The passive voice of authority

Year: 1997

Author: Bredberg, Elizabeth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Developments in methods of educational research that have taken place during the past few decades are often associated with changes in perceptions of education and of the role of educational professionals. The ensuing shift from a strictly quantitative paradigm to one that also includes a variety of qualitative methods has, however, been seldom matched by changes in the style with which research is reported. Despite the acknowledgment, within many qualitative methodologies, of the significance of the investigator's perspective and the personal involvement, most educational research continues to be reported in a style that suppresses the authorial voice. In an attempt to gain an understanding of the persistence of this stylistic practice, I examine its characteristic techniques and its relation to academic writing in other disciplines. My investigation then extends itself into other cultural settings, both contemporary and historical, in which suppression of personal identity has functioned as a symbol of authority, and speculate on the implications of this practice in modern society. I conclude with some suggestions about ways in which research reporting might be made more stylistically consistent with the philosophical substrata that underlie current methodologies.