I am authoring a single author paper. Usually when referring to oneself in a paper, 'we' is used. In single author papers I found both 'we' and 'I' (e.g., 'here we/I report xyz').

Which one is stylistically better? To me 'we' seems odd when I read a single author paper.

  • 5
    Already answered here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/2945/…
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 16:58
  • I think your question has more to do with the fact that it's a scientific paper than the appropriateness of writing style. Commented Nov 23, 2016 at 19:17
  • @DanRomik thank you for that link, this basically answered my question.
    – Dahlai
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 10:28
  • What did you use finally? We or I? I think I am encountering the same problem here.
    – Lin Cheng
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 21:27
  • I followed @DanRomik's and Monical Cellio's suggestions
    – Dahlai
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 7:55

5 Answers 5


The convention in scientific writing, at least in the hard sciences, is to avoid "I" even for single-author papers. I suspect (but can't prove) that this is why you see so much passive voice in such papers ("the doohickey was then frobitzed to induce a somethingorother reaction").

According to this well-received answer on Academia, you can view use of "we" as an editorial "we" or "we, as in the author and the readers". The latter approach works better for descriptive writing ("we see the following results...") than reporting ("we did X").

Ultimately you should base your decision on the submission requirements of the institution where you intend to publish the paper. But in general, "I" is uncommon, "we" is used even for single-author papers, and you can use "we" in a way that doesn't have to seem weird.


If it's a single author, use I. I is for singular, and if you are doing the research and all that stuff by yourself, then take credit, unless someone's helped you. If you use "we", then there must be more people other than you doing the research, or someone has been helping you.

Check here for more information.


If you are the only one behind the research and the writing behind the paper, I is a singular term and should therefore should be used instead of we. There is no "we" behind the paper if there was only one person masterminding the project. Although, If this was a formal Scientific paper, It Usually is incorrect to refer to ones self during the script; the point is to present your point, not the fact that you found it(although if you found something completely unique and incredibly interesting, by all means, announce the fact of your hand behind the discovery-outside of the paper.)


I would like to add to this debate (and maybe introduce some updated information) by pointing out that the American Psychological Association (APA) appears to recommend the first-person singular for works authored by a single person.

Furthermore, they problematize the use of third-person constructions (e.g., "The author ...").



So most scientific papers are written with multiple voices. In the introduction the problem is discussed and the writing will refer to "This Study" or "This experiment" if it must refer to narrative person.

The second part describes the steps taken to get the results which will be discussed further in the paper. As this section is written as a set of instructions, the second person imperative voice is used, often with an implied "you" as the subject of the sentance (you do not write "you" but skip the subject and write the imperative verb.).

The next section is the results which is written in the form of a third person objective voice. In Third Person Objective, the writer should describe only the information that can be observed with the sense. This is often refered to as "Third Person Roving Camera" as most audio-visual media rely on Third Person Objective.

Finally, the conclusion should return to the same voice as the introduction. The conclusion should refer to the conclusion of the experiment and rely soley on the results as the basis of any statements made. The narrator should not speculate but merely states that the result sets do not support a conclusion to any questions or that the question asked is outside of the scope of the experiment or study.

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