Academic writing should remain objective, clear, precise, responsible, and well structured. Here you can find a few ways to achieve this.
The passive voice is often used to describe processes as it places the focus on the action rather than the person doing the action and it is less personal. However, academic writing aims to describe processes in a clear, precise, and responsible manner. By using the active voice to discuss previous research and your own method, you can achieve all three of these goals. First, the active voice generally provides more clarity. Second, it is shorter and more precise as it does not conceal the identity of the action taker. Third, it is responsible as it clearly gives credit to the researcher in focus.
Further information can be found on APAStyle.
When referring to your method, you may use the pronoun I to describe the steps taken in your research. Using the pronoun I does not automatically lead to subjectivity. The method you follow must be based on theory and previous research addressed in your literature review. The theory and previous research should be critically assessed, leading to an objective method selection. Using I allows you to write your method section with more clarity and precision.
For more on the use of I, we, and the author, refer to apastyle.apa.org.
The use of the second person pronoun you, should be avoided. A certain distance should be kept between you the author and the reader. You also should avoid making assumptions about the readers’ interpretations, understanding, or stance.
To avoid sexist language use, i.e. using he or she for a generic person, write in plural and use they. Further uses of they can be found here.
Bias in writing extends far beyond the use of gendered pronouns. Academic writing should be precise and avoid generalizations about groups of people. APA Style provides a list of guidelines on how to avoid bias in language.
|Paper section||Recommended tense||Example|
|Literature review (or whenever discussing other researchers’ work)||Past||Martin (2020) addressed|
|Present perfect||Researchers have studied|
|Method Description of procedure||Past||Participants took a survey|
|Present perfect||Others (e.g. Smith, 2018) have used similar approaches|
|Reporting of your own or other researchers’ results||Past||Results showed Scores decreased Hypotheses were not supported|
|Discussion of implications of results or of previous statements||Present||The results indicate The findings mean that|
|Presentation of conclusions, limitations, future directions, and so forth||Present||We conclude Limitations of the study are Future research should explore|
The following paragraph from Swales and Feak (2015, p. 30) provides an excellent example of paragraphing and text flow.
Sections in a paper should be well linked despite beginning a new part of the paper. For example, your literature review and method section should be well linked in that your chosen method should be informed by and influenced by the previous research you review. Moreover, the analysis/findings section should be guided and structured by the method section. Including one or more sentences that link the sections in your paper will create a strong through-line.
APA Style. (2019). Style and Grammar Guidelines. APA Style. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/bias-free-language/general-principles
Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2015). Academic Writing for Graduate Students (3rd ed.). The University of Michigan Press.