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Can you write in first person in a research paper

The use of the first person in academic writing: objectivity, language and gatekeeping

Researchers have experienced difficulties in having papers which are based on qualitative research accepted for publication because the papers have been written in the first person. Arguments are presented to show why the use of the neutral, anonymous third person is deceptive when applied to quantitative research because it obliterates the social elements of the research process. With regard to research in the qualitative, critical and feminist paradigms, it is further argued that the use of the first person is required in keeping with the epistemologies of the research and in the pursuit of reflexivity. Links are made between these arguments and the process of reviewing for academic journals. Conclusions are drawn in favour of the use of the first person, where this is appropriate to the mode of research reported and where an author is giving a personal judgement arrived at on the basis of reasonable evidence. In keeping with this position, this paper is written in the first person.

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First vs. Third Person

First and third person are points of view. They are the perspectives from which a piece of writing is told. Different writing assignments and types use different points of view.

What is first-person perspective?

First person is the point of view where the speaker refers to him or herself.

I spent ten years working in public schools.

In that sentence, the writer is also the speaker of the piece, and he or she is writing about him or herself.

What is third-person perspective?

Third person is the point of view where the speaker does not refer to him or herself.

Public schools should work hard to retain teachers.

In that sentence, the writer does not refer to his or herself.

When should I use first-person or third-person perspective?

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 third person, referring to other authors and researchers from credible and academic sources to support your argument rather than stating your own personal experiences.

APA advocates for using first person (“I”)when describing your own research study. Do not use “we” unless you have coauthors. Do not refer to either yourself or your coauthors in the third person (“this author” or “these researchers”). Use “I” and “we” instead.

First vs. Third Person Writing

First person example (only acceptable 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 (appropriate 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).

In the second example, the pronouns “I” and “me” have been omitted, and academic sources were used as evidence.

Still Confused?

Please reach out to your instructor or email the Writing Center for assistance!