I am writing an undergraduate dissertation. I am not quite sure what tenses should I use when introducing a chapter and summarizing it. Should I refer to that chapter in present, future or past tenses. E.g.


This chapter provides information about the research methods used in the project. Before conducting a series of experiments to explore and evaluate machine learning methods, it was needed to decide on how are these algorithms are going to be implemented and evaluated.


In this chapter reasoning behind a chosen programming language and machine learning library used was provided. It was also described how image classifiers that uses machine learning algorithms are going to be built. Finally, methods for evaluating the performance of classification algorithms were discussed and accuracy score was picked as the main method for performance evaluation. In the following chapter, accumulation of a food image dataset is going to be discussed.

Also, if I use an introduction in one of the chapters of the dissertation, must I also include that heading in all the chapters. Some of the chapters are long so they must have intro, but there are some that are very straightforward, so I am not sure weather it is needed.

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    What you showed us in the quotes looks good. // I like chapter titles AND section headers. You could let the introduction be a section within a chapter. You might want to number the sections like this: 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 4.1, 4.2. Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 5:41
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    Passive voice was used to extremes. Awkward the language was made. (It really is okay to admit that the authors exist, honest.)
    – JeffE
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 5:42
  • @JeffE Good point. I was only focusing on the present vs. the past tenses. Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 5:42
  • @JeffE I am submitting this work to the university in the UK. They want us to use passive all the time! (don't know why)...
    – Lau
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 12:22

1 Answer 1


Always use the logically correct tense. Present or future for references to later chapters (that's a matter of taste), present for things that will be true at any time in the forseeable future, past for references to past events (e.g. a decision on how to proceed the studies, observation made during your own experiment, summary, where you recount what you did prove twenty pages ago).

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    I agree with this. For the MSc thesis I'm finishing, my supervisor told me to only use the past tense if referring to specific simulations ran. Otherwise, everything else is in the present.
    – ChrisR
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 4:33
  • I think that goes under observations. All observations that were done in the past should be written in the past. Often, past perfect is used for observations that preceded your work, i.e. done by other researchers and you compare their results with yours.
    – BioGeo
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 6:34
  • @BioGeo Reference to earlier work would usually be past progressive, unless your work shows they were wrong, or you are just referencing them for historical completeness (i.e. they are very old, Newton, Einstein or the like).
    – Karl
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:10

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