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I am writing a research paper or report that is based on the development of my own product. Traditionally, the University I study in recommends that a research paper or report must be written by groups of 3 at least; however, due to the lack of students in my own college, I have to do mine alone.

I am developing a certain product that has several types of functionality, attributes and features, and I am required to document all of it. Usually, I would write a paper that would only involve the "author" and the "reader" with the pronoun "We".

For example,

"It is likely that we will experience several improvements.."

My problem is that I came across a section of my paper to which I must explain to the reader that "I" myself have prepared a table that will further explain the product's functions in details.

Is it right that I use the phrase,

"In order to better explain the features and functionality of this product, I have prepared a table that simplifies and broadens the information regarding the aforementioned subjects."

Or, is it better to only refer "we" being the author and the reader?

I know it probably depends on the actual author, but I am curious to know which might be the best to recommend.

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    I was always taught never to refer to yourself (using neither we nor I) in an academic paper if possible. For your example phrase, we would instead write "In order to better explain the features and functionality of this product, table 1 was prepared to simplify and broaden the information regarding the aforementioned subjects." - That said, the sentence as a whole seems a little awkward and should probably be reworked. – Doc May 21 '14 at 5:31
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    This has been discussed quite extensively on Academia.SE. See here, here and here. – Peter Shor May 21 '14 at 9:00
  • Looking at the answers on Academia.SE, the answer to this question depends on the field of academia. Use the conventions of your field. – Peter Shor May 21 '14 at 10:07
  • The convention to use we makes logical sense when the authors of a paper are two or more. In the case of a single author, I don't see any issue of inappropriacy by using "I", as long as it doesn't sound like an ego trip e.g: and then I performed... later I found... eventually I discovered... Just use discretion and common sense. – Mari-Lou A May 22 '14 at 3:31
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Is it really necessary to inform the reader of who prepared the table? I think the best solution is to restructure such sentences to avoid having to refer to the agent at all. For example:

It is likely that this will produce several improvements.

and

For a better explanation of the features and functionality of this product, see Table 1.

After all, the reader doesn't really care that the table has been prepared (by you or anyone), just that it exists.

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    You could make it active, so This will likely produce several improvements.. – Simon Kuang May 21 '14 at 4:14
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    @SimonKuang Just be glad I didn't write "It is likely that several improvements will be produced by this." ;) – augurar May 21 '14 at 6:16
  • Thank you very much, I went on to just continue writing on without referring to myself at all! – Shinji May 22 '14 at 21:47
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It is quite acceptable to use the personal pronoun--singular or plural, as the case might be--when attributing specific actions to yourself as author or to yourself and your colleagues as coauthors. In fact, this is preferred over a convoluted passive-voice construction. Thus, your second shaded example is perfectly acceptable. This accords with APA 6th ed.

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I would recommend not referring to yourself, unless it is somehow required. It seems to me that since you are writing the entire paper, it is obvious that you are preparing and providing each part of it.

So I suggest:

In order to better explain the features and functionality of this product, a table has been prepared that simplifies and broadens the information regarding the aforementioned subjects.

or

In order to better explain the features and functionality of this product, a table is provided that simplifies and broadens the information regarding the aforementioned subjects."

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    Passive voice is often used to avoid the informality of personal pronouns, but it's also rather awkward, as though the invisible hand of fate prepared the table or something. – augurar May 21 '14 at 1:25
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    @augurar That's true. But it is how academic papers are written; it's supposed to be the results and method that are important, not the author. But I do like your invisible hand of fate allusion! – andy256 May 21 '14 at 2:46
  • @augurar As andy256 said, in academic papers it is usually advised to avoid personal pronouns and instead opt for passive voice: "A table was prepared" rather than "I prepared a table". – Doc May 21 '14 at 5:34
  • @Doc, andy256 - I agree that this is the most common practice, but I don't think it's the best practice. – augurar May 21 '14 at 6:14
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I suggest you introduce this section as follows:

"In order to better explain the features and functionality of this product, the [your designated role in the project], [your name], has prepared a table that simplifies and broadens the information regarding the aforementioned subjects."

For instance:

"In order to better explain the features and functionality of this product, the lead researcher, John Doe, has prepared a table that simplifies and broadens the information regarding the aforementioned subjects."

  • Yes I have thought of just referring to myself as how you mentioned, but I am not accustomed to writing papers in such a style. My professors know I am alone in writing this paper and it would probably be quite odd since they are the only designated readers. Thank you for your reply Mr. Erik Kowal – Shinji May 20 '14 at 22:27
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    Perhaps the university can be persuaded of the absurdity of you being expected to refer to yourself as 'we' when you are the sole person conducting the project. Have you discussed this issue with the professors reading your paper? – Erik Kowal May 20 '14 at 22:32
  • Yes I have. I do find it quite absurd and very ridiculous to be honest, but after a long chat with the professor he has finally allowed me to just use pronouns referring to myself; however, I still disagree. I decided to continue on not referring to myself or my imaginary "partners". – Shinji May 22 '14 at 21:46
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Consider simply saying:

"To better explain the features and functionality of this product, you will find (below; on the next page; etc.) a table that simplifies and broadens the information regarding the subjects previously mentioned."

Or

"To better explain the features and functionality of this product, here is a table that simplifies and broadens the information regarding the subjects previously mentioned."

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