Tips on Using the First Person Pronouns in the Academic Papers

Many students face a lot of problems when they need to write a scholarly article. They should follow different requirements concerning style, references, etc. Furthermore, one of the general difficulties in the research papers is the proper use of the first-person pronouns. This article aims to discuss some critical issues of when it is possible and when it is better to avoid using the first-person pronouns in your writing.

Backstage

Do you know that till the 1920s there were no prohibitions regarding the use of the first-person pronouns? Typically, researchers used “I” and “we” where and when they wanted. It was a sign that it was your own thought and the academic community highly evaluated it. A little bit later, it became fashionable to use the third person and passive constructions for writing scientific papers. It is hard to answer precisely why it happened. However, we suggest that it aimed to avoid plagiarism. Nowadays, we have mixed rules on which pronouns we should use in our writings.

We Use the First-Person Pronouns:

  • in the abstract, introduction, discussion, and conclusions to clarify the thesis, aims, thoughts, and position
  • in the case when we want to express own interests, credibility or views on some subject
  • when the sentence is too long, and there is a necessity to clarify some points in the passive voice constructions
  • if we are going to interact with our readers through the “dialogue style” or draw their attention to a particular issue
  • in the case we want to provide own arguments or thoughts based on our experience
  • to highlight or underline some facts
  • when we aim to clarify our own attitude to some statements

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It Is Highly Recommended to Use the Third-Person Pronouns and Passive Constructions:

  • when we are talking about methods and results to avoid the perspective of subjectivity; however, in science groups we can use the formula “In the X example, we can see…”
  • in the case when we have some accurate facts or accepted statements
  • when we are going to cite other researchers or provide their arguments and research findings

Additional Tips

  • If you do not want to draw your readers’ attention to the first part of the sentence, try to avoid starting a sentence with the first-person pronouns.
  • Determine what you are talking about when you use “we.” Usually, “we” includes you, your professors, and other researchers. If you use other meanings of “we” in your writing, please, specify it.
  • It becomes more and more popular to use “I” and “we”; however, it is better to avoid using “you” because it is not the proper lexicon for an academic paper.
  • Of course, as the rules of using the first-person pronouns are mixed, you should be sure that you follow all the requirements. Some journals or institutions forbid to use the first-person pronouns at all.

Consider these simple rules of how to use the first-person pronouns properly and create the outstanding academic paper.