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Scholarly Voice: First-Person Point of View

First-Person Point of View

Since 2007, Walden has allowed students to use first person pronouns in their academic writing. However, doctoral capstone abstracts should remain in third person. Be sure to check with your instructor or mentor about the use of first person in your program of study.

In addition to the pointers below, section 3.09 in the APA Manual (6th edition) gives more information on the appropriate use of the first person pronouns in both quantitative and qualitative studies.

Do:

  1. Use first person pronouns appropriately (i.e., to describe research steps or to state what you will do in a chapter/section). Remember that you should not use them to list your opinions or feelings; referring to credible sources can offer your opinion without explicitly giving it. Statements that directly assert your opinion discredit your academic work. Take a look at the following examples:
    Inappropriate Uses:
     
    I feel that eating white bread causes cancer.
    The author feels that eating white bread causes cancer.
    I found several sources (Marks, 2011; Isaac, 2006; Stuart, in press) that showed a link between white bread consumption and cancer.

     
    Appropriate Use:
     
    I surveyed 2,900 adults who consumed white bread regularly.
    In this chapter, I present a literature review on research about how seasonal light changes affect depression.
  2. Free yourself from the confusion and ambiguity of the multiple uses of the researcher and the author in your work.
    Confusing Sentence:
     
    The researcher found that the authors had been accurate in their study of helium, which the researcher had hypothesized from the beginning of their project.
     
    Revision:
     
    I found that Johnson et al. (2011) had been accurate in their study of helium, which I had hypothesized since I began my project.
  3. Avoid passive voice by using the first person. Notice that the sentence in passive voice is missing a subject, and the readers are left wondering who did the action? Who is this sentence talking about?
    Passive voice:
     
    The surveys were distributed and the results were compiled after they were collected.
     
    Revision:
     
    I distributed the surveys, and then I collected and compiled the results.
  4. Acknowledge your coresearchers and team.
    Appropriate use of first person we and our:
     
    Two other nurses and I worked together to create a qualitative survey to measure patient satisfaction. We completed the surveys within 3 days and presented the results to our supervisor.
  5. Check with your instructor. Some faculty members (or programs) may be disinclined to allow first person pronouns in student writing.

 

Do not:

Make assumptions about your readers by putting them into a group in which they do not belong with the use of your first person plural pronouns. Inappropriate use of first person we and our:

  • We can stop obesity in our society by changing our lifestyles.
  • We need to help our patients recover faster.

In the first sentence above, the readers would not necessarily know who we is, and using a phrase such as our society can immediately exclude readers from outside your social group. For example, if you are talking about American society and your reader were from Australia, he or she would not be included in the our because American and Australian societies are different.

In the second sentence, the author assumes that the reader is a nurse or medical professional.  However, you do not want assume that the reader shares your background or viewpoint.  In order to avoid such assumptions, do not use the general we, our, or us in your writing.

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