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by Elena | Writing Center Consultant | February 7th, 2018

Deciding whether or not to use first person in a paper is never an easy choice. Our high school teachers taught us that it’s never okay, but we at the Writing Center (and as writers!) often run into papers that seem impossible to write without the occasional “I.”

Fortunately, attitudes towards first person academic writing are softening, and may never have been as rigid as we thought. Stone (2018) suggests that whether or not first person is acceptable depends not only on the professor, but also on the discipline. Areas that ask for more objective papers where the research should speak for itself, like math or sciences, try to avoid first person, whereas other disciplines that allow more for the subjective influence of the researcher are more inclined towards first person.

However, even the “harder” fields of study are relaxing about first person and coming to accept more of the subjective influences of the researcher. Is this good news for science? Does this allow for more researcher bias, or does it simply recognize the slight bias that has always existed? And as student writers, do and should we have any influence over this?


Stone, B. (2018). A synthesis of professor perspectives on using first- and third-person perspectives. Retrieved from