APA Style Preferences: Point of View and Voice

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While following guidelines and rules for citations is a big part of writing in the APA style, the point of view and voice you use to present information is important. By maintaining the third-person point of view, you are simply observing information and recording findings – which is how information about your research should be presented. Both point of view and style have certain guidelines and principles.

  • APA style requires you to use predominantly third-person point of view, with first-person allowed in some situations.
  • APA style encourages using the active voice over the passive voice.
  • APA style prefers that you foreground research and not the researchers conducting the research.

Using third-person point of view in APA style

Unless you are specifically referencing research you have conducted yourself or with other researchers, you should aim to stay in the third-person point of view when writing in the APA style. The first-person point of view is acceptable when relaying information about your own research through the use of first-person pronouns (I, me, we, us). In fact, using them is necessary to show who conducted the research steps and to avoid an anthropomorphic view.

Correct: “We controlled…”
Incorrect: “The study controlled…”

On the other end of the point-of-view spectrum, second-person point of view is not acceptable under the APA style. This means avoiding the second-person pronouns of “you” and “your.”

To stay in the third-person point of view, write using pronouns such as “he/him,” “she/her” and “they/their.” When it is appropriate, use first-person pronouns to discuss research conducted by you and any co-researchers.

Using the active voice in APA style

The APA style encourages using the active voice. [URL]Active voice[/writing-resources-articles/general-writing/grammar/active-voice/] differs from [URL]passive voice[/writing-resources-articles/general-writing/grammar/passive-voice/] because it shows who is conducting an action more clearly. This becomes increasingly important in experimental reports, where presenting research correctly requires showing the actions and by whom those actions are completed.

Correct: Researchers completed experiments on monkeys. (active voice)
Incorrect: Experiments were completed on monkeys. (passive voice)

Foregrounding research in APA style

Staying in the active voice in APA style also holds true for foregrounding research instead of the researchers. In other words, the research should stay prominent. To foreground the research, you would write “The findings indicate…” instead of writing “The researchers indicate… .”