Exercise 4: Present Simple or Present Perfect

For this short essay, choose if a verb should be in the present simple or the present perfect and think about why that is the best tense to use in that situation.



University essays which typically receive high marks are well researched, flow in a logical, clear, grammatical manner, and are analytical. It is impossible to write an academic essay without doing adequate research and reading first. The information acquired must then be analysed and ordered, and each theme must be written up as a paragraph. Finally, to demonstrate the student's level of understanding of the material, evidence of combining a range of ideas, with the appropriate referencing details, needs to be included.

Content of the introductory paragraph

An essay always opens with an introductory paragraph, which, like the one above, sets the scene. Besides containing background or explanatory information, it needs to include a central thesis, outline key areas that the essay will address and give a statement of purpose. The introductory paragraph often opens with a very big, 'global' sentence and then limits the essay focus with a more specific statement (Oshima & Hogue, 1983). Any brief definitions might also be included here, or they may form the next paragraph.

Role of the body paragraphs

The body paragraphs need to be clearly related to the main point and, of course, the essay topic. There should only be one theme in each paragraph. One way of doing this is to start each paragraph with a topic sentence. As exemplified by Oshima and Hogue (1983), the whole content of the paragraph must link to this specific topic. This should make it easier to decide what supporting material goes into the paragraph and what does not.

Features of an academic essay

In traditional academic essays, it is important to be and to sound objective. There are three ways of achieving this. Firstly, it is vital to identify the origin / source of the information. If quotes are given, then quotation marks must be used and the author's name, the year of publication and the page number of the quote must also be included. If paraphrasing is used, i.e. the student has rewritten the author's original text in their own words, then only the author's surname and year need to be included. If a brief summary is used or a general idea is taken from an author, then the in-text reference still requires the author's surname and the year of their publication. Secondly, the use of pronouns such as I, you, we and our should be minimized in essays for most subjects. Thirdly, emotive and unqualified adjectives should be avoided, but the use of a range of verbs and tenses that indicate an understanding of what the student has read and written about within the context of the essay is important.

Synthesising the ideas of others

The critical, and perhaps most difficult, part of the essay is the analysis. This is where the student writer highlights similarities or differences between authors. It may require comparing and contrasting the research approach; it may require identifying the advantages and disadvantages of a particular method; or it may highlight how similar research can be interpreted differently and other conclusions drawn. In brief, this is the section where ideas from different sources are blended together and synthesised.


The final paragraph of the essay forms the conclusion. It must focus the major points that have been made in the middle paragraphs back to the essay topic and to the key points outlined in the introductory paragraph. A concluding or summarising statement completes the essay.