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How to Write a Research Paper
Writing a research paper is a bit more difficult that a standard high school essay. You need to site sources, use academic data and show scientific examples. Before beginning, you’ll need guidelines for how to write a research paper.
Start the Research Process
Before you begin writing the research paper, you must do your research. It is important that you understand the subject matter, formulate the ideas of your paper, create your thesis statement and learn how to speak about your given topic in an authoritative manner. You’ll be looking through online databases, encyclopedias, almanacs, periodicals, books, newspapers, government publications, reports, guides and scholarly resources. Take notes as you discover new information about your given topic. Also keep track of the references you use so you can build your bibliography later and cite your resources.
Develop Your Thesis Statement
When organizing your research paper, the thesis statement is where you explain to your readers what they can expect, present your claims, answer any questions that you were asked or explain your interpretation of the subject matter you’re researching. Therefore, the thesis statement must be strong and easy to understand. Your thesis statement must also be precise. It should answer the question you were assigned, and there should be an opportunity for your position to be opposed or disputed. The body of your manuscript should support your thesis, and it should be more than a generic fact.
Create an Outline
Many professors require outlines during the research paper writing process. You’ll find that they want outlines set up with a title page, abstract, introduction, research paper body and reference section. The title page is typically made up of the student’s name, the name of the college, the name of the class and the date of the paper. The abstract is a summary of the paper. An introduction typically consists of one or two pages and comments on the subject matter of the research paper. In the body of the research paper, you’ll be breaking it down into materials and methods, results and discussions. Your references are in your bibliography. Use a research paper example to help you with your outline if necessary.
Organize Your Notes
When writing your first draft, you’re going to have to work on organizing your notes first. During this process, you’ll be deciding which references you’ll be putting in your bibliography and which will work best as in-text citations. You’ll be working on this more as you develop your working drafts and look at more white paper examples to help guide you through the process.
Write Your Final Draft
After you’ve written a first and second draft and received corrections from your professor, it’s time to write your final copy. By now, you should have seen an example of a research paper layout and know how to put your paper together. You’ll have your title page, abstract, introduction, thesis statement, in-text citations, footnotes and bibliography complete. Be sure to check with your professor to ensure if you’re writing in APA style, or if you’re using another style guide.
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We Vs. They: Using the First & Third Person in Research Papers
Writing in the first , second , or third person is referred to as the author’s point of view . When we write, our tendency is to personalize the text by writing in the first person . That is, we use pronouns such as “I” and “we”. This is acceptable when writing personal information, a journal, or a book. However, it is not common in academic writing.
Some writers find the use of first , second , or third person point of view a bit confusing while writing research papers . Since second person is avoided while writing in academic or scientific papers, the main confusion remains within first or third person.
In the following sections, we will discuss the usage and examples of the first , second , and third person point of view.
First Person Pronouns
The first person point of view simply means that we use the pronouns that refer to ourselves in the text. These are as follows:
Can we use I or We In the Scientific Paper?
Using these, we present the information based on what “we” found. In science and mathematics, this point of view is rarely used. It is often considered to be somewhat self-serving and arrogant . It is important to remember that when writing your research results, the focus of the communication is the research and not the persons who conducted the research. When you want to persuade the reader, it is best to avoid personal pronouns in academic writing even when it is personal opinion from the authors of the study. In addition to sounding somewhat arrogant, the strength of your findings might be underestimated.
Based on my results, I concluded that A and B did not equal to C.
In this example, the entire meaning of the research could be misconstrued. The results discussed are not those of the author ; they are generated from the experiment. To refer to the results in this context is incorrect and should be avoided. To make it more appropriate, the above sentence can be revised as follows:
Based on the results of the assay, A and B did not equal to C.
Second Person Pronouns
The second person point of view uses pronouns that refer to the reader. These are as follows:
This point of view is usually used in the context of providing instructions or advice , such as in “how to” manuals or recipe books. The reason behind using the second person is to engage the reader.
You will want to buy a turkey that is large enough to feed your extended family. Before cooking it, you must wash it first thoroughly with cold water.
Although this is a good technique for giving instructions, it is not appropriate in academic or scientific writing.
Third Person Pronouns
The third person point of view uses both proper nouns, such as a person’s name, and pronouns that refer to individuals or groups (e.g., doctors, researchers) but not directly to the reader. The ones that refer to individuals are as follows:
- Hers (possessive form)
- His (possessive form)
- Its (possessive form)
- One’s (possessive form)
The third person point of view that refers to groups include the following:
- Their (possessive form)
- Theirs (plural possessive form)
Everyone at the convention was interested in what Dr. Johnson presented. The instructors decided that the students should help pay for lab supplies. The researchers determined that there was not enough sample material to conduct the assay.
The third person point of view is generally used in scientific papers but, at times, the format can be difficult. We use indefinite pronouns to refer back to the subject but must avoid using masculine or feminine terminology. For example:
A researcher must ensure that he has enough material for his experiment. The nurse must ensure that she has a large enough blood sample for her assay.
Many authors attempt to resolve this issue by using “he or she” or “him or her,” but this gets cumbersome and too many of these can distract the reader. For example:
A researcher must ensure that he or she has enough material for his or her experiment. The nurse must ensure that he or she has a large enough blood sample for his or her assay.
These issues can easily be resolved by making the subjects plural as follows:
Researchers must ensure that they have enough material for their experiment. Nurses must ensure that they have large enough blood samples for their assay.
Exceptions to the Rules
As mentioned earlier, the third person is generally used in scientific writing, but the rules are not quite as stringent anymore. It is now acceptable to use both the first and third person pronouns in some contexts, but this is still under controversy.
In a February 2011 blog on Eloquent Science , Professor David M. Schultz presented several opinions on whether the author viewpoints differed. However, there appeared to be no consensus. Some believed that the old rules should stand to avoid subjectivity, while others believed that if the facts were valid, it didn’t matter which point of view was used.
First or Third Person: What Do The Journals Say
In general, it is acceptable in to use the first person point of view in abstracts, introductions, discussions, and conclusions, in some journals. Even then, avoid using “I” in these sections. Instead, use “we” to refer to the group of researchers that were part of the study. The third person point of view is used for writing methods and results sections. Consistency is the key and switching from one point of view to another within sections of a manuscript can be distracting and is discouraged. It is best to always check your author guidelines for that particular journal. Once that is done, make sure your manuscript is free from the above-mentioned or any other grammatical error.
You are the only researcher involved in your thesis project. You want to avoid using the first person point of view throughout, but there are no other researchers on the project so the pronoun “we” would not be appropriate. What do you do and why? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
I am writing the history of an engineering company for which I worked. How do I relate a significant incident that involved me?
Hi Roger, Thank you for your question. If you are narrating the history for the company that you worked at, you would have to refer to it from an employee’s perspective (third person). If you are writing the history as an account of your experiences with the company (including the significant incident), you could refer to yourself as ”I” or ”My.” (first person) You could go through other articles related to language and grammar on Enago Academy’s website https://enago.com/academy/ to help you with your document drafting. Did you get a chance to install our free Mobile App? https://www.enago.com/academy/mobile-app/ . Make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter: https://www.enago.com/academy/subscribe-now/ .
Good day , i am writing a research paper and m y setting is a company . is it ethical to put the name of the company in the research paper . i the management has allowed me to conduct my research in thir company .
thanks docarlene diaz
Generally authors do not mention the names of the organization separately within the research paper. The name of the educational institution the researcher or the PhD student is working in needs to be mentioned along with the name in the list of authors. However, if the research has been carried out in a company, it might not be mandatory to mention the name after the name in the list of authors. You can check with the author guidelines of your target journal and if needed confirm with the editor of the journal. Also check with the mangement of the company whether they want the name of the company to be mentioned in the research paper.
Finishing up my dissertation the information is clear and concise.
How to write the right first person pronoun if there is a single researcher? Thanks
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Can You Use First-Person Pronouns (I/we) in a Research Paper?
Research writers frequently wonder whether the first person can be used in academic and scientific writing. In truth, for generations, we’ve been discouraged from using “I” and “we” in academic writing simply due to old habits. That’s right—there’s no reason why you can’t use these words! In fact, the academic community used first-person pronouns until the 1920s, when the third person and passive-voice constructions (that is, “boring” writing) were adopted–prominently expressed, for example, in Strunk and White’s classic writing manual “Elements of Style” first published in 1918, that advised writers to place themselves “in the background” and not draw attention to themselves.
In recent decades, however, changing attitudes about the first person in academic writing has led to a paradigm shift, and we have, however, we’ve shifted back to producing active and engaging prose that incorporates the first person.
Can You Use “I” in a Research Paper?
However, “I” and “we” still have some generally accepted pronoun rules writers should follow. For example, the first person is more likely used in the abstract , Introduction section , Discussion section , and Conclusion section of an academic paper while the third person and passive constructions are found in the Methods section and Results section .
In this article, we discuss when you should avoid personal pronouns and when they may enhance your writing.
It’s Okay to Use First-Person Pronouns to:
- clarify meaning by eliminating passive voice constructions;
- establish authority and credibility (e.g., assert ethos, the Aristotelian rhetorical term referring to the personal character);
- express interest in a subject matter (typically found in rapid correspondence);
- establish personal connections with readers, particularly regarding anecdotal or hypothetical situations (common in philosophy, religion, and similar fields, particularly to explore how certain concepts might impact personal life. Additionally, artistic disciplines may also encourage personal perspectives more than other subjects);
- to emphasize or distinguish your perspective while discussing existing literature; and
- to create a conversational tone (rare in academic writing).
The First Person Should Be Avoided When:
- doing so would remove objectivity and give the impression that results or observations are unique to your perspective;
- you wish to maintain an objective tone that would suggest your study minimized biases as best as possible; and
- expressing your thoughts generally (phrases like “I think” are unnecessary because any statement that isn’t cited should be yours).
The following examples compare the impact of using and avoiding first-person pronouns.
Example 1 (First Person Preferred):
To understand the effects of global warming on coastal regions, changes in sea levels, storm surge occurrences and precipitation amounts were examined .
[Note: When a long phrase acts as the subject of a passive-voice construction, the sentence becomes difficult to digest. Additionally, since the author(s) conducted the research, it would be clearer to specifically mention them when discussing the focus of a project.]
We examined changes in sea levels, storm surge occurrences, and precipitation amounts to understand how global warming impacts coastal regions.
[Note: When describing the focus of a research project, authors often replace “we” with phrases such as “this study” or “this paper.” “We,” however, is acceptable in this context, including for scientific disciplines. In fact, papers published the vast majority of scientific journals these days use “we” to establish an active voice. Be careful when using “this study” or “this paper” with verbs that clearly couldn’t have performed the action. For example, “we attempt to demonstrate” works, but “the study attempts to demonstrate” does not; the study is not a person.]
Example 2 (First Person Discouraged):
From the various data points we have received , we observed that higher frequencies of runoffs from heavy rainfall have occurred in coastal regions where temperatures have increased by at least 0.9°C.
[Note: Introducing personal pronouns when discussing results raises questions regarding the reproducibility of a study. However, mathematics fields generally tolerate phrases such as “in X example, we see…”]
Coastal regions with temperature increases averaging more than 0.9°C experienced higher frequencies of runoffs from heavy rainfall.
[Note: We removed the passive voice and maintained objectivity and assertiveness by specifically identifying the cause-and-effect elements as the actor and recipient of the main action verb. Additionally, in this version, the results appear independent of any person’s perspective.]
Example 3 (First Person Preferred):
In contrast to the study by Jones et al. (2001), which suggests that milk consumption is safe for adults, the Miller study (2005) revealed the potential hazards of ingesting milk. The authors confirm this latter finding.
[Note: “Authors” in the last sentence above is unclear. Does the term refer to Jones et al., Miller, or the authors of the current paper?]
In contrast to the study by Jones et al. (2001), which suggests that milk consumption is safe for adults, the Miller study (2005) revealed the potential hazards of ingesting milk. We confirm this latter finding.
[Note: By using “we,” this sentence clarifies the actor and emphasizes the significance of the recent findings reported in this paper. Indeed, “I” and “we” are acceptable in most scientific fields to compare an author’s works with other researchers’ publications. The APA encourages using personal pronouns for this context. The social sciences broaden this scope to allow discussion of personal perspectives, irrespective of comparisons to other literature.]
Other Tips about Using Personal Pronouns
- Avoid starting a sentence with personal pronouns. The beginning of a sentence is a noticeable position that draws readers’ attention. Thus, using personal pronouns as the first one or two words of a sentence will draw unnecessary attention to them (unless, of course, that was your intent).
- Be careful how you define “we.” It should only refer to the authors and never the audience unless your intention is to write a conversational piece rather than a scholarly document! After all, the readers were not involved in analyzing or formulating the conclusions presented in your paper (although, we note that the point of your paper is to persuade readers to reach the same conclusions you did). While this is not a hard-and-fast rule, if you do want to use “we” to refer to a larger class of people, clearly define the term “we” in the sentence. For example, “As researchers, we frequently question…”
- First-person writing is becoming more acceptable under Modern English usage standards; however, the second-person pronoun “you” is still generally unacceptable because it is too casual for academic writing.
- Take all of the above notes with a grain of salt. That is, double-check your institution or target journal’s author guidelines . Some organizations may prohibit the use of personal pronouns.
- As an extra tip, before submission, you should always read through the most recent issues of a journal to get a better sense of the editors’ preferred writing styles and conventions.
For more general advice on how to use active and passive voice in research papers, on how to paraphrase , or for a list of useful phrases for academic writing , head over to the Wordvice Academic Resources pages . And for more professional proofreading services , visit our Academic Editing and P aper Editing Services pages.
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How to Write a Research Paper in the Third Person
The point of view you write in affects how readers react to your ideas. When writing a research paper, avoid using first person words like "I" and "we," and second person point of view using "you," because they generally create less formal language. Although personal essays, lab experiments or survey results sections of papers may use some first person language, third person point of view most often gets used in formal academic writing and when referencing other people's work in order to lend integrity to the ideas.
Point of View Definitions
Third person uses nouns like people and pronouns such as he, she, they, it, his, her, their, its, him and them. Third person writing means writing about others rather than yourself or your reader, as in the sentence, Harrison (2014) explained the findings in detail.
Using Third Person
Maintaining third person point of view requires explaining ideas without direct references to yourself or your readers. For instance, to explain personal research results in third person, write I determined, rather than the research indicated. Sometimes papers may use first person language when recounting a study the writer conducted, but even then, third person creates more formality. When explaining information gathered from outside resources, always use third person language, such as Harris (2014) discovered similar consequences of active duty.
- Aims Community College: Point of View in Writing
- APA Style: Use of First Person in APA Style
- Purdue University: Style, Genre & Writing
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.
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Can I Use First Person In a Research Paper? (Quick Answer)
by Antony W
July 6, 2022
High school teachers, college tutors, and university professors often frown assignments that include personal pronouns. That’s so because writing in first, second, or third person demonstrates an author’s point of view, which, in many cases, tends to be unacceptable.
With the exception of college admission essays , personal statements , and persuasive essays , the use of personal pronoun in academic writing is something you should avoid completely.
One of the questions we get a lot at Help for Assessment is can I use first person in a research paper?
We understand how difficult choosing the right language for research paper writing can be, particularly because there are many language rules that you need to observe. So our goal with this guide is to help you learn more about personal pronouns in research paper.
By the time you finish reading this article, you will have a very clear picture on the issue of using first person in your research paper assignment.
What’s First Person Pronoun?
In written and spoken communication, the use of first person pronoun refers to incorporating text that refers to oneself in an assignment. The reference can be in singular or plural form. First person singular include “I”, “Me”, “Mine”, and “My” and first person plural are “we”, “us”, “our”, and “ours”.
Can I Use First Person in a Research Paper?
The use of first person in a research paper indicates presentation of information based on what you’ve found from your research.
Unfortunately, you can’t and shouldn’t use first person pronoun in your research assignment. From a scientific and mathematical standpoint, the pronoun presents you to your target audience as a self-serving and arrogant person.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a research paper is to provide a comprehensive analysis and response to the research question . The focus is therefore on the research, not the person conducting the research.
We understand that you might want to persuade readers to consider a certain aspect of your research, especially if it’s a personal opinion you want to give. However, you can do so without necessarily sounding personal.
Another reason why it’s a bad idea to use first person pronouns in your research paper is that they to make your overall assignment. Precisely, the first person pronoun can easily underestimate the findings of your research as readers might wonder whether you based your conclusions on facts or just personal opinions.
What’s Second Person Pronoun?
The second person pronoun is any word that refers to the reader. These pronouns are “you”, “your”, and “yours”.
This point of view is helpful in the context of providing advice, guides, and tutorials to a given audience.
For example, students searching for programming assignment help online will often land on written and video tutorials that use the second person point of view to give direction on setting up projects and writing code.
Using, the goal of using the second person point of view is to engage an audience to a discussion or a guide, and it tends to serve its purpose quite well.
Can I Use Second Person Pronoun in a Research Paper?
The problem with the second person pronoun is that it gives instructions to an audience, which means it’s not quite effective in academic writing. As such, you should not use the second person pronoun in your research paper.
What’s Third Person Pronoun?
This point of view can use pronouns of individuals or groups or a person’s name. Words such as “he”, “she”, and “one” refers to individuals and words such as “everyone”, “they” and “them” refer to a group of people.
Can I Use Third Person Pronoun in a Research Paper?
The third person pronoun is usually the most appropriate option to use in scientific paper. However, you need to be very careful with how you integrate them in your writing.
First, you have to use indefinite pronoun to refer back to the subject. Second, you should avoid using feminine or masculine terminologies when using third person point of view. So instead of using him, her, him, or her in your research paper, make the subject plural.
What are the Exceptions to these Rules?
The argument among academics is that it’s fine to use first person in a research paper. To be precise, you can use the term “I” in the abstract, introduction, discussion, and conclusion in some research papers. However, it’s best to avoid this completely.
If you must use personal pronouns in the assignment, “we” would be the most appropriate.
Also, be careful with how you write the methods and results section. If you must use personal pronouns here, the third person point of view will be most appropriate.
Another important exception that we can’t ignore is the assignment brief. Even if you know certain that personal pronouns are not appropriate in research paper writing, look at the assignment guidelines to figure out what your teacher wants. Your instructor might ask you to use personal pronouns in the assignment, so make sure you don’t skip this part.
When Writing Your Research Paper
The third person point of view, and particularly referring to subjects and entities by their names (or title) is the acceptable option when writing a research paper.
Another important point worth mentioning is that you need to make sure you’re consistent in your writing. Switching from one point of view to another can only make your research paper hard to read since leads to distraction.
Makes sure you check the assignment guideline provided by your teacher to make sure you’re on the right track as far as using first person pronoun in your assignment is concerned.
Get Help with Research Paper Writing
Is your research paper almost due but you haven’t started working on it yet? Or maybe you started but you have other urgent assignments to complete? You can take advantage of our research paper writing service and get professional academic writing help that enables students to score high grades.
It doesn’t matter if your research topic is complicated or you can’t find the right sources for the assignment. We’re here to help.
About the author
Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.
Can you use I in a research paper
In years past, the standard practice in pedagogy was a rejection of the use of I and other first-person pronouns in English language research papers and other academic writing. This position was based on the impression that writers will write with more clarity and objectivity if they avoid self-referencing via the use of I and other first-person words. A good example is the 1918 classic manual by Strunk and White titled “Elements of Style” which had the following advice for students:
“place yourself in the background,” writing “in a way that draws the reader’s attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author.” (70)
According to this traditional view, the ideal rhetorical stance for an academic writer that is undertaking any form of “scientific writing” is to sound dispassionate, impersonal, and (supposedly) unbiased. This doctrine was specifically true for scientific papers where the academic community had in a sense agreed upon that only a passive voice should be used and that the use of personal pronouns should be limited in general, where one avoids using both first person and second person pronouns.
Example of passive voice vs active voice
A: Active voice
– We completed all of the experiments during the second quarter of 2022.
B: Passive voice
– All of the experiments were completed during the second quarter of 2022.
However, in recent times, though some still hold on to the old doctrine of avoiding first-person pronouns, there has been a significant paradigm shift from this rigid position where the strict rules have to some degree been disregarded, and the use of I in research papers has become more widely accepted and practiced all over the world. For the proponents of the use of I and other first-person pronouns in research papers, the old objectivity argument is an illusion that does not exist.
Here is an aggregation of a few expert opinions about whether you can use I in a research paper.
The APA has a long-standing tradition of allowing the use of the first-person pronoun I in its research papers. More specifically, this policy dates as far back as the second edition of the APA Style Manual which was released in 1974 and has persisted to the manual’s seventh edition [section 4.16] introduced in 2019. Information on this policy can also be found in the seventh edition of the “Concise Guide to the APA Style” published in 2020 as well as on the APA website. According to the APA website:
“Many writers believe the ‘no first-person’ myth, which is that writers cannot use first-person pronouns such as “I” or “we” in an APA Style paper. This myth implies that writers must instead refer to themselves in the third person (e.g., as ‘the author’ or ‘the authors’). However, APA Style has no such rule against using first-person pronouns and actually encourages their use to avoid ambiguity in attribution!”
The association goes even further to provide some clarity by stating that:
“When writing an APA Style paper by yourself, use the first-person pronoun “I” to refer to yourself. And use the pronoun “we” when writing an APA Style paper with others.”
The examples below offer even more clarity as to how to use I in an APA research paper.
“I interviewed the participants………”
“I analyzed the data……….”
“My analysis of the data revealed……….”
“Our results showed……..”
In summary, rather than say “The author [third person] interviewed the participants,” the APA allows the use of “I [first person] interviewed the participants.”
The “Advice from the editors” series of the MLA website leaves the use of I in a research paper entirely to the discretion of the writer. The editor in question – Michael Kandel recommends that:
“you [should] not look on the question of using “I” in an academic paper as a matter of a rule to follow, as part of a political agenda (see Webb), or even as the need to create a strategy to avoid falling into Scylla-or-Charybdis error. Let the first-person singular be, instead, a tool that you take out when you think it’s needed and that you leave in the toolbox when you think it’s not.”
Kandel then provides the following examples on when to use and when not to use I in a research paper:
Examples of when I may be necessary
- You are narrating how you made a discovery, and the process of your discovering is important or at the very least entertaining.
- You are describing how you teach something and how your students have responded or respond.
- You disagree with another scholar and want to stress that you are not waving the banner of absolute truth.
- You need I for rhetorical effect, to be clear, simple, or direct.
Examples of when I should not be considered
- It’s off-putting to readers, generally, when I appears too often. You may not feel one bit modest, but remember the advice of Benjamin Franklin, still excellent, on the wisdom of preserving the semblance of modesty when your purpose is to convince others.
- You are the author of your paper, so if an opinion is expressed in it, it is usually clear that this opinion is yours. You don’t have to add a phrase like, “I believe” or “it seems to me.”
“Whether working within scientific disciplines, the social sciences, or the humanities, writers often struggle with how to infuse academic material with a unique, personal “voice.” Many writers have been told by teachers not to use the first-person perspective (indicated by words such as I, we, my, and our) when writing academic papers. However, in certain rhetorical situations, self-references can strengthen our argument and clarify our perspective. Depending on the genre and discipline of the academic paper, there may be some common conventions for use of the first person that the writer should observe.” “In addition to observing conventions for first-person references, writers should ask themselves, “What is my personal investment in this piece of work?” The question of whether or not to mention oneself—to I, or not to I—should be considered within this larger context. Although they are not always necessary or advisable, writers should be aware that self-references and use of a personal voice can potentially strengthen an academic argument, when used sparingly and selectively.”
University of British Columbia
“Academic writing is formal in tone and meant to be objective, using cited sources to support an argument or position. This assumes the focus is not the author, but rather the writing. The first-person point of view is considered informal, and is not encouraged in academic writing. First-person can appear to weaken the credibility of the writer in research and argument, as it reads as the writer’s personal opinion. The third-person point of view is often used as an alternative to [the] first-person as the “voice” in academic writing.
Examples of using effective alternatives to the first-person:
- wrong example: I was reading a study about the rise of feudalism in medieval Europe, and I noticed that social class structure seemed to be clearly determined. (1st person)
- correct example: This study about the rise of feudalism in medieval Europe reveals that social class structure was clearly determined. (3rd person)
In the wrong example, the focus is on the reader or author of the study while the correct example focuses directly on the study and its findings.
Some general examples for changing first person to third person:
University of Arizona
“ Personal writing, such as for a reflective essay, or a “personal response” discussion posting, can be written in the first person (using “I” and “me”) and may use personal opinions and anecdotes as evidence for the point you are trying to make. Most academic papers (Exposition, Persuasion, and Research Papers) should generally be written in [the] third-person, referring to other authors and researchers from credible and academic sources to support your argument rather than stating your own personal experiences.”
First-person example (only suitable for personal writing):
- I think Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is about the relationships between family members. I really liked the play, and in some ways, the characters reminded me of my own family.
Third-person correction (suitable for all other academic writing):
- Shakespeare’s play Hamlet deals with the relationships between family members. In Examining Hamlet, Arnold Latimer describes these relationships as “conflicted” (2005, p. 327).
The pronouns I, me and my have been removed in the second example and instead replaced by academic sources as evidence.
The few sources cited above seem to indicate that even with the paradigm shift from avoidance to acceptance of the use of I in a research paper, opinion is still somewhat divided. However, if I were to take sides, I’ll adopt the advice from MLA and Duke University, both of which imply moderate discretionary use of I when it is most appropriate in a research paper. But as a student, it is very important to follow the instructions from your faculty, department, and/or course instructor. So, consider the following advice from APA:
“As always, defer to your instructors’ guidelines when writing student papers. For example, your instructor may ask students to avoid using first-person language. If so, follow that guideline for work in your class.”