Scientific writing - we vs. I

Sabine Dippel sabine at hlrz28.zam.kfa-juelich.de
Thu Mar 27 11:16:28 EST 1997


In article <1997Mar27.094105.5621 at clp2>, panzar at clpgh.org (Robin Panza) writes:
|> In article <5hbalo$pue at zam201.zam.kfa-juelich.de>, 
|> sabine at hlrz28.zam.kfa-juelich.de (Sabine Dippel) writes:
|> 
|> > (whatever that is in English). In my masters thesis, I circumvented the problem 
|> > by using the passive voice, which in German is okay, but in English sounds 
|> > awful, at least to me. 
|> 
|> This seems odd to me.  I was trained to always use the passive ("this was
|> done", not "I did") in writing.  I was told that we are reporting results, not
|> "tooting our own horns" about what ingenious people we are to have come up with
|> this experimental design.  To me, both "I did" and "We did" sound silly, even
|> childish.
|> 
|> I know this is considered outdated by some (boy, does it make me feel old!),
|> but I've not seen a reason to change.  I feel the same about grammer.
|> 
|> Robin K Panza			panzar at clpgh.org
|> Section of Birds, Carnegie MNH
|> Pittsburgh  PA  15213  USA
|> 

Actually, I was not referring to statements like that. Maybe I was not very 
clear in my question. So here's an example from a (published in an American 
journal) paper. 
"... Here, we deal with a special case of granular flow, namely, that along 
an inclined rough surface. ..."
Sure, one might write things like "Here, a special case of granular flow is 
considered..." 
Okay, I see this is a bad example - the second sentence doesn't sound any worse 
than the first one. 
But there's a better one: after stating what others have done, "... we consider 
..." 
I simply find this more natural than something like "...in this work blablabla 
is considered..."
(That's a typical case where in German I would find the passive voice odd as 
well). 

Sure, when stating the results of what we did, we always said "it was found" 
and the like - but to me it is not "tooting our own horns" when we state in 
a clear manner what WE (or I) are doing - contrary to what has been done by 
others so far. I think it makes things more readable and understandable. What
I mean is - sure, I can use "here" all the time to distinguish this - but some
mixture might make the thing less boring.

Am I completely wrong here?

Simply a question from a puzzled 
Sabine
who never was told how to write scientific texts,
has published some papers and has never been accused of
writing poor or inappropriate English by editors.



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