler to read. In a prior era when many must-read papers in my field were written in French and German, I was always glad present tense was standard for scientific papers in those languages.


Suppose we write it in simple past tense:

In our experiments we used dataset A.

Which of the following does it mean?

In our experiments we used dataset A. In this work, we also use dataset A.

In our experiments we used dataset A. In this work we do something else.

Simple past tense implies some action is complete, so it's naturally misinterpreted as the latter. Moreover, throughout a paper, we might use "used" with both of these meanings, whereby each instance needs to be deciphered by the reader.

The other ways of writing past tense have similar issues (and are grammatically more complicated):

In our experiments we were using dataset A.

In our experiments we had used dataset A.

In our experiments we had been using dataset A.

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