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Scholarly Voice: First-Person Point of View

First-Person Point of View

Since 2007, Walden academic leadership has endorsed the APA manual guidance on appropriate use of the first-person singular pronoun "I," allowing the use of this pronoun in all Walden academic writing except doctoral capstone abstracts, which should not contain first person pronouns.

In addition to the pointers below, APA 7, Section 4.16 provides information on the appropriate use of first person in scholarly writing.

Do:

  1. Use the first person singular pronoun appropriately, for example, to describe research steps or to state what you will do in a chapter or section. Do not use first person "I" to state your opinions or feelings; cite credible sources to support your scholarly argument. 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. AvoidUse "I" to address clarity issues related to unclear passive voice constructions. 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. For clarity, restrict the use of "we" and "our" to yourself and any coauthors or coresearchers.
    Appropriate use of first person we and our:
     
    Two other nurses and I worked together to create a qualitative survey to measure patient satisfaction. Upon completion, we presented the results to our supervisor.

Do not:

Make assumptions about your readers by putting them in a group to which they may not belong by using 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" are, and using a phrase such as "our society" can immediately exclude readers from outside your social group. In the second sentence, the author assumes that the reader is a nurse or medical professional, which may not be the case, and the sentence expresses the opinion of the author.

To write with more precision and clarity, hallmarks of scholarly writing, revise these sentences without the use of "we" and "our."

  • Moderate activity can reduce the risk of obesity (Hu et al., 2003).
  • Staff members in the health care industry can help improve the recovery rate for patients (Matthews, 2013).