Tips for writing a research paper

Can You Use “We” in a Research Paper?

Would you be confused if you saw the personal pronouns in a formal article?

Using “we” in research papers is always a concern for students who are working on their thesis. Can we use it, actually?

This question often confuses students and scholars alike as they complete the particulars of their academic writing.

As you know, Academic articles are known for their formal and objective tone, and for many, the use of first and third pronouns like “I” and “we” might seem contradictory to these standards.

In this section, we will discover the guidelines and considerations related to this question: “Can you  use “We” in our research papers?”

Hopefully, you’ll have a clearer understanding of when, why, and how first and third pronouns can be correctly used in your scholarly work in a way that maintains the competence expected in academic writing.

Using “We” in Academic Writings

We have three different writing formats known as APA, MLA, and CMS:

1.      APA: American Psychological Association

2.      MLA: Modern Language Association

3.      CMS: Chicago/Turabian

In an APA format article, you can use “I” and “We,” and it is formal and generally acceptable. It is only related to the number of authors; if you are conducting the article by yourself, you can use “I” as the pronoun, but if you work in pairs or with other authors, you can write “We” to explain the work clearly.  

This also comes true for MLA and CMS formats. In all, you can use these pronouns under the same conditions. However, make sure to follow the style guide’s recommendations for using the first-person plural pronoun.

Other than these three formats, the style guides have different rules about the use of “we” in research papers.

For instance, in some scientific articles, it is common to use the passive voice instead of “We.” This helps to describe a research action without directly mentioning the author(s).

Again, if you have second thoughts about using personal pronouns, you can consult your instructor or the specific style guide required for your paper. You can find guidance on how to use “we” appropriately in your research paper.

Can You Use We in a Research Paper
Can You Use We in a Research Paper

When not to use “We” or personal pronouns in an article?

Despite being acceptable, using the first and third pronouns might get you in trouble sometimes. You should be aware of using them in their right position and not overuse them. In that case, your article might seem artificial.

·        Do not overuse “We” & “I”

It’s important to avoid overusing “we” in all writing formats. Unnecessary use of the first-person plural can make your article less concise and less objective. To achieve great results for your paper and maintain competency, you need to keep striking a balance in the way you use pronouns.

·        Consider your audience & the article’s Purpose.

In some cases, the appropriateness of “we” in a research paper also depends on your target audience and the Purpose of your paper. In some cases, you can use the passive voice or third-person constructions so you can have a more formal and objective tone.

·        Be mindful of the result & conclusion section

“Based on my results, I found that…”

Only reading this example makes you laugh, and it is not formal and acceptable. While you are conducting a formal science article and reaching the result section, you have to acknowledge that these results are based on the work that you did.

In fields like science and math, using “we or I,” especially in the conclusion, isn’t common because it can seem self-centered.

It’s key to keep in mind that when you’re reporting your research, it’s about the research and the results itself, not about the authors behind it. If you want to convince your readers, it’s smart to skip personal pronouns in scientific writing, even when you’re sharing your own opinions as the author.

Besides coming off as a bit boastful, it could make your findings seem less strong than they actually are.

As you saw in the example, you can receive in that type of sentence the findings are undertaken, and the “I” is bold! While reporting the results, you need to write in a way that shows the findings.

“Based on the results, findings show that…”

In this example, the research is focusing on the results and not the author(s). it shows that the results are generated from the experiment. You can refer to the results in this way and make sure that everyone’s focus is on the findings and the final data.

This was a guideline for using the first person in research papers, and I hope it cleared all the vague points in your head. If so, let’s end the conversation.

Read More: Literature Review Introduction Example

As a final speech

Whether you can use “we” in a research paper is not a simple yes or no. It’s a matter of context, style, and the norms of the academic discipline in which you are writing. Using “we” is acceptable in some style guidelines like APA.

You have to choose to write “we” more thoughtfully to stop overusing. It is a matter of clarity and nothing more. Now you tell us, do you use “we” in a research paper?

Can I use “we” in a research paper?

Yes, in certain circumstances. The acceptability of using “we” depends on the style guide you are following (e.g., APA, MLA, CMS) and the number of authors involved. Generally, it is acceptable in APA, MLA, and CMS formats, but guidelines may vary.

Are there situations where using “we” is not recommended in a research paper?

Yes, it’s crucial to avoid overusing “we” or “I” to maintain conciseness and objectivity. Overuse can make your paper seem less formal. Additionally, consider your audience and the paper’s purpose; in certain cases, a more formal and objective tone may be achieved by using passive voice or third-person constructions.

How can I strike a balance in using “we” in my research paper?

To strike a balance, avoid unnecessary overuse of “we” and consider the context, audience, and purpose of your paper. In the results and conclusion sections, focus on presenting the findings rather than emphasizing the authorship. Consult your instructor or style guide for specific recommendations based on your paper’s requirements.

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Hi, my name is Mohammad, and I am currently pursuing my PhD at Istanbul Yildiz University. I have always been deeply passionate about research and academic writing, and this has led me to publish several articles in esteemed journals. Writing has always been my way of expressing my thoughts and ideas, and I take great joy in sharing my experiences and knowledge with others. Being a PhD candidate has allowed me to further explore my interests in the field of research and contribute to the academic community. I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, and I look forward to continuing my journey in this fascinating field.

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