English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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English: skills for learning

5 Reporting information from sources

As you saw in Week 2, academic writers follow some very specific conventions when they acknowledge ideas and information taken from sources. One of these conventions requires them to include in their texts the names of other authors and their ideas. One way to acknowledge an author is to use an in-text citation. This is done through the use of a range of verbs called reporting verbs.

These verbs are used to report what other authors have said. However, rather than the informal verb ‘say’, a range of other more formal verbs are used, as in these examples:

  • Zeist (1983) reported a greater degree of job satisfaction...

  • Kerr et al. (1974) observed that rule oriented structure adversely affects employee satisfaction.

As you can see, both these phrases include the name of the author and the date their work was published. This is followed by the reporting verb and the information taken from another source.

Tables 4 and 5 below show that two patterns are normally followed.

Table 4 illustrates pattern 1. As you can see, the reporting verb is followed by a noun. Only a small number of verbs can be used in this way. The tense used can be the present (identifies) or the past (identified). The use of the past tense highlights the fact that information and ideas were published sometime in the past, while the use of the present tense focuses more on the fact that these ideas are still valid and useful.

Table 4 Pattern 1

Author Reporting verb Noun (thing or idea being reported)
Pears (2009)





three possible strategies.

Table 5 illustrates pattern 2. As you can see, the reporting verb is followed by ‘that’ and by a sentence describing the idea or information being reported. A larger number of verbs can be used to report information in this way. Again, the tense used can be the present (states) or the past (stated).

Table 5 Pattern 2

Author reporting verb + that

Sentence describing the idea/information reported


Phillips (1974)

observed that

argued that

found that

states that

explained that

children learn through play.

Alternatively, information can be reported using the phrase ‘according to’ as shown in Table 6.

Table 6 Using ‘according to’

According to Author (date)

Sentence describing the idea/information reported


According to Phillips (1974) children learn through play.

Table 7 shows a pattern often used when reporting a definition.

Table 7 Reporting a definition

Author (date) defines ... as + definition
Preston (2012) defines autonomy as ‘the extent to which the job allows the employee to exercise choice in their work’.

Activity 10

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