In a couple of weeks, I have to present my master thesis to both my professors (supervisors) and family and friends. After the title page, I immediately present the main novelty of my thesis (instead of first presenting a lot of "blablabla" about the literature and stuff).

What would be a suitable tense to do this?

For instance:

I found/ have found/find that [description of findings]


This thesis shows/has shown/showed that [description of findings]

I think you'll get the point. It is basically whether to use the present simple/ present perfect or past simple.

EDIT: My thesis is about the effects of unconventional monetary policy announcements by the Fed on European government bond markets. So w.r.t. to the comment of C26 below, it is something happened in the past. However, I also examined through which channels these announcements influence government bond markets in the eurozone. So this is more like a process; something that is most likely also true in the future (i.e. when these announcements will occur again).

  • 1
    From the two examples you've provided, I'm actually comfortable with both. Anything you did leading to your thesis is past tense, but anything your thesis demonstrates, i.e. your thesis shows that underwater basket weaving is still relevant (active finding, still valid in the present). Just putting it out there that trying to conform to a single tense can sometimes not feel quite right.
    – Compass
    Jan 23 '17 at 18:18

I think it really depends on what the research shows. If the research demonstrates a process that is ongoing, or straddles multiple timelines/periods, you can go with "the research shows that". However, if it is related to something that happened squarely in the past, you can use the past only.

I personally tend not to use the first person when discussing results of undertaken research, though I have seen it done in all the ways you describe. Really it comes down to what feels most natural and right to you as the author.

  • You are right about that it depends on the research. I will edit my OP with this information.
    – peter
    Jan 23 '17 at 14:50

I recently completed and defended my MA thesis in psychology within the last couple months. I believe that mine was primarily in the "has shown/have found" tense (I apologize, it has been years since I have had to remember tense names.). The only exception was in my method section, where I wrote it all in the past tense ("We ran participants..."). I, personally, avoided the first person where possible as it just felt wrong to me, but I think that it is probably a personal choice, if you are the sole author.

I do not know if that helped. Good luck!


I would avoid the first person. At the start of the thesis, use "This thesis shows that ..." At the end of the thesis, in a summary, use "This thesis has shown that ...". I do not think that the tense you use to describe the thesis depends on the time at which events described in the thesis occurred.

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