by Chelsea Lee
Any sleep-deprived student knows those papers don’t write themselves. A living, breathing, person must produce the words on the page, and in certain contexts, you have to acknowledge that fact in the text itself. Let’s go through several cases of how to write about yourself in an APA Style paper.
General Use of I or We
It is totally acceptable to write in the first person in an APA Style paper. If you did something, say, “I did it”—there’s no reason to hide your own agency by saying “the author [meaning you] did X” or to convolute things by using the passive “X was done [meaning done by you].” If you’re writing a paper alone, use I as your pronoun. If you have coauthors, use we.
However, avoid using we to refer to broader sets of people—researchers, students, psychologists, Americans, people in general, or even all of humanity—without specifying who you mean (a practice called using the editorial “we”). This can introduce ambiguity into your writing.
For example, if you are writing about the history of attachment theory, write “Researchers have studied attachment since the 1970s” rather than “We have studied attachment since the 1970s.” The latter may allow the reader to erroneously believe that you have personally studied attachment for the last 40 years (which may be difficult for those dear readers under 40).
If you want to refer to yourself as well as a broader group, specify to whom we refers. Write “As young adults in college, we are tasked with learning to live independent lives” not “We are tasked with learning to live independent lives.” By stating that we refers here to young adults in college, readers understand the context (which could otherwise be any number of groups tasked with the same, such as individuals with developmental disabilities or infants).
Use of I or We in Personal Response or Reaction Papers
A common assignment in psychology classes is the personal response or reaction paper. The specifications of these assignments vary, but what they all have in common is that you are supposed to critique and/or give your personal thoughts about something you have read. This necessitates using the first person. In the professional psychology world, a similar type of paper exists, and it is called a Comment or a Reply.
The excerpt below illustrates how the first person should be used to express personal opinions. Here, South and DeYoung (2013), the authors, respond to papers by Hopwood (2013) and Skodol and Krueger (2013).
|Research seems to be converging on a trait-dimensional system that can capture the majority of personality pathology, and this phenotypic work is supported by extant behavior genetic findings. We must ask, though, whether the ability to capture all multivariate personality pathology space with one structural model is sufficient for capturing disordered personality. Hopwood (2013) rightly pointed out that there is something unique about a personality disorder (PD) above and beyond traits, but in the DSM–5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2011) proposal the only difference between describing someone with a constellation of pathological traits and a PD “type” is the Criterion A requirement of impairment in self and interpersonal functioning. Skodol and Krueger (2013), partly in jest, suggested that PDs could conceivably be diagnosed on Axis I. We get the joke but worry that in an attempt to ameliorate the problems with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM–IV–TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) PDs a new system risks losing the forest (PD) for the trees (traits).|
Notice how the authors state their opinions and reactions: They use plain, straightforward language. If you are tasked with writing a personal response paper, you can do the same. The authors have also used the pronoun we because there are two of them; if a single author had written this passage, she or he would have used the pronoun I.
It’s less hard than you might think to write about yourself in APA Style. Own your opinions by using the appropriate pronouns. If you have further questions about this topic, please leave a comment.
|South, S. C., & DeYoung, N. J. (2013). The remaining road to classifying personality pathology in the DSM–5: What behavior genetics can add. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4, 291–292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/per0000005|
If you are asked to write an interview essay for a work assignment, be alert during the interview for a "hook" on which to base the article. With the interview over, you have to create a compelling introduction for your essay. Ideally, as you interviewed the colleague, customer or vendor for your assignment, one part of the interview struck you as particularly humorous, insightful or provocative. Use this information to craft a memorable introduction that will engage your readers and enlighten them about the subject of your interview.
1. Choose an anecdote that captures the essence of the person you interviewed or the main idea of the essay. The anecdote should serve as a microcosm of the essay to come. For example, if the person you interviewed is now president of a company and admitted that a childhood turning point was becoming president of the student council in high school, focus your anecdote on the interviewee’s fledgling leadership skills or determination.
2. Refine the anecdote so that it goes directly to the heart of the action and put your reader in the center of a revealing turning point. You might do this, for example, by recounting the suspense of election night as vote returns were being counted in high school or the day the interviewee gave her first speech as student council president.
3. Weave in timely information about the interviewee without slowing down the introduction of your essay by including pertinent information as clauses. Such information might include how long the interviewee has been president of the company, her age or how many people she supervises.
4. “Self-edit” your words and sentences as you write your introduction, remembering that you are a storyteller and an audience is depending on you to be engaging and interesting. To this end, choose crisp, lively and descriptive words and eliminate any information that fails to move your introduction forward or is irrelevant.
5. Select a revealing quote from the interviewee that deftly underscores the main idea of the essay or the spirit of the anecdote. For brevity’s sake, choose a direct quote that is no more than two sentences long. Letting your readers “hear” from the interviewee is an effective way to segue from the introduction to the remainder of the essay.
- Proofread and edit the essay for spelling, punctuation and grammar.
About the Author
With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.
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