I'm writing a report for a piece of University coursework, but I understand that I should avoid referring to myself as "me" or "I". I've seen an example piece in which the author occasionally referred to themselves as "the author", but this seems a little clunky depending how I use it.

Would it be better to use the passive voice? For example, in the beginning of my report should I write

The author will consider several arguments...


Several arguments will be considered...

Which looks better? Are there better alternatives to "the author"?

  • if you want to avoid using passive voice.. "There are several arguments to consider." The language is actually generally speaking flexible enough to allow you to say the same thing in a lot of different ways.
    – ashleylee
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 14:20

5 Answers 5


Passive tone is the preferred tone in scientific writing. As much as is possible, avoid references to people doing things and instead refer to the actions that are performed (who does it is unimportant to scientific writing).

  • This is blatantly incorrect for most scientific fields. I cannot remember having read a single paper that does not use the “royal we” as described by Amadeus or in rare occasions I (for some papers with a single author).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 17:28

You can also use the royal "we", even if there was only one person doing it.

"We conditioned the matrices using ..."


"After these adjustments, we found a significant increase in ..."

We use this extensively. We think it improves readability as well. It has never been mentioned as an issue in any (of many) peer reviews.

  • you also have to remember.. most scientists.. aren't native english speakers...
    – ashleylee
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 14:21

You've pretty much got the 3 choices. Use first person with active voice, use passive voice, or use 3rd person stating "the author" (or "the writer," "the researcher," etc).

I will say it depends on the field. I too was taught that only the latter two were acceptable (and mostly the passive voice one). But I've seen plenty of academic papers that use first person (mostly I've seen it in plural, but not entirely). As long as it's done sparingly and very professionally, it can work. But it really depends on what your peers have done.

In your case, it depends on what your professor thinks is okay. You can always ask!


Passive voice is common for scientific papers so it is recommended to use it. Using "we consider" is also popular, but passive voice is better IMO.

Also it is better if you use present tense instead of future when possible. "Several arguments are considered..." instead of "Several arguments will be considered...". It is a bad tone to refer to things not yet presented.


This depends on the style guide. In APA, you should prefer "I":

Here are two common cases in which you should prefer the active voice rather than the passive voice:

  1. Use the active voice to describe your own actions. It is completely permissible, and in fact encouraged, to use the first person to describe your own actions in APA Style. Use I to refer to yourself if you worked alone and we if you worked as part of a group (see PM 3.09 for more).
    • Active voice: I conducted an experiment about body image.
    • Passive voice: An experiment about body image was conducted.

Principles of Writing: Passive and Active Voice

This has several advantages. It tends to lead to shorter, clearer sentences. Most people prefer reading active voice sentences. It also avoids a potential source of confusion: "the author" could refer to the author of a paper that was cited, while "I" is unambiguous.

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