Can you Use ‘You’ in Essays or Research Paper: Best Practice

using you in essay writing

Academic writing, unlike other informal writings, has strict rules that should be adhered to by students. Some of those rules regard vocabulary and grammar usage, whereby some vocabulary or words should be omitted while others are recommended for use. One of the major rules in academic writing that tend to confuse students is the use of personal pronouns. 

What are Personal Pronouns?

Personal pronouns include the first person (I), second person (you), and third person (heshe, itthey). The first-person pronoun denotes the speaker or the author writing an essay/paper.

In singular form, the 1st person is I/me/my, while in the plural form is we/us/our. The second person pronoun denotes the person or people being addressed by the speaker(s) or author(s).

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Both the singular and the plural forms of the 2nd person are you/your. Finally, the third person pronoun denotes the third parties other than the person(s) being addressed and the speaker(s) or author(s). The pronouns include he/him/hisshe/her/hers, and they/them/their.  

As you can see, personal pronouns may confuse students because of their grammatical usage and their forms. The following sections will help you understand their usage in research papers. 

Personal Pronouns chart

Can You Use ‘you’ in a Research Paper

You cannot use “you” in an essay or a term paper because it is not academically sound to use second-person language in academic writing. Also, one cannot use it in research papers because personal pronouns are not desirable. To make your work academically sound, avoid first and second-person language and adopt the use of 3rd-person language.

This might be surprising to you but there is a valid reason for that. The reason is that a research paper is not a fictional composition or a personal letter that gives you the freedom to apply different techniques, even creative techniques, to attract and appeal to the audience.

A research paper is a formal academic assignment that will be read by the research community. When the personal pronoun “you” is used, the research paper will sound too informal and conversational thus lessening the quality of the paper.

Sadly, the use of “you” in academic writing will show the reader that the level of your intelligence as a writer and researcher is low. 

Therefore, you should always note that a research paper is not a personal or direct conversation with a particular reader. It is formal academic writing meant for the research community. 

Can you Use the First Person in a Research Paper?

The answer to this question is yes, but not every time. While academic writing and the resulting research paper is a writer’s analysis of a particular topic, the use of the first person is not wrong. This is because the research paper represents the ideas and research conducted by the writer.

However, the usage of the first person is unnecessary because the writer had already written their name on the paper and the reader already knows that the ideas belong to the writer. 

For example, it is not wrong to state in your research paper that “I believe that the stock market will be affected by inflation”. However, it would be more appropriate if you say “the stock market will be affected by inflation”.

The reader already knows that the ideas belong to you as the writer. Additionally, it is more formal to avoid the first-person pronoun. 

How to Use 1st and 2nd Person in Writing Research Papers

As aforementioned, you are allowed to use the first-person pronoun when writing a research paper. However, it is unnecessary to use or overuse it because the reader already knows that the work belongs to you and there is no need to continually remind them that it is yours. 

1st, 2nd and 3rd person

Therefore, when using the 1st person when writing research papers, it is best to omit it because it is unnecessary.

For example, if you say “I think that global warming is causing the polar ice to melt”, you can replace the statement with “global warming is causing the polar ice to melt”.

Here, omitting “I think that” does not affect the meaning or flow of the statement. 

As noted, the second person should be avoided when writing research papers.

Therefore, if you are tempted to use them, it is best to replace them with words that denote the person or people to who you are referring or just use “they” instead. For instance, you can replace “you” with “men”, “women”, “children”, “people”, and so on. 

To avoid using first-person language, you can adopt strategies to change the words and sentences. You can read our guide on how to avoid first-person language in your essays and keep off the unsound words.

Why using 1st and 2nd-Person Language is not Desirable

As we have noted, the 1st person usage in academic work is tolerable to some extent but not always. However, the 2nd person is completely intolerable in any form of academic work. The reason why the first person is not always allowed is that it will appear repetitive in the paper.

At the same time, it will look as if you are trying too much to prove to the reader that the ideas presented are yours, hence jeopardizing the quality of your paper.

However, usage of the 2nd person is not allowed. It makes the research paper sound too informal and conversational thus lessening the quality of the paper. It will show that the level of your intelligence as a writer and researcher is low.

How to avoid using ‘you’, ‘her’, ‘him’ in Academic Writing

Concerning “you”, you should replace it with the word people. For example, if you say “you know that the moon is round”, you can instead say that “people know that the moon is round”. 

writing research paper

The second strategy is to replace “you” with the word one or somebody/someone.

For example, if you say “you may think that it is correct”, you can instead say that “one may think that it is correct” or “somebody/someone may think that it is correct”. 

The next strategy to avoid using “you” is to omit it altogether.

For example, if you say “you should research adequately before writing a research paper” you can omit the “you” and say “research adequately before writing a research paper”. Finally, you can rearrange the sentence to eliminate “you”. 

Concerning her/him, the best and easiest way to avoid using them is to replace them with they/them. For example, if you write, “the patient claimed that her abdomen was hurting”, you can instead write “the patient claimed that their abdomen was hurting”. 

FAQs

Can You Use “I” in a Research Paper

Yes. You can use in a research paper. However, you should limit the usage to only the places where its usage is unavoidable. 

Is it Okay to Use First-Person Language in Academic Writing?

Yes. It is okay to use first-person language in academic writing as long as you do not overuse it. Your work may appear informal. 

What to Use Instead of “You” in an Essay

Instead of “you”, utilize peopleonesomebody/someone, or completely omit the “you” because it will not change the meaning or the correct structure of the statement. 

Can You Use the First Person in a Research Paper?

Though the usage is at times allowed, you should try as much as possible to avoid its usage because it will make your paper sound informal and conversational. 

What Pronouns Can You Use in a Research Paper?

Third-person pronouns can be used. However, it is advisable to use the plural form of the third person pronouns instead such as they/them/their

Can You Use the First Person in a Research Paper APA Format?

Yes. You can use the first person in APA format as long as it is not overused. Only the usage of the second person “you” is completely forbidden. 

Alicia Smart
Alicia Smart
With over 10 years in academia and academic assistance, Alicia Smart is the epitome of excellence in the writing industry. She is our chief editor and in charge of the writing department at Grade Bees.