Question: In scientific writing, I need to express myself in a neutral way. The passive writing style is widely used in my field. I find it difficult to use this style all the time. I find it sometimes makes texts unreadable and incomprehensible. However, the first-person form is considered unscientific. Do I really have to avoid the first person completely in my dissertation?
Answer: You are addressing an undisputed claim in scientific work: its content must be objective, i.e. independent of the person doing the research so that it can be regarded as generally valid. The translation of this claim into writing, the how, has been under discussion and change for several years. Influenced, among other things, by the Anglo-American style of writing.
The first-person form makes sense in some cases
The 'I-taboo' should help to avoid subjective opinions and evaluations and to present scientific findings from the required neutral perspective. This principle for implementing scientific language and factual writing style is increasingly being called into question today. For example, it makes little sense to decouple the interpretation of one's own research results from oneself as the author. Furthermore, complicated passive constructions tend to make it more difficult to read and understand texts. In this respect, the first person is increasingly accepted and sometimes even desired with regard to good text comprehensibility.
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You can use the first person form in scientific texts in the following cases, example,
Description of the text structure,
Presentation of the methodology,
discussion of results,
preface, and acknowledgments.
The writing style in the department and with supervisors is a guideline
In order to eliminate uncertainties, it is advisable to look at texts from your own department and familiarize yourself with the writing requirements there. The personal attitude of the supervisors to the first person form is also important. If you experience a rather negative attitude towards this from them, you can go into the conversation and discuss your arguments as a pro. Take this opportunity to actively shape the change in the language of science.