Reporting Verbs for Sport & Exercise Science


One of the key aspects of academic writing is that the content is informed by what is already known - it needs to refer to purposefully chosen sources and integrate them appropriately within the writer's own narrative, There are a number of skills that are needed to be able to do this well and they include the ability to locate and choose good sources of information, the ability to use a referencing system appropriately and the ability to choose and use reporting verbs.

A reporting verb is a word which is used to talk about or report on other people's work, they are the connection between your own narrative and the work that has gone before (see image below). Used well, they can improve the standard of your written work, making it more readable but also demonstrating a better understanding of the subject area and allowing the writer to present a better critique of the topic. For an example of how a greater engagement with reporting verbs can help structure an argument see the Academic Phrasebank page on "Referring to Sources".

Those new to academic writing will often benefit from expanding their toolkit of reporting verbs so that they avoid overusing the same phrases. It's also important to understand the different ways in which they are used so that communication can be improved as well as the strength and depth of arguments in the submitted work.

This page contains many examples of reporting verbs, explains how they are used and has some study tasks and further reading.

Image from Sylvester et al (2014), see example below for full reference

Function and strength

Although reporting verbs can often look rather inconsequential and superficial they're an important element of the story that you're trying to tell. They give the reader a sense of the type of information that you are reporting and also the strength of conviction or weight of evidence that is being put forwards by the author that you are citing. The image above shows a few in context.

The following table contains examples of reporting verbs that have been arranged according to their function and the strength with which they convey the knowledge.

adapted from a resource from The University of Adelaide

Categorised by surrounding text

This table contains more examples of reporting verbs, this time they're arranged according to the way that they fit into a sentence.

Verbs followed by a preposition

defines x as y

alerts x to y

compares x to y

objects to x

subscribes to x

challenges x to do y

exhorts x to do y

forbids x to do y

warns x to do y

apologises for x

blames x for y

criticises x for y

confuses x with y

contrasts x with y

disagrees with x

concurs with x

accuses x of y

warns x of

Verbs followed by a noun or –ing form

Verbs followed by ‘that’

analyses, applauds, appraises, assesses, attacks, considers, contradicts, critiques, debates, describes, discards, disclaims, discounts, discusses, dismisses, disregards, evaluates, examines, explores, expresses, extols, forbids, highlights, identifies, ignores, illustrates, investigates, justifies, lists, opposes, outlines, praises, presents, questions, refutes, rejects, restates, scrutinises, studies, supports, underscores, uses,

accepts, acknowledges, adds, admits, advises, advocates, agrees, alerts, alleges, announces, argues, articulates, asserts, assures, believes, boasts, claims, clarifies, comments, complains, concedes, concludes, confirms, feels, finds, forgets, guarantees, guesses, hopes, hypothesises, imagines, implies, indicates, infers, informs, insists, justifies, knows, maintains, notes, observes, persuades, points out, posits, postulates, promises, proposes, proves, questions, realises, reasons, reasons, recognises, recommends, remarks, reminds, reports, reveals, shows, speculates, states, stresses, suggests, suspects, tells, theorises, thinks, understands, urges, warns

adapted from a resource from The University of Adelaide

Explaining ideas or reporting data?

As we can see from the tables above not all reporting verbs are used in the same way. Reporting verbs can also be categorised into those that are used to explain ideas or concepts and those that are used to directly report data. It's important to be aware of this distinction as it helps to show that you understand the context of the information that you are reporting.

Have a look through the following list and decide which of those two categories each one is best placed.

  • Largo et al (2015) summarise that......
  • White (2003) also suggest that....
  • Greene et al (2010) stated that....
  • Silva (2009) showed that...
  • Drax (2003) also reported that...
  • Klebb (2015) found that...
  • Le Chiffre (2008) explains that...
  • Scaramanga et al (2014) also claimed that...
  • Blofeld et al (2007) acknowledges that

Linking phrases

Having good linking phrases in your writing toolkit will enable you to integrate the findings of others into your own work but can also help to formulate a narrative that will start to look like that elusive critical analysis that tutors keep banging on about. Some examples include:

  • This is supported by …
  • … amongst others, reports that …
  • Another perspective is given by
  • In one paper...(Name, Year). However/Whereas in another…(Name, Year)
  • A similar … is expressed by …
  • On the other hand, …
  • Similarly, …
  • However, contemporary research shows that …(Name, Year)
  • However, contemporary opinion is that … (Name,Year)
  • These findings are verified by …
  • … (Author, Year) clarifies this: …
  • Alternatively, …

For more examples of linking phrases see this Birmingham City University Resource

Examples from journal articles

Example 1:

This is in contrast to the findings of Proper, Cerin, Brown, and Owen (2007)

Strain T, Kelly P, Mutrie N, et al (2017) Differences by age and sex in the sedentary time of adults in Scotland Differences by age and sex in the sedentary time of adults in Scotland. J Sports Sci 0:1–10. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2017.1339904

Example 2:

Blair et al. (1995) suggest that Type 2 diabetes patients find themselves with a two- to four-fold higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared with individuals without diabetes…..

Alam et al. (2004) investigated supervised and unsupervised exercise in patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for a minimum of 8 years…..

A meta-analysis of exercise interventions (Boule, Haddad, Kenny, Wells & Sigal, 2001) concluded improved glycosylated haemoglobin was mediated by exercise….

Using disposition index as a measure of b-cell function, Slentz et al. (2009) found moderate-intensity exercise training improved disposition index significantly more so than……

While the benefits of exercise compared with no exercise in diabetes patients has been recognized (Alam et al., 2004; Dunstan et al., 2002; Goldhaber-Fiebert et al., 2003), further research investigating the effects of unsupported and supported exercise programmes is needed to….

Backx K, McCann A, Wasley D, et al (2011) The effect of a supported exercise programme in patients with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes: a pilot study. J Sports Sci 29:579–86. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2010.544666

Example 3:

Variety has been previously examined as a feature of the activity or environment (e.g., Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013); however, the experience of variety….

Juvancic-Heltzel and col- leagues (2013) found that providing people with the opportunity to experience more variety

Conceptualizing variety as an antecedent of intrinsic motivation has been highlighted by researchers in organizational psychology through the job characteristics model described by Hackman and Oldham (1975). Hackman and Oldham illustrated that the extent to which a person experiences different activities and uses multiple skills and….

In their review on the pursuit of varied experiences, Kahn and Ratner (2005) called for researchers to move beyond piecemeal atheoretical approaches, by…

Within SDT, Deci and Ryan (1985, 2008) contend that the degree to which people experience satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy supports (or restricts) subsequent autonomous motivation and persistence in behavior. However, Sheldon (2011) highlighted that the three basic psychological needs advanced within SDT are perhaps an incomplete subset of psychosocial experiences…

In a recent study, Sylvester et al. (2014) found that in the context of exercise, perceived variety in exercise is an empirically distinct psychological experience from…

Overall, autonomous motivation involves a higher degree of internalization than controlled motivation; Ryan and Deci (2002) postulate that autonomous (but not controlled) forms of motivation will result…

Sylvester BD, Crocker PRE, Beauchamp MR, et al (2014) Is variety a spice of (an active) life?: Perceived variety, exercise behavior, and the mediating role of autonomous motivation. J Sport Exerc Psychol 36:516–527. doi: 10.1123/jsep.2014-0102

Study tasks

Study Task 1: Locate a journal article that uses a similar referencing style to the one you should be using. Work your way through it highlighting reporting verbs and considering how they have been used.

Study Task 2: Imagine you were the author and that you needed to change a particular reporting verb as you felt it was being overused. What alternatives could you use for some of the examples found in task 1?

Recommended resources

Birmingham City University Resource - contains good examples and a consideration of tense within reporting verbs

University of Edinburgh - Grammar for Academic Writing - a 94 page independent study workbook

Academic Phrasebank - Referring to Soruces - Lots of examples from a website that should be a constant companion for those new to academic writing

University of Adelaide - Reporting verbs

Warwick University - Sound, concise advice on using reporting verbs

Writing paragraphs that achieve the best grades - another page on

Writing Lab reports - another page on

Writing an introduction - From The University of New England

Writing a Conclusion -From The University of New England

Writing for science - From The University of Leicester

Writing Academically - From The University of Reading