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Writing in 3rd Person

Writing in 3rd Person

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student-writing-third-personBy Dr. Charles Johnson
Adjunct Professor, School of Business at American Public University

One of the challenges of academia in the cyber world is maintaining a formal atmosphere. Like many online programs, at American Public University (APU) we use a forum which is similar to Facebook or LinkedIn as part of the classroom. The tendency for many is to write papers for the forum or assignments like we do in social media, but this isn’t always the appropriate choice.

Even though the submissions are made in a social media platform, initial academic submissions are not a conversation and should not be considered as such. Professors should set clear expectations and students should have a clear understanding of social versus academic writing.

The following examples show 1) 1st person and 2) 3rd person writing.

  1. When I decided to write my dissertation on revitalization of a small town, I had to develop a plan. I chose to write a survey to the residents and shopkeepers in the town. I collected the surveys and then did a statistical analysis of the survey to verify my hypotheses.
  2. This researcher developed a plan to gather information for his dissertation on revitalization. The survey was written and distributed to the residents and shopkeepers in the town.  After the surveys were collected, statistical analysis was used to verify hypotheses.

The first example is written as a discussion. The second, which provides the same information, is written as an academic statement.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of a forum is: “an assembly, meeting place, television program, etc., for the discussion of questions of public interest.”

It is important to remember that an initial submission must be understood academically. When we submit it as a comment, as many do in social media, the thoughts expressed lose strength and impact.

At the graduate level, forum submissions can be strong enough for publication, but entries written in first person discussion are not. So the writer needs to think about the immediate and future plans for any writing when considering the proper tone and style.

Some classes involve peer reviews of classmates. These can also be written in a conversational or academic style. The right choice depends on the class and the material as well as the instructor’s guidance.

Technology has made advanced education available for many. But, while online classes may use the same technology as social media, it is important to remember that academic submissions often require formalized writing.

 About the Author

Dr. Charles Johnson has been an adjunct professor at American Public University since Aug 2010. He has a Doctorate in Business Administration Jones International University, is in Business Administration. He teaches business analytics, operations research, and the Senior Seminar in General Studies. He is a retired US Marine.

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