Reporting Verbs in Summaries and Literature Reviews

The bolded words are what are known as reporting verbs.  

Thomas (1997) states that the consecutive overtime scheduled would worsening the working situation and be less productively.

Research on social psychology shows that anticipated emotions are diverse (Steel, 2009).

Thompson (2014) and Rich (2015) maintain that hit songs become popular quickly but are with short longevity.

Note how the writer of the sentences above uses different forms to refer to outside sources. There are three different patterns. Can you identify them?



A third pattern usually does not include the reporting verb but adds the phrase “According to Author (date),” before a complete sentence.

According to Gillen and Lefkowitz (2011), there were no clear differences in the weight gain patterns across different racial groups.

These examples use APA style, which is the citation style we will use for this course. What are the two elements included in an in-text citation for APA style?



The primary function of reporting verbs in academic summaries is to report (see R below; Kwon, Staples, & Partridge, 2018). However, reporting verbs can be used for other functions, including to refer to one’s own actions and to generalize. These functions are useful in certain contexts (e.g., to state the purpose of an essay), but again are not as common as the reporting function. In general, if you decide not to use the reporting function, you should think about your rhetorical purpose for doing so.

Functions of Reporting Verbs

Reporting verbs  Student RV Examples
Report: (R): introduces information from an outside source (suggests feeling/stance towards information). Research on social psychology shows that anticipated emotions are diverse (Steel, 2009).Fast-Food Outlets on Wall Street Journal says that some of these fast-food chain are unhealthy. A study of Feral Cat Population Problem recently, found that the population of feral cat in Chicago fell.
Self-reference (S): present actions, feelings (complete or intended to be completed) by the author. I’ll use this to support my argumentative essay to show the negative effects for young athletes.I smelt my home. I can say that, it is that bowl of noodles. It makes me hungry.After reading these three articles, I found that the results of them is similar in some aspects.
Generalize (G): used to provide feelings or assumptions often without supporting evidence. All males have the right to show themselves as male by dressing their own way.One could say the first violinist sets the tone for the rest of the orchestra.It is not hard to find that college students who are not very friendly with international students.

Reporting verbs also fall into different semantic categories. Although these words are not synonyms, so they should be chosen with care, they do have related meanings. The chart below shows commonly used reporting verbs.

Semantic Categories of Reporting Verbs

Argue Introduces information; suggests feeling (stance) towards the information.   argue, suggest, assert, note, predict, write, explain, conclude, mention, admit, observe, accept, claim, imply, complain, say, add, hypothesize, insist, maintain, propose, remark, reply, speculate, stress, contend, state, report, postulate, acknowledge, posit, talk about (31 types)
Show Display or allow to be perceived, (often through research or action). show, illustrate, indicate, demonstrate, confirm, mean, reveal (7 types)
Find Presents discovery; often used to refer to writers’ own actions. find, realize, observe, discover, establish, infer, recognize, identify, note (9 types)  
Think Provides feelings & assumptions; often used without evidence. think, hold, assume, feel, hope, know (5 types)  

The bolded words in the chart above are words used most commonly by student writers in first year writing. However, many of these words (all but show and find) are more commonly used in speech than in writing (Biber et al., 1999). Again, before using a reporting verb, it is important that you are clear on the definition of the verb and its connotations (e.g., positive, negative, or neutral).

Answer the following questions about reporting verbs in the student samples below:

  1. What are the differences in use of reporting verbs in these samples?
  2. Do you see the same amount of variety in both samples?
  3. Do you think these verbs are used more commonly in speech or writing?
  4. What semantic categories are used most frequently?
  5. What functions are used?
  6. What verb tense is used? Do the verb tenses change in the same paragraph? Do you think that’s okay?

Student Samples:

Sample 1

For the first reference, I chose the article titled “Humor-an empowerment tool for the 1990s” by Jacqueline Miller, because it explains about the importance of humor and how laughter benefits people in various ways in different situations. Miller (1996) claims, “We all know yet seem to deny…fun, joy, laughter, and play are empowering tools (p.16). (This statement appeared on the introduction page is matching with my research question, and I highly agree with this idea.) This article says that by having humors in the workplace promote the good relationships between workers; Bolsta states, “Is one in which people are honest, cooperative and genuine with each other and enjoy being on the same team”(1,p.78) (This part furthered my understanding on how laughter benefits the workplace.) Furthermore, this article shows how laughter relieves stress, fosters creativity and rapid learning, and improves interpersonal skills, (which are the advantages of laughter that I’ve been wanting to learn more in order to use in argumentative essay to show various benefits of humor). Lastly, this article states that having a positive self-image of ourselves lead to a positive self-image, and by finding an inner child and funny moments in our lives can put some happiness and joy in our lives.

Sample 2

The second reference “Did you Hear the one About the Boolean Operators? Incorporating Comedy Into library Instruction,” written by Kristin Trefts and Sarah Blakeslee, talks about how they are going to incorporate humor into their library instruction. The reason why I chose this article was that this article shows the importance of humor in learning, and I thought I would make fine arguments later in my argumentative essay for valuing laughter, talking about its effect in education. In the article, authors, who are librarians, talk about the power of humor and laughter particularly in education and try to cast humor onto their library instruction to prevent people from getting dull. Thus, they analyze and study humorous stories and try to apply those to their instructions. In order to learn more about humor, they went to a workshop and realized the difference between ordinary people, fog people and comedians, comedy people. Trefts and Blackeslee (2000) found “Comedy People, the ones that can make people laugh, have both a sense of funny and a sense of humor. The Fog People only have a sense of humor.”(p.372). Then, the article they introduce the HO measurement and talk about some ways they could incorporate comedy into library instructions and classes. By reading this article, I could realize again how precious humor is in learning, and worthy of being studied, analyzed and so on. Also, I could see a realistic situation where humor is required and producing fruitful outcomes as a result. One of my examples on my previous essay was having a humor friend in my SAT class. With him, students could focus and study more productively, and without him students often fell asleep and had hard time focusing. My example is strongly related to the idea presented in this article, which is laughter improving the education.