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I know that in a scientific paper or thesis made by a single author, it is common to use we. (This is also recommended at our university.)

But what about when you alone are presenting a thesis work orally?

At first glance, it is quite odd to use we when the work is written only by you yourself and you are presenting it alone.

For example, saying:

We will present you my machine learning model...

while at the same time you stand alone in front of the examiners seems very strange to me.

Is this style of presentation expected, tolerated, or forbidden?

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    If there's only one of you on stage, I would find "We will present..." a little odd but whether it's "my machine learning model..." or "our machine learning model..." will depend on who is being represented. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 9:41
  • Is it the product of a single researcher or a group?
    – zeroone
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 11:30
  • I'd say it depends on how many authors there are. "We" if there are multiple, even if you are presenting on your own. Alternatively it can be "I'll now present OUR machine learning model" to point out that you are presenting results of a group.
    – M i ech
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 11:40
  • I used “I” in my Oxford D Phil thesis, and that was 50 years ago! When you write “it is recommended”, you are avoiding telling us who advocated this antiquated convention. More to the point, you present your model to someone, and in English-speaking countries they are examiners, not a jury.
    – David
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 19:51
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    Note that you may get a more suitable audience for your question on Academia. Just make sure to distinguish it from this one.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 15:56

2 Answers 2

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Note that

We will be presenting my machine learning model,

is completely wrong. When you are writing a thesis, you would use we instead of I and our instead of my. The we combined with the my doesn't work. Similarly, this combination doesn't work when giving an single-presenter oral presentation. It implies that several people are speaking, but somehow that only one person came up with the machine learning model.

In an oral presentation, you should use I when you want to refer to yourself as the person giving the presentation. For your work, you can either use I/me/my or we/us/our. If it was joint work with somebody else, definitely use we/us/our. If it's your own single-authored work, I think using I/me/my is more common, but I don't think anything is wrong with using the scientific we/us/our.

So in an oral presentation, you should say one of:

I will be presenting my machine learning model,
I will be presenting our machine learning model.

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I suspect you are getting up on the rule that, traditionally, scientific theses were written in the passive voice and avoided any kind of personal pronoun.

For example:

The results of experiment X are compared to the results from experiment Y.

Not "I compared the results from experiment X....."

Apparently though, thoughts on this have changed in more recent times and it is more common to use personal pronouns in research writing.

This article by Professor of Statistics and Head of the Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics at Monash University Rob J Hyndman suggests:

  • Write in the most natural way. It is ok if that means using “I”.
  • Use “we” if you mean “the reader and I”, or if you are writing a co-authored paper.
  • Don’t use “we” if you only mean yourself.

Not only does it seems logical that you would use the same approach when presenting a thesis as when writing it, but it would also be very odd to present something orally in the passive voice. At the very least it would be very dry and un-engaging.

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    Has there ever been a time when oral scientific presentations (which is what the OP is asking about) were delivered in the passive voice? Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 10:39
  • @PeterShor No, good point - I got a bit lost making my point halfway through. I have edited to try and make that stand out.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 11:31
  • Using passive voice is an option, thank you for your suggestion. Although it sounds "boring" to me to use it constantly. Also, it is not recommended by my university to use passive voice for the same reason, but that applies only when writing a thesis, for a presentation, no guidelines were given. If I understand correctly, you advise in this situation to use "I" since this is a product of one author? Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 21:31

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