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This paper review on the works of previous studies regarding the usage of personal pronouns in research articles (RA). The review will look at the usage of personal pronouns in written corpora in different aspects; first looking at the use of personal pronouns as a whole in the world of academic writing and the differences in usage of personal pronouns among the native speakers of English and of those who uses English as a second language.
There has been extensive research on various features of academic writing and one of frequently looked at feature is the usage of personal pronouns in academic writing. Using personal pronouns in academic writing has been related to writer's voice and the writer's position in the academic world. Hyland (2001) states that the use of 'impersonality' has been proposed by manuals and textbooks as means of demonstrating scholarly persuasion and allowing writers to speak to readers in an 'unmediated' approach (as cited in Martin, n.d). The usage of personal pronouns in scientific writing sees a development from traditional notion towards recognition of this particular writing style. Martin further comments that writers' choice is announcing their presence in the academic field is viewed as a strategy that is increasingly used by writers of the international English speaking community in promoting and gaining accreditation on their claims in research. This is also supported by Cherry (1998) claiming on the importance of self-representation in academic discourse and Groom (1993) in his analysis of academic writing indicates the importance of writer's textual voice and states that writers should clearly state when they are reporting the voice of an author or stating their own expressions and personal point of views (as cited in Martin, n.d.)
Kuo (1999) investigated the use of personal pronouns in scientific journal articles and discusses on how writers are able to reveal on their own perception of their position in the academic field as well as other readers. Kuo further comments on how knowledge presented in article journals with the use of personal pronouns poses a great value towards writers as it allows writers to share personal contributions and seek solidarity with readers as well as others involved in the particular discipline. Hyland (2001) as cited in Martin (n.d.) supports this notion in his research articles across eight different disciplines on the attributions of personal pronouns, reporting a high proportion in the usage of personal pronouns in social sciences and humanities. Hyland concluded in his study that the usage of personal pronouns in scientific texts seems to be a valuable rhetorical strategy which allows writers to construct academic credibility and gain a certain degree of confidence and authority (as cited in Martin, n.d.). Tang & John (1999) in Martin (n.d.) also mentions the importance on the usage of personal pronouns however suggests that both teachers and students should be aware on 'the real presence' of how personal pronouns are used differently and other alternatives that can be opted towards the traditional method in claiming academic position and authority.
The Use of Personal Pronouns among Non-native Speakers
Martinez (2005) states on how using personal pronouns are not problematic for native, yet may pose as one on non-native speakers of English. Hyland (2000) conducted a study and revealed that non-native speakers' uses personal pronouns in non-controversial contributions however avoid them when stating expressions, argumentations or opinions (as cited in Martinez, 2005). In a study conducted by Petch-Tyson (1998 in Martinez, 20005), it was found that non-native speakers use personal pronouns at a rate of two to four times more than native speakers thus concluded that learners overused first and second personal pronouns in their writing. A different study done by Tang and John (1999) on 27 Singaporean university students showed the frequency of personal pronoun usage where first person pronoun occurred 92 times in all 27 essays which indicates a similar role to Hyland (1999, 2000) and Harwood (2005 as cited in Martinez, 2005).
Chang and Swales (1999) had also published a study concerning the attitudes of 37 non-native speaker graduate students studying at English universities regarding the use of personal pronouns in academic writing. From the study, it was found that regardless of their proficiency in the language, the students felt uncomfortable in using personal pronouns in academic writing. These graduate students believe that the use of personal pronouns is much more suitable to be used by senior scholars and states that using them makes academic writing more challenging. It was also found that these students rarely uses personal pronouns when giving opinions or stating the origin of a new idea (Chang and Swales, 1999 as cited in McCrostie, n.d.). McCrostie further commented that regardless of amount of studies focused on published writings, few studies had been done on unpublished writing of non-native speakers thus suggesting that there is a need to have more studies to compare unpublished writings among both native and non-native speakers which can also contribute knowledge to the study.