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I and we

  1. Apr 9, 2006 #1
    when wrting a paper, we shouldn't use "I" instead of "we" even when we do it on our own, right ?

    -Tim Benny
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2006 #2
    What are you talking about? Could you provide an example?
     
  4. Apr 9, 2006 #3
    Give me an asnwer please.
     
  5. Apr 9, 2006 #4
    writing a thesis to graduate, in that , I shouldn't say, "....I will explain on pertubation system in this section...." instead of "We will explain on perturabtion system..."
     
  6. Apr 9, 2006 #5
    I think it's coming back into acceptance. Writing as if you were omnipotent, ie without the use of I or we, is definitely a no no (wasn't before). If you use we, specify who we is. Keep your reader informed. It is fine to use "I."
     
  7. Apr 9, 2006 #6
    e.g. I will trace the evolution of blah blah blah
    vs
    We will begin our investigation by yatta yatta yatta

    Either one is cool, but I is acceptable and might be clearer.
     
  8. Apr 9, 2006 #7
    thanks, and bye, Tim Benny
     
  9. Apr 9, 2006 #8
    You'd use "we".
     
  10. Apr 9, 2006 #9

    loseyourname

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    You know what's really pretentious? Personify your paper. You can actually start a paper by saying "This paper will trace the evolution of . . ." (to use the example from above).
     
  11. Apr 9, 2006 #10

    selfAdjoint

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    There is also the everything in the passive voice strategy; "It is shown here how to square the circle".
     
  12. Apr 9, 2006 #11

    Moonbear

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    In formal, scientific writing, especially a thesis, the proper approach is to not use the first person at all. You're supposed to talk about the facts and evidence, not your personal triumphs. Turn off your grammar check and do as selfAdjoint suggested, switch to third person, passive voice. (I say turn off grammar check, because it will keep telling you you're using passive voice too much. :rolleyes:)

    Some journals are permitting more first person writing, one I know even encourages it, but I'd stick with tradition in a thesis, just to be on the safe side. As for the choice of "I" vs. "we" when you're writing in the first person, it of course depends on whether you did the work entirely on your own, or as part of a team. Generally, students do it as part of a team with at least their mentor, so the first person plural is most appropriate.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2006
  13. Apr 9, 2006 #12

    brewnog

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    I'm with Moonie on this one. I've never seen a situation where a proper paper is written in anything but the third person.
     
  14. Apr 9, 2006 #13
    That's just what my teacher was talking about. There is debate on what should be used, and the argument against using 3rd person is that it comes across as an omnipotent view. Instead of saying, "I/We think" or "I/We found that," one says "it is," "it seems," or "it has been found"....well to whom, by whom, in what circumstance? The problem with that type of narration is that it doesn't specify these things, so the reader doesn't have a context for what is being found out about. Further, writers using that style are also able to present their findings as strict fact - "The gorillas were peaceful all the time," comes across as a stated fact, rather than a grounded observation. By whom were they observed to be so? This will affect results after all, so it is important for the reader to know. As I have understood it, postmodernists are pointing these problems out, raising these issues.

    My personal view comes from the field of anthropology, in which ethnographies and ethnologies have been writtin in the 3rd person style, giving the anthropologist an all-knowing position which has clearly been abused in the past, and likely affects research now. E.G. "Middle Status of Savagery: It commenced with the acquisition of a fish subsistence and a knowledge of the use of fire, and ended with the invention of the bow and arrow. Mankind, while in this condition, spread from their original habitat over the greater portion of the earth's surface. Among tribes still existing it will leave in the Middle Status of savagery, for example, the Australians and the greater part of the Polynesians when discovered." - Morgan, "Ethnical Periods" 1877. Armchair academics has made this style tradition, with which anthropologists armed themselves when they finally got out into the field. Naturally, postmodernist views rub objective science the wrong way. Many professional researchers and academics, however, do recognize that this tradition of using 3rd person passive is privileged and have opted for use of 1st person when appropriate. Always good to keep things in perspective.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2006
  15. Apr 9, 2006 #14
    Example of professional paper written in first person, "we."

    k, nevermind, file too big. Working on finding use of "I."
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2006
  16. Apr 9, 2006 #15
    Most papers I've seen use first person plural in the abstract, and mostly passive 3rd person in the paper itself with occasional "we". Skimming the current issue of PRL, sixteen of the first twenty abstracts use "we". I do not remember ever seeing an "I" published, even in single-author papers (I'd love a counterexample!).
     
  17. Apr 9, 2006 #16
    Use of "I" in this paper. You can find it by typing a space an I and another space in the search function.
     

    Attached Files:

  18. Apr 9, 2006 #17
  19. Apr 9, 2006 #18
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2006
  20. Apr 9, 2006 #19

    loseyourname

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    Examples abound in fields where the writer works alone - literature, film, philosophy, politics. The OP didn't ask specifically about scientific research papers. He's probably an undergrad that has to write papers in a vast variety of subjects. The specifics of how he should write depend on the subject, as well as the professor.

    Your best bet, Drimar, is to ask your professor what he/she expects. If you're asked to formulate your own thesis, to give your own opinion, use the first person singular "I." If you're collaborating with others on a research project, use the first person plural "we." Mix it up; in each case, go ahead and write from the perspective of the paper, and from an objective perspective, and from first-person.
     
  21. Apr 9, 2006 #20

    Moonbear

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    Using 3rd person doesn't absolve the writer from citing the original studies nor does it permit making generalizations that are untrue!

    Just taking the sample sentence you gave above, stating "The gorillas were peaceful all the time," would simply be an inaccurate statement. Instead, the authors should write something more like, "The gorillas were not observed to exhibit any agressive behaviors when the investigators avoided all eye contact when entering the enclosure." And that sure sounds a lot better for formal writing than, "We did not observe the gorillas exhibiting any agressive behaviors when we avoided eye contact upon entering their enclosure."

    But, either way, it's all about being very precise with wording. To simply state, "The gorillas were not agressive," would be imprecise, because it does not sufficiently describe the conditions, and makes presumptions about behaviors you were not present to observe (or the ones you couldn't watch while averting your eyes). But, then that's why every research paper has a methods section to clearly explain the conditions of the observation, and that's why, aside from giving credit where credit is due, it's important to cite the original references when making statements about earlier work; it gives the reader the opportunity to check the facts for themself and determine if the statement is accurately representing the prior work.

    Phrases like, "It seems..." or "It has been found..." are a separate problem from usage of first vs. third person. They're actually both grammatically incorrect uses of an indefinite pronoun. As my English teacher used to write on my essays in elementary school, "It? What it?" The pronoun refers to nothing in that sentence construction. The more correct usage would be, "Prior results suggest..." or "Previous studies have demonstrated..." followed by citation of those previous studies to prove you're not just handwaving.
     
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