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Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

Can you use "you" when writing a research paper ever?

Asked by Aesthetic_Mess (7857 points ) March 5th, 2012

I’m trying to write the introduction paragraph to my research paper on governmental neglect during the Industrial Revolution.
To begin, I want to capture the reader’s attention by putting them in the place of an immigrant or impoverished citizen working and describing the squalid living conditions.
Would it be in bad taste to use “Imagine you are paid two dollars a week….”?

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11 Answers

rebbel's avatar

I have no explanation (in terms of writing techniques) for why I would not do that, other than a gut feeling of that I don’t want to burden my reader with a feeling of guilt or any other feeling or giving him/her the impression that I want to force him/her to step in someone’s shoes.
It has the danger in my opinion that the reader’s mind will be tainted all through the rest of the paper.

“Just imagine, around those days there were people who were paid two dollars a week…”, would be working just as well?
Or maybe even leave the whole Imagine thing alltogether.
When the reader reads he/she will (probably) auomatically use his/her imagination.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t think I’ve ever been allowed to, but that’s what “one” is for.

john65pennington's avatar

How about…..“Could you have survived on two dollars a week?”

You is an eye catcher and hits home in one line.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Think about the purpose of a research paper, and the style it’s supposed to have. This is not an appropriate type of paper for the kind of “eye grabber” that you are suggesting. You are not supposed to be appealing to the reader’s emotions, but to their reason.

So, present your scenario in a more factual manner: “If a person is paid two dollars per week, ...” and whatever consequences would follow in your argument. If the argument is not strong enough to stand up to a straightforward presentation, without the appeal to emotion, it doesn’t belong in your research paper.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It’s generally frowned upon, though your school might have specific guidelines on their website, so check the history (I’m assuming??) department’s page.

But, you can often reformat things to work around this restriction. Like so: “Imagine being paid two dollars a week….”.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Aethelflaed That structure avoids using the word you, but still addresses the reader as a person. If one is not allowed, the other should not be. After all, who is the subject of the verb “imagine”?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@dappled_leaves Ok, we could get into a debate about what should be allowed, but I’ve actually seen this a lot in scholarly articles, so it seems like it is allowed.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Just say imagine being paid only…......

the100thmonkey's avatar

Can you use “you” in academic writing?

Of course you can, but be prepared for it to be frowned upon.

On my master’s program, I found two different attitudes from the academics involved – some were more prepared to let the argument speak for itself; others were very… “careful” (or pernickety, if you prefer). I was pulled up once for using an exclamation mark once in 5,000 words.

Personally, I would be inclined to ask the person assessing the paper or consult the style guidelines for the journal if it’s intended for publication.

Avangelo's avatar

The writer can put the reader into a mans shoes without ever referring to the reader specifically.
Just using a persons personal experience to create a vision in the reader’s mind.

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