But conventions seem to be changing in some cases—for instance, when a scientific writer is describing a project she is working on or positioning that project within the existing research on the topic.
Check with your science instructor to find out whether it’s o.k. Social Sciences: Some social scientists try to avoid “I” for the same reasons that other scientists do.
Because college writing situations vary widely in terms of stylistic conventions, tone, audience, and purpose, the trick is deciphering the conventions of your writing context and determining how your purpose and audience affect the way you write.
The rest of this handout is devoted to strategies for figuring out when to use “I” and personal experience.
This handout is about determining when to use first person pronouns (“I”, “we,” “me,” “us,” “my,” and “our”) and personal experience in academic writing.
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“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.Other writing situations: If you’re writing a speech, use of the first and even the second person (“you”) is generally encouraged because these personal pronouns can create a desirable sense of connection between speaker and listener and can contribute to the sense that the speaker is sincere and involved in the issue.If you’re writing a resume, though, avoid the first person; describe your experience, education, and skills without using a personal pronoun (for example, under “Experience” you might write “Volunteered as a peer counselor”).Students often arrive at college with strict lists of writing rules in mind.Often these are rather strict lists of absolutes, including rules both stated and unstated: We get these ideas primarily from teachers and other students.The statement would read better as “The poem ‘The Wasteland’ creates a sense of emptiness.” Academic writers almost always use alternatives to the second person pronoun, such as “one,” “the reader,” or “people.” The question of whether personal experience has a place in academic writing depends on context and purpose.In papers that seek to analyze an objective principle or data as in science papers, or in papers for a field that explicitly tries to minimize the effect of the researcher’s presence such as anthropology, personal experience would probably distract from your purpose.While your audience is generally interested in your perspective in the humanities fields, readers do expect you to fully argue, support, and illustrate your assertions.Personal belief or opinion is generally not sufficient in itself; you will need evidence of some kind to convince your reader.But first person is becoming more commonly accepted, especially when the writer is describing his/her project or perspective.Humanities: Ask your instructor whether you should use “I.” The purpose of writing in the humanities is generally to offer your own analysis of language, ideas, or a work of art.