The Academic “I”

Being in my second year at University, I’ve written quite a few papers by now, and I’ll probably have to write a whole bunch more the upcoming years. One of the first things we were taught to avoid when writing an academic essay, is the use of the personal pronoun “I”. They tell us this makes our texts seem too personal and thus less academic – and I’ve had enough of that. I think it’s complete and utter bullshit.

A close friend of mine said that if he were to read an essay that uses “I” too often, he’d think of it as less credible. But in the end, isn’t the notion “credibility” something set up by a common consensus within the academic world? And, if we’re going to think about this really thoroughly, isn’t a consensus something that isn’t really questioned anymore? People, in this case academics, just accept it as a fact. Well, I refuse to settle for that – I refuse to blindly accept something just because there is consensus that it should be so. The academic world is all about questioning things – so why can’t it question itself?

Yeah, yeah, I know. “Those are just the rules” – but if the “rule” is that something is only academic when it is impersonal, cold and distant, then, Hell, I am here to break it. I have been told that some professors will fail me if I use “I” too much in my essays – but I feel like that says more about them than it does about my academic skills. If I get everything right from sources to focus to arguments to backing to lay-out, but I fail anyway simply because I often use a certain personal pronoun, then that is not a failure to me. It is merely proof of the closed-mindedness of the academic world, willing to question everything but itself.

Then again, who am I to question this? I’m no more than a second year English student – all I can do about this is ask my professors why they refuse to let us use “I” in academic essays, and write about why I disagree with it in a blogpost. But at least I have done just that – and at least I’ve made whoever is reading this think about it in a different way.

  • L. Parole



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