Often in undergrad, I avoided using “I” or the first person point-of-view in any formal paper to be graded. It felt wrong to adhere to a style that I was taught in high school to avoid at all costs but not using it started to make me confused. If this paper is my own personal views (supported by hard evidence and research), why shouldn’t I explain my own understandings and how I got to them? Presenting my thoughts through third person was a challenge. I didn’t feel a connection with my intellectual thoughts presented in a formal academic paper; it didn’t feel like my own.
Sheridan Blau finds that letting students adopt the use of “I” helps them feel more of a producer rather than a consumer thus creating a more engaging atmosphere. Blau mentions “It is difficult to read a collection of scholarly or professional articles in any branch of the humanities or in many of the social sciences and in such professions as the law (including legal opinions written by state and federal judges) without noticing the judicious use of the first person, when it is called for and when alternative structures would be infelicitous” (158). So, if we are writing papers for a humanities class, wouldn’t it make sense to mirror the professionals and use first person as well? Well, of course.
Though, first person seems to be acceptable for these academic papers, it is not just an easy way out of creating a formal paper. Thoughts and ideas formulate from the evidence and research that should be present in the formal paper. The only way to create intellectual words on a page is through insightful thought gathered from observing and researching information. By intersecting the use of “I” and incorporating research and thought, students are able to gain a stronger connection to their work, thus creating pride and interest in their creation of a formal paper.
Blau, Sheridan D. “Writing Assignments in Literature Classrooms: The Problem.”The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003. 151-63. Print