First Person Vs Third Person: How To Make A Choice


If the author chooses to write the text from the first, second, third person, he has every right to do so, and it means that this is his position. When writing a document in the first person, we tend to analyze it more often than not. This means that the paper uses pronouns: I, we. Using these pronouns is permissible only if it is personal information created for a book or magazine. But as much as you would like to write scientific articles in the first person, unfortunately, this is not possible.

There are times when writers still use the first person in a scientific paper instead of the second or third, thereby confusing the reader. After all, when using the first person, it is easy for the reader to get confused. He does not understand who wrote this experiment, whether additional persons participated. Surely you will say that it is easy to determine what to use between first and third persons. Yet you will agree with our position if you carefully study the scientific paper.

First Person Use

The first person is easy to identify; in the text, it most often means that the writer uses pronouns that directly refer to him. Let’s look at the pronouns that refer to the first person: I, we, me, my, mine, us, our.

If the writer uses the pronouns mentioned above in his text, he wants to convey the information he found or wrote to the reader. Mathematicians, chemists, physicists do not use the first person to describe an experiment, and if they do, they do it very rarely. They think that the expressions – me, sound too arrogant in the experiment. Therefore, you should consider using the first person when you write your research because it is based on experience and not on any particular person. If you want to impress the reader, then avoid such pronouns. The reader will not only consider you high-order, but if they do not like your conclusions, then perhaps you will receive a bad review, and it will be based on you. Let’s look at an example: 

  • When experimenting, I proved my hypothesis that C and E are not equal to D.

Based on this example, the reader may not correctly understand the whole point of the study. After all, the author’s results are not his inventions; this is proven based on an experiment. When the researcher wrote that he proved the hypothesis, then the statement is considered a mistake because only data could give him such results, and he worked not alone, but with the help of laws established by other scientists. If you want to conclude, then it would be better to do it in this form:

  • The obtained results of the study indicate that C and E are not equal to D.

Using the Second Person

If the writer uses the second person, then he directly wants to address the reader. When writing the second person, the following pronouns are used: you, your, yours.

These pronouns are most often used when you need to describe a process, instructions, or advice. For example, when you open a recipe book, it will be written in the second person. Why do writers use the second person? Because their main goal is to attract the attention of the reader. Take a look at an example:

  • Surely you want to buy a large chicken because your family consists of many people. After you buy the chicken, it needs to be rinsed under cold water.

As you can see, writing in the second person is the best technique, and it is also good for a scientific article.

Using a Third Person

Writers who use in their texts a third person, for example, a person’s name, or pronouns that are aimed at a certain group, can be experimenters, doctors, teachers, but at the same time, they do not use the appeal directly to the reader. Pronouns refer to the third person: she, her, he, him, it, one. Pronouns that refer to a particular group of people: everyone, anyone, them, they.

Now let’s take a look at some examples to make it easier for you to understand:

  • All the doctors at the meeting were interested in what the blade’s director would say about Alice’s health.
  • According to teachers, students should be actively involved in the purchase of laboratory equipment.
  • When experimenting, the researchers concluded that one image would not be enough for further research.

As you can see, the third person is great for scientific work, but sometimes more complex pronouns are used. There are times when scientists use definite pronouns to refer to some subject, but at the same time, do not use feminine and masculine terminology. Let’s look at an example:

  • For the experiment, the researcher must check if he has enough samples.
  • The physician must make a reliable report on the patient’s health, so many blood samples are used.

Also, in their works, writers manage to use the pronouns he or she. Still, it is essential to consider that this expression can distract the reader from information while the reader ponders who the pronoun is referring to. Let’s look at an example:

  • When conducting a survey, the teacher should ensure that he and she distribute the required samples.
  • When the nurse takes a blood sample, she must monitor him, and she’s healthy.

You can also use the plural to describe a process. Let’s consider an example:

  • When conducting research, the teacher must know that they have everything they need to work.
  • It is the responsibility of the nurse to ensure that health is stable.

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Important Information That Goes Beyond the Rules

We have provided you with a lot of information about which person should be used in a scientific document, and this is the third, but we want you to understand that these rules are not as strict as they seem. To date, there are discussions on the use of the first and second person in scientific documents, and some scientists admit such a phenomenon.

One day at a conference in 2011, a renowned professor, David M. Schultz, provided his perspective on whether a scientist could use the second person or first person in his work. However, many people did not understand his statements on this topic. Some believed that a scientific article’s rules should be the same for everyone to avoid a subjective opinion on the reader’s part. On the contrary, others thought that David M. Schultz had a good idea and agreed that if the facts or results obtained are true, it does not matter what person the author writes the article.

Some scholars think it’s okay to use the first person in scientific papers when publishing a journal. But at the same time, they argue that sections such as Methods and Results should be written in a third person. But you must understand that if you use several types of people, then your article may cause the reader to be confused.

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