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I'm writing a Design Report. This is about 12k words long.

Because it's about research I've done and certain choices I've made, I'm using a lot of "I". Personally I don't think this is a problem, but my mentors have told me my papers are annoying to read, because they contain a lot of "I".

Example:

For the health belief model I had to discover four specific points. Perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits and perceived barriers. Because I noticed people aren’t very open when talking about covid, I had to be careful how I asked questions. First I let them rate the severity of each point from 1 to 5. Then after they answered all the questions I’m asking them to justify their answers. Doing it this way gives me answers that are more truthful.

I'm curious how I can make my writing more academic in general. Right now it's a bit like I'm writing a diary.

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    I'm not a native speaker. I would write all of this in passive: "Four specific points had to be investigated to develop the health belief model: perceived susceptibility, ..." – Roland Mar 16 at 11:58
  • It may be a good idea to add in the question if you are a native English speaker or not. – Basia Mar 16 at 14:21
  • This may be a bit field dependent, but you also want to be careful in making unintended inferences and unwarranted assumptions, such as "For the health belief model I had to discover four specific points." --- I seriously doubt YOU had to DISCOVER (only or all) 4 points for the health model. Surely someone else could have told you these 4 points (thus you didn't have to discover them), and why 4 and not 6 or 3, and exactly what is the logical connection between these points and the health belief model? Notice these unnecessary (and most likely false) suppositions are avoided in Basia's answer. – Dave L Renfro Mar 16 at 14:27
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It's generally accepted to use passive voice in scientific papers. This would turn the cited paragraph into:

For the health belief model, four specific points were discovered (taken into consideration?): perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits and perceived barriers. It was noticed people aren’t very open when talking about covid, so the questions were asked in the following manner. First, they were requested to rate the severity of each point from 1 to 5. After they answered all the questions, they were asked for justification of their replies. This way ensures that respondents are more truthful.

Additionally, to avoid repetitive use of the same words, I highly recommend to look for synonyms in a thesaurus. There are also programmes that check English grammar in a text, perhaps it's also a good option for you.

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Indeed, your current text reads like a diary, which might actually not be a very bad thing, since it is a report of your actions. Still, in general, it's good to remember that we are writing for our readers, and your choice of words actually conveys some message to them. In particular, the use of "I" indicates that we are dealing with your personal observation / opinion / design, and for some reason you feel important to emphasize it.

The following is my rough revision of your fragment.

"For the health belief model I had to discover four specific points1: perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits and perceived barriers. Since people are not very open when talking about covid2, questions should be asked carefully3. I used the following procedure4: First, the respondents rate the severity of each point from 1 to 5. After answering all the questions, the respondents have to justify their answers. This approach results in more truthful answers4."

  1. Or "...it is necessary to discover" -- depending on whether you had to do it due to some specific design of your experiment, or it is a general statement, valid for any health belief model.
  2. This is a general statement, so it is probably not imprortant for the reader whether you personally noticed that or somebody else (but in the latter case it would be good to provide a reference to literature).
  3. Same as above: you are actually making a general statement: it's not just you have to be careful, it applies to anyone trying to do it.
  4. If you want to get rid of "I" in such cases, use passive voice: "the following procedure was used". Personally I don't like passive voice, but it's okay if used sparingly.
  5. Same as above: your method is supposed to work better for everyone, not just you; so it isn't giving you more truthful answers, it would work for others as well.

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