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Can an Essay or Research Paper be written in First Person

Writing a Research Paper

In research writing, there has been a huge debate among scholars, professors, and students in regard to the use of the first-person language.

Today, all debaters agree that first-person writing is appropriate only when the writer knows how to use it properly. In instances when the first person tends to weaken an argumentative claim, it should be avoided so that the statement does not sound redundant. 

If the first-person language is not applied where and when needed, it ends up weakening your argument thereby lowering the quality of your research paper.

Consequently, a student will end up with an assignment that resembles a personal response. This happens when one does not know the basics of writing good essays or papers.

In a high school, college, or university research paper, a lot of first-person portrays the writer as the only source of information on the paper.  This is a major problem that can degrade the credibility of a research paper.

Can a Research Paper be Written in First Person?

There are writing situations that will warrant the use of first-person making it impossible to avoid it. But that does not mean that it is the standard.

A research paper or an essay can be written in the first-person language if the writer is making a personal narrative or presenting a personalized opinion that is necessary for the arguments or narrations. First-person writing is allowed when making direct explanations or conveying anecdotes that involve the writer. 

If you want your paper not to appear unnatural, the use of first-person writing is inevitable.  

Research Paper

There are also university disciplines like anthropology that may need you to put more emphasis on your own subjectivity and thus compelling you to use the first person.

As a student, make efforts to read journal articles and research the disciplines you have specialized to know when your professor will prefer first or third-person writing.

In disciplines such as engineering, hard sciences, medicine, and philosophy, thirst person writing in research papers is preferred.

Why First-Person Language instead of 3rd-Person Language

Professors believe that when you do away with the first person, the claims made appear factual and more objective. All in all, there are moments in research writing when it is effective and appropriate to use first-person writing. 

Research writing needs the use of first-person when you want to use a personal anecdote, especially in the introduction section.

This is a strong and captivating hook that can involve a short story about the writer. In such a scenario, your research paper will have a personal touch and a good connection to the audience.

You are completely free to write research in first-person when clarifying the use of passive statements in the research. But it is good to know the difference between the first-person and third one.

If you avoid using the first person when writing your paper, passive voices will occur. These are confusing sentences that can bring confusion and make it difficult for readers to connect to your points. 

Instances where the writer is required to state his or her opinion in the research also need the use of first-person. Your audience will love to have a connection with you and feel your stand in the discussion. Research papers can be in first person as long as you feel it brings a strategic effect on the audience. 

Personal narrative research papers and essays can only be written in the first person; otherwise, they will not make sense.

These are papers that require the writer to tell a story or write about a real-life personal experience. Since the writer is the focal point and the writing is in his or her own point of view, first-person writing must be applied. 

How to avoid First-Person language in Essay Writing

To avoid the temptation of including first-person language in your paper, do away with individual thoughts. If it is a story you are narrating, be the reporter and not the commentator of the events.

This means that the audience should be able to develop their interpretation from your piece of writing and not from your own views.

Research Paper

As such, avoid focusing on giving analysis or clarifications of actions being taken by the characters in your paper.

Simply be neutral on how the readers will perceive the actions in your story. This way, the first-person type of narration can be avoided without difficulty. 

Avoiding the first-person means the writer should not mention any inner thoughts of the characters. Nonetheless, giving insights into their thoughts will be achievable if you take an observation position.

If you are describing a particular character, do not be direct but rather describe what you have learned from the character. 

In addition to this, avoiding the use of the first person will be easy if you position yourself as an outsider in the entire scenario.

If you are an observer of the actions being undertaken by characters in your narration, first-person writing will not appear in the paper. 

How to Change your Paper from First Person to Third Person

The first-person point of view involves the use of words such as me, I, my, our, we, etc. The use of this type of writing usually sounds convincing and more objective.

Writing a Research Paper

It is used in writing narratives, stories, and personal experiences in research writing. 

On the other hand, third-person writing is different because people are identified by using proper nouns and pronouns such as she, he, they, one, anyone and etc.

Most formal academic research papers mainly involve the use of third-person writing. Considered a flexible narrative style of writing, the third-person is good in fiction and non-fiction writing.

When you write a research paper in the third person, you will not appear as the character in the paper but as an unknown storyteller who is simply transmitting the evidence. 

The first-person language used in a research paper can be changed to third-person by making modifications to the sentences and some of the words.

It makes the paper a strong and unbiased argument. To achieve this, start by reading through your research to highlight the first-person words. Go back and start eliminating them and replace them with third-person pronouns or voices. 

Below are examples of sentences converted from first person to third person:
  1. I hereby argue and state my point

-The report argues that

  1. I make investigations and discovered that

-Investigations were made and it was discovered

  1. We had to proofread the paper

-The group had to proofread the paper

When you are in a confusing situation where you do not know when to use the third or first person, consider the conventions of the course you are taking and the instructions given by your professor.

The genre you are writing can also be a guiding factor. If you are unable to solve the confusion, consulting your professor is not a bad idea. 

Types of Papers that Require First Person Language

There are different types of research papers that can accommodate first-person writing. Narrative papers, reports, reflective journals, and personal stories are some of the papers that primarily need a first-person approach.

This is possible because papers or essays can be personal where a personalized narration is involved. Read our guide on how to write narratives or stories in essay writing.

This type of writing is used to create a personal connection between the author and the readers. When you are using the first person, expression of interest in a subject matter is easy.

Disciplines such as Anthropology also require their research papers to be written in the first person but this is not compulsory. The decision can be influenced by the instructions given by your professor on whether to use the first or third person.

In conclusion, first-person writing can be applied in other areas other than the ones mentioned above as long as the writer is thoughtful and careful.

Without a doubt, first-person language brings out a paper in an assertive manner that is more direct to the audience. 

To learn more about it, watch this video;

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