Is It Allowed to Write a Research Paper in First Person?

Can you write a research paper in first person? This is a very common question in academic writing forums. Most professors will tell you that you should not use the pronouns “I”, “we”, “my”, “me”, “us”, and “our” in writing academic paper. Other schools or professors expressly require that you should not include personal experiences when writing academic paper.

Distinguishing first personal and personal preferences:

It is important to note that personal experience and first person may feel or sound like just two different ways of saying same thing but the truth is that personal experience and first person work differently in writing. For instance, you may use “I” without making reference to your personal experiences. You can also include personal experiences in the paper, without using the pronoun “I”. Whether to use or not to use personal experiences and first person are two important questions that need to be addressed when determining if you can write paper in the first person.

The general rule:

The general rule in writing academic papers is that you should not use “I” when writing academic papers. However, that is not the full answer to the question can research paper first person be okay. There are some few exceptions to this general rule.

The exceptions to the general rule:

Although the general rule is that you should not use “I”, and any other first person pronoun in writing academic paper, there are some situations in which use of the same may be necessary. These include the following –

  • For assertiveness: if you want to emphasize the agency, or who is doing the thing. For instance, if you want to pinpoint the value of your project to the academic world, or want to claim the unique argument or perspective.
  • For clarity: sometimes, avoiding the first person pronoun may lead to vagueness and awkward constructions. In such a case, the use of first person can help improve the writing style.
  • Taking writer’s or researcher’s position in the paper: in some instances, you have to explain the manner in which the ideas depart or build on the works and research by others, and in that case, you may have to use the pronouns “our”, “my”, “we”, and “I”, if there is need of claiming some authority on that topic.

Here below is a research paper with in text citation example.

The following short sentence illustrates a situation in which “I” can be used to make the writing more assertive and clearer.

Sentence without First Person:

In the study of 1980’s American popular culture, this paper will explore the question as to which extent materialism influenced the cultural milieu.

Better Example Using First Person:

In this paper, I will explore the question to which extent materialism influenced the cultural milieu of the 1980’s American pop culture.

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