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Study skills


Academic writing should be rational, objective and formal in tone. In most cases, the writing should not be a personal opinion, but a view supported by research.  The use of the third person can make writing sound more factual, objective and formal.

  • First person: the writer is the subject of the writing [I, me, my, we, our]
  • Second person: the reader is the subject of the writing [you, your]
  • Third person: Someone or something else is being spoken about [she, he, it, they]

Note: Some assessment types require a more personal, subjective response and are suited to the use of the first person, such as reflective writing.

different ways to avoid using the first-person pronoun ‘I’:

One way to avoid 'I' is to let the assignment ‘speak for itself’. For example:

First person                                      

Third person                                              

‘I show...’

‘The report shows...’

‘I interpret the results as...’

‘The results indicate...’

‘We argue that…’

‘This essay argues that…’

Alternatively, the writer may refer to themselves in the third person :

First person      

Third person

‘We researched the issue of…’                     

‘The group researched the issue …’    

‘I found that…’

‘This researcher found that…’

‘I have travelled extensively...’

‘The researcher herself has travelled extensively …’

A very common way to avoid the first person is to use the passive voice:  

Active voice 

Passive voice                             

‘We conducted the questionnaire...’

‘The questionnaire was conducted...’

‘I reviewed the literature’

‘The literature was reviewed’

‘I do not wish to argue that….’

‘It is not being argued that…’

‘We failed to find any clear evidence.’

‘No clear evidence was found.’

‘I will address this issue in Section 3.’

‘This issue will be addressed in Section 3’


  • Be consistent with the voice that is used throughout the piece of writing, to avoid confusion for the reader.
  • Ensure it is clear who is being referred to (e.g. Is ‘the author’ the person who wrote the piece or an outside source?)
  • Be careful not to over-use passive sentences as they can sometimes be less clear and concise.


Adapted from Monash University. (n.d.). Master academic language.