Re[2]: TECHNICAL, ACADEMIC: use or not use `we'

Subject: Re[2]: TECHNICAL, ACADEMIC: use or not use `we'
From: lpraderio -at- CLIFF -dot- WHOI -dot- EDU
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 1994 10:41:32 EST

What I find trully baffling is that students often use "we" in their theses.
When I see it, I ask them who "we" is when ethically this has to be all of
their work and their advisor cannot publish, but can copublish as second
author. After discussion, they invariably agree that's it's "I" but won't
change it. They say when they get to writing papers they'll think more about
it. I think it's a lack of confidence issue.

Also, I deal often with people who think that the passive voice is used
properly in scientific writing. ("They" just might not have as clear a grasp
on when they can use it properly.)

Some of the reasons I've heard are

1. The "I can be objective about my work" philosophy.
The author creates distance between him/herself and the material. Distance
implies an objective viewpoint, not the "I" subjection viewpoint. Usually I
try to get them to think that "I" is interpretive (just giving subjection a

2. The deified/scared of God syndrome: "Because that's the way my advisor

3. The journal approach: "Because that's the way other papers in the journal
are written."

4. The "that's the way I learned it in college" course.

Hmm, I guess we do learn a lot through example.

Curiously enough, the most active paper I feel I've ever edited came from a
spanish-speaking individual. He said he didn't feel confident in writing in
English so he just used the old subject-verb-d.o. approach; the paper was great.

Happy Editing!

Laura Praderio
Woods Hole
lpraderio -at- whoi -dot- edu

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