Who says in academic writing: ‘I’, ‘the researcher’, ‘this study’, ‘this thesis’…?

Interesting read for post grad students.

DoctoralWriting SIG

By Susan Carter

Choosing terms for the agent in academic writing can be tricky for novices, and in my experience, not all supervisors give wise advice on the terms to use for the speaking author. This post considers choice from the perspective of textual clarity. ‘I argue that…’ could also be ‘this thesis argues that…’ or ‘the researcher argues that…’ Doctoral students must decide what nomenclature is best for their research projects.

Some writing shies away from admitting there is an author. Historically, empirical science disciplines sought objectivity; to do so, they chose to hide human agency with passive constructions, e.g., ‘It was found that’. With humans eliminated, arguments were muted, not acknowledged in text: ‘results may suggest that….’ Textual masking of agency signaled a positivist epistemology.

By disappearing the people from the text, the matter of the research itself is emphasised, since, in theory, anyone could duplicate the study…

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About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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