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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.


using i in a research paper


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Can You Use First-Person Pronouns (I/we) in a Research Paper?

using i 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:

The First Person Should Be Avoided When:

Usage Examples

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

Wordvice Resources

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.


Can you use I in a research paper

using 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 think……..”

“I believe………”

“I interviewed the participants………”

“I analyzed the data……….”

“My analysis of the data revealed……….”

“We concluded……..”

“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

Examples of when I should not be considered

Duke University

“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:

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):

Third-person correction (suitable for all other academic writing):

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.”

Privacy Overview

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Should I Use “I”?

What this handout is about.

This handout is about determining when to use first person pronouns (“I”, “we,” “me,” “us,” “my,” and “our”) and personal experience in academic writing. “First person” and “personal experience” might sound like two ways of saying the same thing, but first person and personal experience can work in very different ways in your writing. You might choose to use “I” but not make any reference to your individual experiences in a particular paper. Or you might include a brief description of an experience that could help illustrate a point you’re making without ever using the word “I.” So whether or not you should use first person and personal experience are really two separate questions, both of which this handout addresses. It also offers some alternatives if you decide that either “I” or personal experience isn’t appropriate for your project. If you’ve decided that you do want to use one of them, this handout offers some ideas about how to do so effectively, because in many cases using one or the other might strengthen your writing.

Expectations about academic writing

Students often arrive at college with strict lists of writing rules in mind. Often these are rather strict lists of absolutes, including rules both stated and unstated:

We get these ideas primarily from teachers and other students. Often these ideas are derived from good advice but have been turned into unnecessarily strict rules in our minds. The problem is that overly strict rules about writing can prevent us, as writers, from being flexible enough to learn to adapt to the writing styles of different fields, ranging from the sciences to the humanities, and different kinds of writing projects, ranging from reviews to research.

So when it suits your purpose as a scholar, you will probably need to break some of the old rules, particularly the rules that prohibit first person pronouns and personal experience. Although there are certainly some instructors who think that these rules should be followed (so it is a good idea to ask directly), many instructors in all kinds of fields are finding reason to depart from these rules. Avoiding “I” can lead to awkwardness and vagueness, whereas using it in your writing can improve style and clarity. Using personal experience, when relevant, can add concreteness and even authority to writing that might otherwise be vague and impersonal. Because college writing situations vary widely in terms of stylistic conventions, tone, audience, and purpose, the trick is deciphering the conventions of your writing context and determining how your purpose and audience affect the way you write. The rest of this handout is devoted to strategies for figuring out when to use “I” and personal experience.

Effective uses of “I”:

In many cases, using the first person pronoun can improve your writing, by offering the following benefits:

Deciding whether “I” will help your style

Here is an example of how using the first person can make the writing clearer and more assertive:

Original example:

In studying American popular culture of the 1980s, the question of to what degree materialism was a major characteristic of the cultural milieu was explored.

Better example using first person:

In our study of American popular culture of the 1980s, we explored the degree to which materialism characterized the cultural milieu.

The original example sounds less emphatic and direct than the revised version; using “I” allows the writers to avoid the convoluted construction of the original and clarifies who did what.

Here is an example in which alternatives to the first person would be more appropriate:

As I observed the communication styles of first-year Carolina women, I noticed frequent use of non-verbal cues.

Better example:

A study of the communication styles of first-year Carolina women revealed frequent use of non-verbal cues.

In the original example, using the first person grounds the experience heavily in the writer’s subjective, individual perspective, but the writer’s purpose is to describe a phenomenon that is in fact objective or independent of that perspective. Avoiding the first person here creates the desired impression of an observed phenomenon that could be reproduced and also creates a stronger, clearer statement.

Here’s another example in which an alternative to first person works better:

As I was reading this study of medieval village life, I noticed that social class tended to be clearly defined.

This study of medieval village life reveals that social class tended to be clearly defined.

Although you may run across instructors who find the casual style of the original example refreshing, they are probably rare. The revised version sounds more academic and renders the statement more assertive and direct.

Here’s a final example:

I think that Aristotle’s ethical arguments are logical and readily applicable to contemporary cases, or at least it seems that way to me.

Better example

Aristotle’s ethical arguments are logical and readily applicable to contemporary cases.

In this example, there is no real need to announce that that statement about Aristotle is your thought; this is your paper, so readers will assume that the ideas in it are yours.

Determining whether to use “I” according to the conventions of the academic field

Which fields allow “I”?

The rules for this are changing, so it’s always best to ask your instructor if you’re not sure about using first person. But here are some general guidelines.

Sciences: In the past, scientific writers avoided the use of “I” because scientists often view the first person as interfering with the impression of objectivity and impersonality they are seeking to create. But conventions seem to be changing in some cases—for instance, when a scientific writer is describing a project she is working on or positioning that project within the existing research on the topic. Check with your science instructor to find out whether it’s o.k. to use “I” in his/her class.

Social Sciences: Some social scientists try to avoid “I” for the same reasons that other scientists do. But first person is becoming more commonly accepted, especially when the writer is describing his/her project or perspective.

Humanities: Ask your instructor whether you should use “I.” The purpose of writing in the humanities is generally to offer your own analysis of language, ideas, or a work of art. Writers in these fields tend to value assertiveness and to emphasize agency (who’s doing what), so the first person is often—but not always—appropriate. Sometimes writers use the first person in a less effective way, preceding an assertion with “I think,” “I feel,” or “I believe” as if such a phrase could replace a real defense of an argument. While your audience is generally interested in your perspective in the humanities fields, readers do expect you to fully argue, support, and illustrate your assertions. Personal belief or opinion is generally not sufficient in itself; you will need evidence of some kind to convince your reader.

Other writing situations: If you’re writing a speech, use of the first and even the second person (“you”) is generally encouraged because these personal pronouns can create a desirable sense of connection between speaker and listener and can contribute to the sense that the speaker is sincere and involved in the issue. If you’re writing a resume, though, avoid the first person; describe your experience, education, and skills without using a personal pronoun (for example, under “Experience” you might write “Volunteered as a peer counselor”).

A note on the second person “you”:

In situations where your intention is to sound conversational and friendly because it suits your purpose, as it does in this handout intended to offer helpful advice, or in a letter or speech, “you” might help to create just the sense of familiarity you’re after. But in most academic writing situations, “you” sounds overly conversational, as for instance in a claim like “when you read the poem ‘The Wasteland,’ you feel a sense of emptiness.” In this case, the “you” sounds overly conversational. The statement would read better as “The poem ‘The Wasteland’ creates a sense of emptiness.” Academic writers almost always use alternatives to the second person pronoun, such as “one,” “the reader,” or “people.”

Personal experience in academic writing

The question of whether personal experience has a place in academic writing depends on context and purpose. In papers that seek to analyze an objective principle or data as in science papers, or in papers for a field that explicitly tries to minimize the effect of the researcher’s presence such as anthropology, personal experience would probably distract from your purpose. But sometimes you might need to explicitly situate your position as researcher in relation to your subject of study. Or if your purpose is to present your individual response to a work of art, to offer examples of how an idea or theory might apply to life, or to use experience as evidence or a demonstration of an abstract principle, personal experience might have a legitimate role to play in your academic writing. Using personal experience effectively usually means keeping it in the service of your argument, as opposed to letting it become an end in itself or take over the paper.

It’s also usually best to keep your real or hypothetical stories brief, but they can strengthen arguments in need of concrete illustrations or even just a little more vitality.

Here are some examples of effective ways to incorporate personal experience in academic writing:

Here are some suggestions about including personal experience in writing for specific fields:

Philosophy: In philosophical writing, your purpose is generally to reconstruct or evaluate an existing argument, and/or to generate your own. Sometimes, doing this effectively may involve offering a hypothetical example or an illustration. In these cases, you might find that inventing or recounting a scenario that you’ve experienced or witnessed could help demonstrate your point. Personal experience can play a very useful role in your philosophy papers, as long as you always explain to the reader how the experience is related to your argument. (See our handout on writing in philosophy for more information.)

Religion: Religion courses might seem like a place where personal experience would be welcomed. But most religion courses take a cultural, historical, or textual approach, and these generally require objectivity and impersonality. So although you probably have very strong beliefs or powerful experiences in this area that might motivate your interest in the field, they shouldn’t supplant scholarly analysis. But ask your instructor, as it is possible that he or she is interested in your personal experiences with religion, especially in less formal assignments such as response papers. (See our handout on writing in religious studies for more information.)

Literature, Music, Fine Arts, and Film: Writing projects in these fields can sometimes benefit from the inclusion of personal experience, as long as it isn’t tangential. For instance, your annoyance over your roommate’s habits might not add much to an analysis of “Citizen Kane.” However, if you’re writing about Ridley Scott’s treatment of relationships between women in the movie “Thelma and Louise,” some reference your own observations about these relationships might be relevant if it adds to your analysis of the film. Personal experience can be especially appropriate in a response paper, or in any kind of assignment that asks about your experience of the work as a reader or viewer. Some film and literature scholars are interested in how a film or literary text is received by different audiences, so a discussion of how a particular viewer or reader experiences or identifies with the piece would probably be appropriate. (See our handouts on writing about fiction , art history , and drama for more information.)

Women’s Studies: Women’s Studies classes tend to be taught from a feminist perspective, a perspective which is generally interested in the ways in which individuals experience gender roles. So personal experience can often serve as evidence for your analytical and argumentative papers in this field. This field is also one in which you might be asked to keep a journal, a kind of writing that requires you to apply theoretical concepts to your experiences.

History: If you’re analyzing a historical period or issue, personal experience is less likely to advance your purpose of objectivity. However, some kinds of historical scholarship do involve the exploration of personal histories. So although you might not be referencing your own experience, you might very well be discussing other people’s experiences as illustrations of their historical contexts. (See our handout on writing in history for more information.)

Sciences: Because the primary purpose is to study data and fixed principles in an objective way, personal experience is less likely to have a place in this kind of writing. Often, as in a lab report, your goal is to describe observations in such a way that a reader could duplicate the experiment, so the less extra information, the better. Of course, if you’re working in the social sciences, case studies—accounts of the personal experiences of other people—are a crucial part of your scholarship. (See our handout on  writing in the sciences for more information.)

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We Vs. They: Using the First & Third Person in Research Papers

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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.

For example:

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:

The third person point of view that refers to groups include the following:

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.

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I am writing the history of an engineering company for which I worked. How do I relate a significant incident that involved me?

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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 to help you with your document drafting. Did you get a chance to install our free Mobile App? . Make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter: .

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 I Use First Person In a Research Paper? (Quick Answer)

antony w

by  Antony W

July 6, 2022

use first person in research paper

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? 

what is first person in research paper

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? 

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? 

using second person pronoun

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? 

when to use first person in research paper

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.

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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.


Many academicians discourage the use of first person personal pronouns like "I", "me" and "mine", "myself" and "my"" in scientific papers.

Why is use of the word "I" discouraged

Can I use "we" instead of "I"

Personal opinions

Suppose you want to write "I believe there is a large potential for...". This is your personal view. If you still want to include it, you can write as follows:

Note that you should still try to avoid personal views, but if you still want or need to include them, one of the alternatives above could be used.

Note also that if you say that something is "one hypothesis", then it is best if you try to prove or disprove this hypothesis.

Actions taken during the research

Another use of "I" is to describe which actions you took during the research. This use of the word "I" is more acceptable, but it is still better to try to find alternative phrasing. Examples:

Isn't this rather hypocritical

Some people say that avoiding the word I is rather hypocritical, you are hiding your opinions, and give an impression of scientific accurateness, which may not be true.

If you are describing your own actions in participatory research, use of the word I may be more acceptable.

Some people even claim that the principle of avoiding the word "I" is sexist. The argument is that the wish to give an impression of objectivity is part of the male gender role, while feelings and subjectivism are more part of the female gender role.

This may sometimes be true. However, there are many successful female researchers, who have accepted the idea of searching for an objective truth. To say that searching for truth is not part of the female gender role is derogative of women. Forcing people into stereotyped sexist roles, is that not even more sexist?

Note also that feelings are not forbidden in research, provided you treat them in a scientific way.

Solving an Important Issue in Academic Writing: Can You Use I in a Research Paper?

What will a professor answer if you ask: Can you say I in a research paper? Most professors will answer with a strict no to that question. But is this a one-dimensional issue? Isn’t there more depth to the problem?

You’re also wondering: why can’t I say I in a research paper, when I am the one writing it? There’s an interesting discussion around this issue. Most students would prefer more liberty in academic writing, so they can add uniqueness to their papers and express themselves in any way they want. The academic format is too strict and doesn’t allow for such flexibility.

When you’re working on projects that involve creative writing, using I is not a problem. A research paper, however, is more of an analytic and critical thinking paper, so the guidelines are different. In essence, you’re advised against using I, we, or you in this type of writing.


When you’re providing your own point of view, using I is the natural form of expression that comes to mind. Let’s take an example: we’ll assume you’re writing a research paper from social studies, focused on children living with alcoholic parents. In the introduction, you’ll be required to explain what this research paper is about.

In this research paper, I explored the negative influence that alcoholic parents have on the development on their children.

This seems like the simplest way to describe what your research is focused on. It is an acceptable form of academic writing, but it’s not the style that most academics recommend. This is what the recommended formulation would sound like:

Research has explored the negative influence that alcoholic parents have on the development on their children.

Yes; it sounds weird. No; it’s not how you usually talk when communicating with people around you. Yes; it involves some passive language. Still, it’s the recommended form of academic expression.

There are professors who insist that passive language must be avoided as much as possible, so the sentences will be clearer and more readable. Others, however, will insist on avoiding the use of first-person language. There’s a conflict of opinions here, so the best way to figure out how to write your research paper is by asking direct questions to your professor. When you need more detailed instructions, there’s no shame in asking for them.


What if you don’t get precise a precise guide for the style of your research paper? Maybe you cannot reach the professor or your email message gets no answer.

In that case, it’s best to stick to the traditional format of research paper writing. What does that mean? – Avoid using I and we!


When someone tells you that you should avoid using first person in academic writing, you probably need more information. The instruction is not enough to convince you that avoidance of I is the right way to write a research paper.

There are several factors that go in favor of this point of view:


All these guidelines seem rather simple, don’t they? You’ll just avoid first and second person, and you’ll write your research paper in a format that’s acceptable for the academic community, right? Wrong!

The third person, as a generally used style in academic writing, can impose some difficulties. You cannot use he or she in a research paper, since you’re not writing about particular persons. Instead, you’ll use indefinite pronouns to refer to the subject, while avoiding feminine or masculine terminology.

Finally, there are always some exceptions from the rules, and that makes it even harder for you to find the right style. Who said that college or university education was easy?

Fortunately, there is a solution. You may always buy research paper online. You’ll find the perfect research paper writing service and you’ll collaborate with a professional PhD writer. The writer will take your requirements into consideration, and they will write the perfect research paper that meets all academic writing standards. The good news is that you can hire a professional service for a really affordable price!

Can You Use "I" or "We" in Research Paper

Quick Navigation

What is a research paper?

Work on the research paper is one of the most important forms of the educational process. It is aimed primarily at practical training and is carried out in accordance with the curriculum.

In accordance with the Regulation on the organization of the educational process of higher educational institutions of almost all countries of the world, the research paper is carried out in order to consolidate, deepen and summarize the knowledge gained by students during the study, and their application to a comprehensive solution to a specific task.

New requirements for the quality of training specialists that meet the needs of the modern stage of scientific and technical and socio-economic development of the country, make the research work of students an important factor in improving the entire system of training specialists.

Students must constantly increase their knowledge, respond promptly to the demands of the progress of science and technology. In connection with this, the issues related to the functions of the research work of the students in higher education are of particular relevance, and the education of specialists must be organically linked with the enhancement of their creative potential.

There are many ways of starting the research paper . It can be a quote, a question, information from a blog or any other source, and right now, we’ll provide you with the information on whether you can start it with the story.

Can I use “I” in a research paper.

During writing a research paper, we are faced with many questions we need to find answers to. This article is devoted to giving you the best answers for questions: can I say “I” in a research paper, can you use I in a research paper MLA, can you say We in a research paper and can you use I or We in a research paper.

Let’s start from can you use “I” in a research paper.

To sum up, the answer for the question can I write I in a research paper is the next: use “I” carefully, bearing in mind your audience, the field in which you are writing and what you are doing in that particular part of the essay, and use “in my opinion” rarely, if at all.

Use “i” in the MLA research paper.

The answer to the question can I use “i” in the MLA research paper is the same as can you use I in a research paper. The general writing style of the research paper is slightly more formal than that of a regular essay. You should avoid all contractions like don’t or won’t; instead, write out the phrases do not and will not. Do not begin any sentences with, and, or, but; instead, use slightly more formal words like Also and However.

If your topic is something scientific or medical, be sure to explain and “break down” any technical words or medical terms. Re-define them in your own words so that the reader can easily understand them. Doing this will also help you to understand the terms by yourself.

Usually, you should try to “set up” the reader for a long story before typing it. In other words, tell the reader what the point of the story is supposed to be. What is the reader supposed to get out of the story? Why do you include it in your paper? What does the story show or prove?

Can I say “we”

There are many discussions about whether we can use I in research papers, as well as can you use “we” in a research paper. There is no clear answer to this question, as you can do both. It’s not prohibited in the rules of academic writing not to use first-person pronouns.

However, the use of “I” and “we” still has some generally accepted rules we ought to follow. For example, the first person is more likely used in the abstract, introduction, discussion, and conclusion sections of an academic paper while the third person and passive constructions are found in the methods and results sections.

It’s not easy to write a good research paper. We need to break the mountain of textbooks, periodical literature, read the works of eminent scientists. As a result, the original text should be obtained, with the same success based on both existing developments and new student ideas.

Also, students often look for information about a psychological research paper.

Check what your teacher thinks about that issue. Do not neglect the help of your instructor, he/she can suggest interesting directions, help to find the right literature. Consultations will allow you to write a qualitative, interesting, and unique research paper.

Can you use “i” or “we” in a research paper?

As far as you can see, the research paper is a journalistic work in which the author sets the task of analyzing an existing scientific problem or certain phenomena from the point of view, first of all, of the regularities lying on their basis. The research paper has a certain composition; its contents should be deployed in a definite sequence.

In particular, the author must first explain the relevance of choosing one or another problem, the degree of its elaboration in the scientific literature, and the practical activities of the industry; define the purpose of the publication, present your thoughts and substantiate them, summarize briefly.

You should decide, can I say “we” in a research paper or can you use the word “i” in a research paper, as in modern academic writing, both ways are popular. Your paperwork should contribute to the profound learning of the lecture course and the acquisition of skills in solving practical problems.

It requires from the student not only the knowledge of the general and special literature on the subject but also the ability to conduct economic, mathematical, expert and other research, to link theory with practice, to generalize, to formulate conclusions and suggestions on improving the efficiency of the service sector and international economic relationships.

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Using “I” in Academic Writing

Traditionally, some fields have frowned on the use of the first-person singular in an academic essay and others have encouraged that use, and both the frowning and the encouraging persist today—and there are good reasons for both positions (see “Should I”).

I recommend that you 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.

Examples of When “I” May Be Needed

Examples of When “I” Should Be Given a Rest

Works Cited

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin . Project Gutenberg , 28 Dec. 2006,

“Should I Use “I”?” The Writing Center at UNC—Chapel Hill ,

webb, Christine. “The Use of the First Person in Academic Writing: Objectivity, Language, and Gatekeeping.” ResearchGate , July 1992, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1992.tb01974.x.

J.S.Beniwal 05 August 2017 AT 09:08 AM

I have borrowed MLA only yesterday, did my MAEnglish in May 2017.MLA is of immense help for scholars.An overview of the book really enlightened​ me.I should have read it at bachelor's degree level.

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Dr. Raymond Harter 25 September 2017 AT 02:09 PM

I discourage the use of "I" in essays for undergraduates to reinforce a conversational tone and to "self-recognize" the writer as an authority or at least a thorough researcher. Writing a play is different than an essay with a purpose.

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Is it acceptable to use first person pronouns in scientific writing?

Grammar & Language

Yateendra Joshi

Is it acceptable to use first person pronouns in scientific writing?

Novice researchers are often discouraged from using the first person pronouns  I  and  we  in their writing, and the most common reason given for this is that readers may regard such writing as being subjective, whereas science is all about objectivity. However, there is no universal rule against the use of the first person in scientific writing . 

Dr. David Schultz , the author of the book  Eloquent Science 1 , set about finding out whether it is ok to use the first person in scientific writing. He looked up a number of books on writing research papers. He  found  that several guides on writing academic papers actually advocate the use of the first person. 

For example, in  How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , Robert Day and Barbara Gastel say:

Because of this [avoiding first person pronouns in scientific writing], the scientist commonly uses verbose (and imprecise) statements such as “It was found that” in preference to the short, unambiguous “I found.” Young scientists should renounce the false modesty of their predecessors. Do not be afraid to name the agent of the action in a sentence, even when it is “I” or “we.”

using i in a research paper

Many of the world’s most renowned scientists have used the first person, as explained in The Craft of Scientific Writing : 

Einstein occasionally used the first person.... Feynman also used the first person on occasion, as did Curie, Darwin, Lyell, and Freud. As long as the emphasis remains on your work and not you, there is nothing wrong with judicious use of the first person.

Perhaps one of the best reasons for using the first person while writing is given in  The Science Editor’s Soapbox :

“It is thought that…” is a meaningless phrase and unnecessary exercise in modesty. The reader wants to know who did the thinking or assuming, the author, or some other expert. 

On the other hand,  The Scientist’s Handbook for Writing Papers and Dissertations  argues that in using the third person, the writer conveys that anyone else considering the same evidence would come to the same conclusion. The first person should be reserved for stating personal opinions.

using i in a research paper

Good Style: Writing for Science and Technology 2 is also against use of the first person in scientific writing , explaining that “readers of scientific papers are interested primarily in scientific facts, not in who established them.” However, this book also points out that there are points in scientific papers where it is necessary to indicate who carried out a specific action.

In  Eloquent Science , Dr. Shultz concludes that “first-person pronouns in scientific writing are acceptable if used in a limited fashion and to enhance clarity.” In other words, don’t pepper your paper with I’s and We’s. But you don’t have to rigidly avoid the first person either. For example, use it when stating a nonstandard assumption (“Unlike Day and Gastel, I assumed that…”). Or use it when explaining a personal action or observation (“We decided not to include…”). Finally, follow the conventions in your field, and particularly check that the journal you intend to submit your paper to does not specifically ban the use of the first person (as a handful of journals do).


1  Schultz D M. 2009. Eloquent Science, p. 412. Boston, Massachusetts: American Meteorological Society. < >

2  Kirkman J. 2005. Good Style: Writing for Science and Technology, 2nd edn, p. 49. London: Routledge. 160 pp. You will also find this course useful:  Avoid common language errors that annoy peer reviewers Related reading: The complete guide to writing a brilliant research paper

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