Reporting verbs are used to summarise and report other writers’ ideas. However, some verbs signal a particular attitude/strength, which is connected to their meaning.
e.g. Johnson (2016) assumes / argues that social media advertising campaigns may influence the political choices of American citizens.
In both cases the verbs have a general meaning of believe. However, the verb assume (meaning: suppose to be the case, without proof) is not as strong as the verb argue (meaning: give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea). Therefore, by choosing the right verb, you can be more precise in expressing the ideas from the source.
In addition, reporting verbs tell the reader your perspective on what the other author found/says.
e.g. Johnson (2016) claims / argues that social media advertising campaigns may influence the political choices of American citizens.
In this example, claim as a reporting verb is used to indicate that you understand that it is Johnson’s opinion, possibly without strong evidence to support it. In a way, you are giving your opinion on Johnson’s argument, indicating how sure you are about it.
Using argue, on the other hand, would make your readers think that you have good reason to believe Johnson’s argument/evidence. In other words, you can show whether you agree or disagree with an author by choosing the right reporting verb.
Task: Let’s have a look at the strength of some reporting verbs. Can you put them in the right group (strong, neutral or weak) based on what you know about their meaning?
Task adapted from: EAPFoundation.Com., (2020). Reporting Verbs [online]. EAPFoundation.Com. [Viewed 9 September 2020]. Available from: https://www.eapfoundation.com/writing/references/reporting/
Task: Select the best word based on the description and example sentence.