My "I" wants to make a statement

"Some scholarly writers claim that they in particular should not use a first-person subject, because they must create an objective point of view...Contrary to that claim, academic and scientific writers use the active voice and the first-person I and we regularly." (51)

The above quote from Joseph M. Williams' book Style (specifically the 3rd edition) definitely would have made me go buggy eyed if I had read it before my first college semester. Admittedly, my high school was not the best in preparing me for the transition to college writing, but I did think they would have mentioned the little detail about being able to use "I" in a paper. Or at least instruct their high school students to only use it when specifically reacting to something that is being argued.

However, with my high school having failed me in this writing regard, it was quite the surprise when my first college writing professor took points off of my fledgling research paper for not including my personal response to the subject that I was arguing. Needless to say, I had to hurriedly (and rather messily) learn how to best incorporate my "I" points in papers. Even after a couple of years writing at the college level, I still experience a slight twinge at using "I," like it still isn't what I'm supposed to be doing. Despite my recommendation to possibly limit using "I" in writing academic papers, "I" is definitely used.

I think you should check out what my peers have to say.


I was told never to use "I" and I actually haven't heard from professor's yet to state my opinion. However, I have been told not to say "I think" or "I believe" because it can weaken your argument. "Believe" and "think" are abstractions. When you state something is a certain way in your thesis, it's stronger.

I dunno.

Sometimes I consciously use "I think" when I want to soften the force of something I'm saying. If you've just spent some time describing an intellectual conflict between two different authors, and you want to move from the "summarizing their disagreement" stage to the "here's my opinion" phase, then a judicious use of "But I argue that..." may be useful. You might also write a longish passage that hinges on personal observation.

"When I look at my desk, I see a smooth surface. But I know that if I look at the surface of my desk under an electron microscope, I will instead see hills and valleys, canyons and craters. That's because my eye..."

So to say "Never use I" would be overkill.

Leave a comment