Tag Archives: voice

Using resources to find your voice

by Zoë Mahler

So it’s Week 4 and your first paper is coming up. You’ve gone to the Library Session and learned about the resources you’ll need to make your paper amazing. You went on JSTOR and found an article, and you’re feeling good! You’re reading this article with a highlighter in hand thinking, “How could someone write something so perfectly for me?! This is exactly what I needed!”

But then you sit down to actually write the paper. The article you read was so amazing and had everything you needed but… now you have to write something of your own. No matter how experienced you are as a writer, you know we’ve all been here at some point. Sometimes we just feel we could quote an entire article because it’s never going to be any better than that, right?

This, my friend, is why we go back to the databases and dig a little deeper. Though you may feel that the first article you found was a gold mine of information and you agree with everything that’s been written, maybe now it’s time to find an article that has a different perspective or words the subject a bit differently. When you’re reading multiple resources from multiple authors and publications, it’s easier to compile data in your own unique way. How do the articles coincide with one another? How do they not? Is there room for some comparing and contrasting?

This leads me to my takeaway message: The more sources you find, the more you actually find your own voice. Learning how to establish your voice by researching articles early on in the year will help you in the long run as you will be more and more practiced at finding your voice, as well as using databases as a resource! If you need any help finding more resources on your topic, or if you need a more in-depth lesson on how to use the databases, your tutors and librarians are here to help you! 


Zoë Mahler is a senior double majoring in art history and mass communication with a minor in religion. She is from Faribault, Minnesota, and plays on the beach volleyball team in the spring.

Using “you” less

by Bailey Bischoff

We use the word “you” a lot in our everyday speech. However, when writing a paper for class, it is often inappropriate to use “you” as the subject of your sentence. Engaging with your reader by using “you” (e.g., You should wear a rain jacket when traveling in the rainforest.) is called using a second person narrative voice. Whether you are writing in first person, second person, or third person is determined by which pronouns you use in your writing.

First Person:

Pronouns – I, me, we, mine, us
Example – Last week, I wrote a research paper about which type of music Principia students like to listen to at the pub.

Second Person:

Pronouns – you, your, yours
Example – It is probably surprising to you to learn that George Washington’s teeth were not made of wood, but were made instead of bone, ivory, and human teeth.

Third Person:

Pronouns – he, she, his, it, they, theirs
Example – In Professor Shimkus’s article, she argues that the globalization of markets contributes to increases in the amount of cross-continental human trafficking.

For formal academic writing, it is best to stick with a third person narrative, although some fields and assignments may be excepted. Third person narrative is more formal and professional, which is why we use it for academic writing. Of course, formal and professional isn’t the point. Being clear and specific is. Avoiding “you” helps you be precise for your readers.

How can you transition your writing to third person when you’re so used to speaking in first and second person?

Sometimes, cutting out “you” from your sentences happen naturally as you write more clearly and concisely.

Ex. When flying across the country, you should always pack a book for the plane ride.
Ex. Packing a book for an upcoming plane ride often makes long flights more enjoyable.

You can also substitute “one” for “you”, to give your writing a more formal tone.

Ex. When flying across the country, one should always pack a book for the plane ride.

Even better, you can use the real subject of the sentence.

Ex. When flying across the country, travelers should always pack a book for the ride.

When it comes to writing academic papers, you should remember to use “you” less!
No, wait! Writers should remember to use “you” less.

Bailey Bischoff is a junior majoring in political science and is serving as student body president.