I have been asked to write a report on the company I am working at during a placement from University (I am on an engineering programme). There was not much guidance given on what the content of the report is supposed to be, this is what I've been told:

First Report – this is informally known as the “Company” report and is submitted in December of your placement year. It is a 3,000 word report that should give an overview of the Company: its place within its industry sector and your place within it.

I have had no trouble writing most of this without using first person, as I don't really need to refer to myself during this, however, when discussing the style of the review, this requirement is added:

Reports should incorporate some element of review and self-reflection, indicating what you have learnt from the placement and how it is likely to shape your future career choices.

I am of the opinion that writing a section of self reflection in anything but first person serves absolutely no purpose but to make the whole thing much more confusing and less precise. The only way I can think of is more or less to simply change all instances of "I" to "The authour". Perhaps I am wrong (please correct me if so) but I feel this won't make a clear piece of writing.

With this in mind, I included a short self review at the end of my report in first person. My Tutor has informed me that if I don't change this I shall lose marks, no question.

Now comes my actual question. Is there any way I can actually write directly about experiences and learned skills without using first person, other than the way I have described above? Does anyone have any tips on how I can tackle this without writing a confusing and frankly odd sounding report?

  • 3
    Your tutor's comment doesn't make any sense. What exactly did the person say? The instructions say "include elements of self-reflection" but the tutor says "don't self-review"? This needs clarification. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 19:07
  • Were the two individual sets of instructions you gave us in writing? Meaning, were you specifically told to discuss not only the company but your place within it? I have an interesting solution, but it does require using first person throughout, more or less. I wouldn't use first person unless I had to, so I really need to know the exact instructions...
    – Stu W
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:40
  • Ditto @LaurenIpsum. I'd ask for clarification of the instructions. If you are specifically required to engage in "review and self-reflection", how can you do this without talking about yourself and your own perspective? Perhaps you have misunderstood something, or perhaps the tutor is contradicting the written instructions.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 16:33
  • 1
    Not using the first person in a self-reflection is contrary to even the name of the assignment. By definition, the self is reflecting on an experience. Perhaps the tutor did not understand your intention to only use first person in the reflection section. No reasonable reader would expect anything different, and anything other than that will feel incredibly stuffy.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 15:07

3 Answers 3


One way out of this problem is to use the passive voice. It's the bane of fiction but it might be exactly what you need here.

Present yourself has the object of the experience, instead of the subject. For instance:

  • Lessons Learned. In order to work efficiently at the company, one has to increase their communication skills to the point where they can communicate across technical domains.

  • The organisational structure of the company is rigid and generates compartments which makes studying its culture difficult but, conversely, helps the operational analysis of each department.

  • The production process is made opaque by the lack of a global production schedule.

In the last example, your own experience is even implied, not stated, but it still remains clear that it's your personal viewpoint.

  • 1
    In my line of work I constantly have to write reports about what I did, but always always always divorced from the person actually doing the work (even when their name is listed right there as the person doing it), so it's all passive all the time. If that is the convention nobody in the business will/should be bothered by the passive voice.
    – wordsworth
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 0:28

There is one other trick that I and many others have used. Make a character with a name or title, and have that person observe the action. Clearly, it's still you, but it depersonalizes it somewhat.

The writing enthusiast read over his answer, and decided it could use more information. But he was reluctant to give too many details. He thought that each writing project was unique, and didn't want to force his opinion on the person who had asked the question.

At the least, he thought, it avoids drowning in the passive voice. Maybe that will be enough to help the frustrated writer to get started.


I am a graduate from an an engineering program, and I often was taught that passive voice in technical and scientific writing can be preferred for cases like this. The rationale is that most documentation in industry or research contains information that will (ideally) be instructive, transferable, and/or reproducible. However, you should generally avoid the ambiguous "one should do this..." and other uses of "one" as a generic pronoun unless the situation really calls for it. "One" is often used as an awkward substitute for a better sentence structure.

That being said, definitely check with your instructor to see if they allow first person in your reflection. Different instructors have different opinions and there is unfortunately not one convention on person and voice in engineering student writing assignments.

In your first excerpt from the assignment, make sure you describe the position you're holding and its place in the company with an emphasis on how the position interfaces with the company and the company values/goals, not how you interface with the position.

If you get confirmation that you must avoid first person, the second excerpt from the assignment is a little more difficult but still possible to write. You can follow and expand a template similar to "Challenges confronted in this position include [challenges encountered]. This position provides the opportunity to develop [these skills], which in the future can be transferable to [a future role or career goal]."

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