What is anthropomorphism?

Anthropomorphism refers to giving human characteristics to a nonliving object or animal.

Why should I avoid anthropomorphism?

In academic writing, it is best to avoid using anthropomorphism because it causes sentences to be unclear and imprecise. Because academic writing should be clear and direct, you want to avoid any phrasing that is not precise. To make sure your sentences are precise, be sure that the subject of your sentence is capable of performing the action of the verb.

What does anthropomorphism look like?

Anthropomorphism can show up differently in your writing. To see variations, see the examples below:

For Example

Incorrect: The article from Lassitter and Jones (2009) discussed how coffee wakes you up in the morning.

Correct: Lassitter and Jones (2009) discussed how coffee wakes you up in the morning.

The incorrect sentence above includes anthropomorphism. An article cannot discuss something, as being able to discuss a topic is a human characteristic. Revise by putting the focus on the authors as exemplified in the correct sentence.
For Example

Incorrect: This experiment attempted to investigate how students learn APA style (Wheatley, 2016).

Correct: Wheatley (2016) attempted to investigate how students learn APA style.

The incorrect sentence above includes anthropomorphism. An experiment cannot attempt something, but a researcher can. Revise by putting the focus on the researcher like the correct sentence does.
For Example

Incorrect: A review of the literature concluded that there is a gap in the research on this topic (Fraenza, 2016).

Correct: Fraenza (2016) concluded that there is a gap in the research on this topic.

The incorrect sentence includes anthropomorphism. A written work cannot conclude something, but a writer can, like the correct sentence demonstrates.

How do I avoid anthropomorphism?

When discussing research, focus on the authors or writers and state what they did, concluded, said, or found. Do not use their results, article, or analysis as the subject of the sentence.