Use of Active Voice and Passive Voice in Research Writing

The question of whether to use active voice or passive voice has been a niggling one for researchers across the globe since time immemorial. Many scholars are under the impression that the passive voice is not preferred by journals, which adhere to a certain set of style guidelines, and needs to be avoided religiously. However, this is not entirely true; the passive voice is appropriate at many places, but researchers tend to overuse it.

As such, the benefits and inadequacies of active voice and passive voice need to be placed in the public domain for researchers to come up with an informed decision. Both forms could be used in the same paper; it is a matter of selecting the right voice for what one wants to express.

Review Paper Writing

Advantages of the Active Voice

The active voice presents a clear sequence of events: tiger eats deer. However, in a sentence with the passive voice, the reader has to wait until the end to figure out who was responsible for eating the deer. Besides, a passive sentence is invariably long, which could further confuse readers. In comparison, the active voice is more direct, which leads to shorter sentences. Although it is perfectly legitimate from a grammatical standpoint to have a paper with sentences of varying lengths, short sentences are comparatively easier to comprehend than long ones.

Advantages of the Passive Voice

Certain publishing manuals say that the passive voice is useful when one wants to emphasize the object rather than the subject. For example, consider the sentence: “The experiment was conducted by the researchers.”

It is very important to understand that there is no style manual that expressly prohibits the passive voice. What they underline is that both active voice and passive voice should be used judiciously to improve the expression in question.