Keep an "eye" on the text: The Use of Self-mention in the Academic Writing of Experts
One of the most controversial inquiries in academic writing is whether it is admissible to use first person pronouns in a scientific paper or not. Many professors discourage their students from using them, rather favoring a more passive tone, and thus causing novices to avoid inserting themselves into their texts in an expert-like manner. Abundant research, however, has recently attested that negotiation of identity is plausible in academic prose, and there is no need for a paper to be void of an authorial identity. Because in the course of the English Studies Degree we have received opposing prompts in the use of I, the aim of this dissertation is to throw some light upon this vexed issue. To this end, I compiled a corpus of 16 Research Articles (RAs) that comprises two sub-corpora, one featuring Linguistics RAs and the other one Literature RAs, and each, in turn, consists of articles written by American and British authors. I then searched for real occurrences of I, me, my, mine, we, us, our and ours, and studied their frequency, rhetorical functions and distribution along each paper. The results obtained certainly show that academic writing is no longer the faceless prose that it used to be, for I is highly used in both disciplines and varieties of English. Concerning functions, the most typically used roles were the use of I to take credit for the writer’s research process, and also those involving plural forms. With respect to the spatial disposition, all sections welcomed first person pronouns, but the Method and the Results/Discussion sections seem to stimulate their appearance. On the basis of these findings, I suggest that an L2 writing pedagogy that is mindful not only of the language proficiency, but also of the students’ own identity may have a beneficial effect on the composition of their texts.