2

It is normal to analyze a dataset in a paper. I am not sure when to use present/past tense to describe how you analyze the data and what your results are. Here I use a short example text to illustrate this:

We analyze the epidemic spreading dataset in 2008. Let I(t) represent the number of individuals that are/were infected at t. I(t) is/was averaged between 1am and 3pm when the spreading is/was stable. Our analysis shows/showed that the epidemic has/had infected 100 individuals, and most of them are/were in EU. The results show that on average each individual has/had three neighbors.

Could you please help decide the tense of the verbs in the above paragraph? It would be good if some explanation is provided.

I ask this, because, I see in many papers, they use the present tense for analysis results of an old data. I am not sure that is correct.

  • I think either can be used. Important is to be consistent. – mkc Mar 29 '15 at 20:11
  • possibly repost on english.stackexchange.com – Tommy Mar 30 '15 at 17:47
5

In a case such as this, you need to use a careful mixture of tenses, because sometimes you are speaking about an event which is in the past, and sometimes you are speaking about an observation about that event, which still holds in the present.

Thus, in your example:

We analyze the epidemic spreading dataset in 2008. Let I(t) represent the number of individuals that were infected at t. Our analysis shows that the epidemic had infected 100 individuals, and most of them were in the EU. The results show that on average each individual has three neighbors.

Notice that the facts about the events that occurred in 2008 are in the past tense, but the analytical results are in the present because the analysis is still showing these facts right now as the reader looks at it (I am assuming the "on average" result in your sample is a general conclusion and not just a fact about those 100 individuals in 2008).

  • Can I use "are" instead of "were" in "most of them are in the EU", to point out the fact that those people are still in the EU? – Changwang Zhang Mar 29 '15 at 20:37
  • 2
    At the time of infection they were in the EU; whether they are there at this specific moment in time is both unknown and irrelevant. – bdeonovic Mar 29 '15 at 20:54
  • @Leo If you want to make the point that they are still in the EU, you will need to add a new statement to that effect. – jakebeal Mar 29 '15 at 22:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.