When to use the first person in your academic writing

To maintain the formal tone of any academic document, academic writing experts recommend the regular use of third-person or direct language, which is suitable for imparting knowledge or instruction to the reader. First-person language (use of words including I, we, us, and me) bring the writer’s personal perspective into the academic document and is not recommended for use in a formal academic document.

 

The aim of this article is not to persuade any academic writer to stop the use of third-person language, but rather to use first person in selected instances to make your writing more engaging and interesting to the reader.

 


 

Let us now look at instances where first person language is recommended:

 

  • Including a personal experience in your research.

You cannot narrate a personal experience in your academic paper without the use of the first person. Personal narratives can draw the reader to your content and add a human perspective to a purely scientific or technical research. Its ideal use would be in the chapter introduction to make your reader keep reading the entire chapter! Similarly, in philosophy-related researches, the use of a personal experience that altered your perception of an accepted argument, can strongly contribute to your current contrasting argument.

  • When asserting yourself in the academic research.

This is important in research projects, where your work or study differentiates you, as a researcher, from prior researchers and previous studies. Use of the first-person language in sections where you need to emphasize your path-breaking researching capability or your authority can contribute to the overall strength of your academic research material.

  • When passive language can be confusing or boring

Avoidance of first-person language as a rule can sometimes lead to confusing or poorly-constructed sentences (example, “In the study of American retro culture, the degree of materialism was explored.”). Use of first-person language can construct the sentence better (“In our  study of American retro culture, we explored the degree of materialism.”).

  • When performing research in specific academic fields.

If you are a student pursuing research studies in specific domains or fields such as humanities, religion, history, and literature, first-person language can be used more regularly in your academic papers to present your personal insight and views to advance your argument.

 

While the above list is not exhaustive, it is best to use your writing judgement on the appropriate instance of first-person language in your academic writing.

Category : Editing
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