Impressive Verbs to use in your Research Paper

By Archana Choudhary, MSc, Aerospace Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Let us look at the general process to write a successful paper. You have done the research, agreed that you are going to write a paper to tell your findings, and planned your manuscript.

That sounds like the correct process, but doesn’t exactly sound right. Let us try again.

You have performed the research, decided to publish a paper to report your findings, and structured your manuscript.

Both sentences convey the same meaning, but the second one clearly does so more effectively. Why?

The secret to a great article is not only the pioneering concepts you report and the way you structure them. As shown in the simple example above, the language you utilise in your paper is a significant factor in how impactful your paper is. Needless to say, the language must be formal and academic, and the terminology must be appropriate for your field of study. However, for a paper to be truly outstanding, it is essential that the points are articulated intelligently and succinctly. A vital tool for this is the effective use of verbs. Research papers often involve the description of processes and methodologies, which makes it even more important for the specific action word to be used. This article provides recommendations on how you can select suitable verbs for your writing project.

First, let us briefly review what verbs are. A verb is one of the most important parts of a sentence, and indicates an action, or a state of being. The boldfaced words in the previous sentence are verbs. More often than not, it is impossible for a sentence to be constructed without a verb. Moreover, there are many kinds of verbs, such as action verbs (that express specific actions), auxiliary verbs (helping verbs that show a verb’s tense or if the verb is positive or negative), and modal verbs (auxiliary verbs that express abilities). 

The following section lists certain verbs that are useful in academic writing, especially, in research papers. It also includes easy tips you can employ while selecting your verbs.

Purpose Verbs
To show analysis analyse, appraise, define, diagnose, explore, identify, investigate, observe
To summarize assess, conclude, feature, highlight
To indicate control (to be stable or to maintain at a level) constrain, control, govern, influence, inhibit, limit, maintain, prohibit, regulate, secure
To discuss findings attest, confirm, contend, demonstrate,document, indicate, reveal
To state comment, convey, elaborate, establish,identify, propose
To show increase advance, development, enlarge, exceed, extend, facilitate, improve,increment, maximize
To show decrease alleviate, cease, decline, depress, descent, deteriorate, minimize, subside, reduce
To show change alter, accommodate, difference, evolve, fluctuate, generate, transform, transition, vary
To indicate information in a figure depict, display, illustrate, portray, reveal
To indicate information in a table classify, enumerate, gives, lists, presents, summarizes
To stress that a task has been performed in-depth adequately, comprehensively, exhaustively, extensively, thoroughly
To show parts comprises, compose of, constitutes, encompasses,includes, incorporates
To indicate negative stand challenge, contradict, disagree, dispute, reject, question
To indicate positive stand confirm, compliment, corroborate, substantiate, support, uphold, validate, verify
To show approximation approximate, estimate, resemble, predict
  • The verbs listed under each category are NOT synonyms and are different based on context. Please ensure that the selected verb conveys your intended meaning.
Please be sure to use the American (analyze) or British (analyse) English version of the word based on your language of choice.

Tip 1: Phrasal verbs
It is human nature to write the way we think or speak of a certain thing. These constitute phrasal verbs, such as “find out”, “break down,” “put up,” or “warm up.” Substitute them with more formal counterparts, such as “discover”, “disintegrate,” “assemble,” and “heat.”

Tip 2: Extraordinarily remarkable versus impressive
The aim is to use formal words. However, the meaning should not be overpowered by complicated words. Use powerful, but clear words.

Tip 3: Adverbs
Although not verbs, the adverbs you select also decide how effective your verbs are. Avoid the use of “very” or “quickly”. Use formal substitutes like “substantially” or “rapidly”.

Tip 4: Reporting verbs
In academic writing, it is important to use the correct tone. Often, we want to report a finding strongly, while other times, adopting a tentative or neutral tone is better. In such cases, carefully select the reporting verb based on your intention. Some examples are: tentative (hypothesise, imply, suggest), neutral (note, interpret, discuss, reflect, observe), strong (establish, disregard, highlight, recommend).

Tip 5: Don’t Do not use contractions
Avoid the use of contractions such as “isn’t,” “won’t,” or, as striked in the subheading, “don’t.” This makes your language look informal. Use expanded forms, such as “is not”, “will not,” or “do not.”


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