A research argument is the dialogue you, as a researcher, have with a prospective reader, through your research article, where you present and explain your research findings. The quality of your work will partly, if not fully, be judged based on how you present your findings. The more precise, clear and simple you present your arguments, the longer you would be able to maintain your reader’s interest. Before you start documenting your arguments, you need to decide how to present it. There are many aspects that govern this decision. In this article I highlight one of these aspects: the approaches of presenting a research argument.
There are two approaches to present your work: personal and impersonal.
- The personal approach is one where you refer to yourself/your research group in first person ‘I’ or ‘we’.
- The impersonal approach, on the other hand, is where you refer to yourself/research group in the third person as ‘the author’/ ‘the authors’. Alternatively, you could construct the sentence in such a way so as to avoid making a direct reference to yourself.
- The impersonal approach is usually used in scientific writing, but it is accompanied by passive sentence construction. This may not be a Journal requirement, but more so a matter of tradition.
- By using the personal approach, the sentence construction tends to be shorter and simpler to understand. For example “the authors have presented” can be shortened to “we present”; likewise, “the authors of the paper are grateful to” can be written as “we are grateful to”
- An added advantage is that active voice can replace passive voice, making it difficult to construct dangling participles.
When you refer to other’s published results in comparison to your own, using passive voice can be quite confusing. Consider the following example:
- Impersonal: ‘It was reported that X was better than Y, but in contrast, the author observed that X and Y were equally good.’
In the above example, the author refers to past research work with respect to X being better than Y. On the other hand, X being equally good as Y is the author’s own finding. If we use the personal approach to reframe this sentence, it would be clearer:
Personal: ‘Page and colleagues (1998) reported that X was better than Y, but in contrast, we observed that X and Y were equally good.
- Impersonal: ‘Past research work also support these findings, although there seem some discrepancies. The author’s findings bridge the gap between these discrepancies.’
Personal: ‘Past research work also support these findings, although there seem some discrepancies. Our findings bridge the gap between these discrepancies.’
After you choose your approach, be consistent throughout the document. If you have to make a change, do it in such a way that it doesn’t stand out. I hope the above pointers can help you in crisper writing.