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I am bit confused in which tense I should write the conclusion of existing studies in literature review. For example in past tense, I write the methodology and result of a study. Now I want to write

The findings provide a strong technical foundation for ......

Or should I write

The findings provided a strong technical foundation for ......

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3 Answers 3

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The difference is very slight. If the findings still provide a strong technical foundation, the presence tense would be more accurate. If you use the past, you might be seen to indicate that they once did, but no longer do provide a strong technical foundation, e.g. because the field has moved on to a better analysis.

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  • If you use the past, you might be seen to indicate that they once did, but no longer do - I think only if the surrounding context suggests this. To me the difference is more about how far in the past it had an effect, and whether this effect came to fruition already or is ongoing.
    – Kimball
    Jun 12, 2023 at 23:50
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I suggest present tense. Angelika Hofmann (Scientific Writing and Communication, fifth edition) suggests in 4.4 (Tense) that one should

Use past tense for observations and specific conclusions

Use present tense for general rules and established knowledge

Hofmann expands on the latter:

You should use present tense for general rules, accepted facts, and established knowledge. Thus, results from already published papers should be described in the present tense as published results are generally assumed to be "facts." Similarly, if something is a general rule or fact that is still true in the present, use present tense.

If you use past tense for describing results of already published work, you are implying to the reader that you do not consider these results to be "facts" but observations.

In your case, you are reporting on the findings of a study. Those are results that provide a technical foundation for something. That suggests that the results are still true. So you should probably use present tense.

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  • It's not entirely clear to me what she means by "observations" as opposed to "facts". Maybe she means "talk about what we know in the present, but about what was written in the past". For instance, "In paper X, author showed that..." "In last section, we proved that..."
    – Stef
    Jun 13, 2023 at 9:09
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To stress the point of the present tense write:

There is a strong technical foundation (citation) for...

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