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How to use academic writing style

Stating your opinion without being personal

when you've finished this page you will be able to...

 

This particular technique may take a little practice but it will make a huge impact on the style of your writing. The basic concept is that you cannot say 'I', 'We', or 'You' in academic writing. However, it is really important to put across your own opinion during an essay, in the form of critical analysis. Tricky stuff. (If you have not heard of critical analysis, you might want to take a look at the critical analysis topic!).

The best way to explain this is to use two examples. Here is an extract of writing which uses 'I', 'We' and 'You':

I think that this report has major flaws as it only looked at hospitals in one area of the country. You can see that this is a problem as the report was supposed to consider the cleanliness of hospitals throughout the country.

Here is an extract that implies the same opinions but does not use 'I', 'We' or 'You':

The report by smith et al cannot be used to draw conclusions about the cleanliness of hospitals throughout the country as it only focuses on investigating hospitals in one region.

Activity: Identifying personal language in a piece of academic writing - 5 minutes

1. Read the following article

2. Write down, in your notes, any personal language used in this piece

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but is there any scientific evidence to prove this? I have read the reports produced by Smith et al, Jones et al and White et al and I think that it is clear from this report that children can concentrate for longer in school if they have had breakfast. I think that the research carried out by Thompson et al disproves some of the theories suggested by Smith et al, however, I'm not sure if Thompson's report is conclusive enough as it only surveyed three schools. Therefore I conclude that eating breakfast is beneficial for a school age children as it will help to increase their level of concentration.

How did you do?

When you have completed the above activity, compare your answer to the one shown below.


Activity: Stating your opinion without using personal language - 5 minutes

1. Read the article below

2. For each section of personal language highlighted above, rewrite these sections in your notes using the third person

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but is there any scientific evidence to prove this? I have read the reports produced by Smith et al, Jones et al and White et al and I think that it is clear from this report that children can concentrate for longer in school if they have had breakfast. I think that the research carried out by Thompson et al disproves some of the theories suggested by Smith et al, however, I'm not sure if Thompson's report is conclusive enough as it only surveyed three schools. Therefore I conclude that eating breakfast is beneficial for a school age children as it will help to increase their level of concentration.

How did you do?

When you have completed the above activity, compare your answer to the one shown below. The answers shown below are not the only correct answers – providing you have managed to state your opinion by critically analysing the evidence whilst using the third person, you have mastered this technique!

Recommended Further Reading

Action point:

When writing an academic piece, make sure that you state you opinion without using personal language. You may wish to look at the website www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk for some inspiration on alternatives to personal language.

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