The rest of this handout is devoted to strategies for figuring out when to use “I” and personal experience.
In many cases, using the first person pronoun can improve your writing, by offering the following benefits: The original example sounds less emphatic and direct than the revised version; using “I” allows the writers to avoid the convoluted construction of the original and clarifies who did what.
For example, the first person is more likely used in the abstract, introduction, discussion, and conclusion sections of an academic paper while the third person and passive constructions are found in the methods and results sections.
In this article, we discuss when you should avoid personal pronouns and when they may enhance your writing.
The APA encourages using personal pronouns for this context.
This handout is about determining when to use first person pronouns (“I”, “we,” “me,” “us,” “my,” and “our”) and personal experience in academic writing.Often these are rather strict lists of absolutes, including rules both stated and unstated: We get these ideas primarily from teachers and other students.Often these ideas are derived from good advice but have been turned into unnecessarily strict rules in our minds.Here is an example in which alternatives to the first person would be more appropriate: Original example: In the original example, using the first person grounds the experience heavily in the writer’s subjective, individual perspective, but the writer’s purpose is to describe a phenomenon that is in fact objective or independent of that perspective.Avoiding the first person here creates the desired impression of an observed phenomenon that could be reproduced and also creates a stronger, clearer statement.Recently, however, we’ve shifted back to producing active and engaging prose that incorporates the first person.However, the use of “I” and “we” still has some generally accepted rules we ought to follow.Here’s another example in which an alternative to first person works better: Original example: Although you may run across instructors who find the casual style of the original example refreshing, they are probably rare.The revised version sounds more academic and renders the statement more assertive and direct.“First person” and “personal experience” might sound like two ways of saying the same thing, but first person and personal experience can work in very different ways in your writing.You might choose to use “I” but not make any reference to your individual experiences in a particular paper.