Jenna Pack Sheffield


Breaking Down an Image

Using First Person in an Academic Essay: When is It Okay?

This essay explores the circumstances under which using the first person in an academic essay is acceptable. In academic writing, the use of the first person—expressed through pronouns such as “I”, “me”, “my”, and “we”—is in a state of flux. Historically, scholars were advised to avoid the first person to maintain objectivity and a formal tone. In school settings, students were often told to set their own opinions aside and write summaries and reviews of literature. Yet recently, especially in the humanities, qualitative researchers have questioned the possibility of objectivity and this convention of avoiding the first person. Instead, these theorists argue that researchers and writers can be more authoritative by employing the first person.