The use of the first/third person. Qualitative evaluation of research proposal. part 3

After having examined qualitatively the major research proposals weakness in terms of connection with theory and writing style, this post aims to highlight the importance of the person used in academic writing:

Bear in mind that the writing style and the person to be used may vary from one context to another and from one institution to another. However, as far as academic writing is concerned, third person must be used generally. Additionally, the most recognized writing style for social and behavioral sciences, the one provided by the American Psychological Association, also recommends, with some exceptions, the use of third person.

Your research proposals, as well as the research project itself, fall within what is considered academic writing.

The use of first and third person

Although there are exceptions, (for example, if you are discussing a field trip that you personally took in order to conduct research or interviews that you carried out), normally academic writing does not make use of the first person. This means you would not use ‘I’ in your essays. Therefore, instead of writing ‘I will argue’, you might write ‘this research will argue’. The first reason for this is that academic writing must be formal and impersonal.
Consider the difference between these two sentences:

1. ‘In this proposal, I will discuss the reasons why talent estrategy is important to the improvement of Chinese economy

2. “Talent strategy is important to the improvement of Chinesses economy”

Not only is the second sentence more formal because it does not make use of the personal ‘I’, but it is also more direct and thus sounds clearer, more concise, and more academic. Instead of stating that a point will be made, as in the first sentence, the second sentence simply makes the point directly.

The second reason why the use of the first person is discouraged is that it is often redundant (unnecessary). Consider the difference between these two sentences:

1. “I believe that talent strategy is relevant to the improvement of Chinese economy”

2. Talent strategy is relevant to the improvement of Chinese economy”

It is unnecessary to state ‘I believe’. The reader knows that the statement is what the author believes, because the author is writing it in their proposal. Further, which sentence sounds more convincing? The second sentence sounds more convincing because it is direct and straight to the point.

Finally, the use of third person grants objectivity and avoid subjective statements. Academic writing is not about your opinions and feelings. It should be rooted in facts and not fictitious claims.

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