Notes on "They Say / I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing
by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

Direct quotations from the book and John Kendall's reading notes



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p. xiii central premise, to begin with what others think, not what you think

p. xvi another frequently used phrase, "entering into a conversation with others," seeing writing as conversing

p. xvii 3 highlights: 1) shows students that writing well means entering a conversation, summarizing others ("they say") to set up one's own argument ("I say") 2) demystifies academic writing, showing students "the moves that matter" 3) provides user-friendly templates to help writers make those moves in their own writing

p. xviii example of a template: "In discussions of _ _ _ _ _, a controversial issue is whether _ _ _ _ _. While some argue that _ _ _ _ _, others contend that _ _ _ _ _. "

p. xx this strategy also helps improve reading comprehension as well as improve writing

p. xxi also encourages the student to see others' perspectives

p. xxii foresaw my own concern: "The aim of the templates, then, is not to stifle critical thinking but to be direct with students about key rhetorical moves that it comprises."

p. xxiv 3 valid reasons to use "I" in academic writing

p. 3 "Academic writing is argumentative writing."

p. 4-5 two cartoons on "before and after" with a view of The Sopranos tv show also examples of MLK acknowledging his critics, then defending himself

p. 8-9 Not always simple agree or disagree some of the best writing comes from qualifying a viewpoint

p. 10-11 more discussion of not stifling creativity with templates: "Ultimately, then, creativity and originality lie not in the avoidance of established forms but in the imaginative use of them."

p. 13 Kenneth Burke's metaphor for this concept: coming in late to a party, picking up on a discussion, listening and "then you put in your oar," and join the conversation. Leave the party while it's still going on. The way a writer should see composing an essay.

Chapter One : They Say
p. 23 some standard beginning templates:
# A number of sociologists have recently suggested that X's work has several fundamental problems.
# It has become common today to dismiss _ _ _ _ _
# In their recent work, Y and Z have offered harsh critiques of _ _ _ _ _ for _ _ _ _ _.

then they list many more templates on p. 24-27 for "Standard Views," "Making what 'They Say' Something You Say," "Introducing Something Implied or Assumed," "Introducing an Ongoing Debate" and "Keep What 'They Say' in View."

p. 31 he quotes Peter Elbow as using "the believing game . . . in which you inhabit the world-view of those whose conversation you are joining--and whom you are perhaps even disagreeing with--and try to see their argument from their perspective." (photocopy for Steve Loy ;-)

p. 35 discusses the danger of "list summary" (nice cartoon at the top of p. 36)

p. 37 in contrast, the satiric summary, " in which a writer deliberately gives his or her own spin to someone else's argument in order to reveal a glaring shortcoming in it." cites Jon Stewart's The Daily Show as an example of this

p. 39 perhaps a new phrase to use this year: "we recommend that when summarizing—or when introducing a quotation—you use vivid and precise signal verbs as often as possible" "tailor your verbs to suit the precise actions you're describing" (e.g. "urge, challenge, emphasize, chastises, indicts protests against")

p. 39-41 The chapter ends with several lists: Templates for Introducing Summaries and Quotations," Verbs for Introducing Summaries and quotations
Verbs for making a claim: argue, assert, believe, claim, emphasize, insist, observe, remind us, report, suggest
Verbs for expressing agreement: acknowledge, admire, agree, endorse, extol, praise, celebrate the fact that, corroborate, do not deny, reaffirm, support, verify other categories:
verbs for questioning or disagreeing
verbs for making recommendations

Chapter Three: As He Himself Puts it: The Art of Quoting
p. 42 discusses the mistakes in quoting others: too little, too excessively and
p. 43 offers another likely catch phrase To put a frame around a direct quotation (p. 49: "instead of simply repeating the author word for word, the follow-up sentences echo just enough of her language while still moving the discussion in the writer's own direction. In effect, the framing creates a kind of hyprid mix of the author's words and those of the writer.")

p. 44 the danger of "dangling quotations" and Steve Benton's "hit and run quotations" (see cartoon on p. 45)

p. 46-47 offers templates for introducing quotations and explaining quotations

Chapter Four: Yes / No / Okay, But: Three Ways to Respond
p. 60 Templates for Disagreeing with Reasons
e.g. "I disagree with X's view that _ _ _ _ _ because, as recent research has shown, _ _ _ _ _.

p. 62 Templates for Agreeing
e.g. "X is surely right about _ _ _ _ _ because as she may not be aware, recent studies have shown that _ _ _ _ _."

p. 64-65 Templates for Agreeing and Disagreeing Simultaneously
e.g. "Though I concede that _ _ _ _ _, I still insist that _ _ _ _ _."

Chapter Five: "And Yet": Distinguishing What You Say from What They Say
p. 71 "To avoid confusion in your own writing, make sure that at every point your readers can clearly tell who is saying what. To do so, you can use as voice-identifying devices many of the templates presented in previous chapters."

p. 71 templates for Signaling Who is Saying What in Your Own Writing e.g. "Adding to X's argument, I would point out that _ _ _ _ _."

p. 77 a good checklist for distinguishing one voice from another: (for peer or self-editing)
A) How many perspectives do you engage?
B) What other perspectives might you include?
C) How do you distinguish your views from the other views you summarize?
D) Do you use clear voice-signaling phrases?
E) What options are available to you for clarifying who is saying what?
F) Which of these options are best suited for this particular text?

Chapter Six: "Skeptics May Object": Planting a Naysayer in your Text
p. 78 responding to criticism, use that initial burst of defensiveness to fuel perspective

p. 79-80 anticipate comments to your own writing in advance (see cartoon on p. 81)

p. 82 Templates for Entertaining Objections
e.g. "Yet some readers may challenge my view by insisting that _ _ _ _ _."

p. 83 Templates for Naming your Naysayers"
e.g. "But social Darwinists would certainly take issue with the argument that _ _ _ _ _."

p. 84 Templates for Introducing Objections Informally
e.g. "Yet is it necessarily true that _ _ _ _ _? Is it always the case, as I have been suggesting, that _ _ _ _ _?"

p. 89 Templates for Making Concessions While Still Standing Your Ground
e.g. "Proponents of X are right to argue that _ _ _ _ _. But they exaggerate when they claim that _ _ _ _ _."

Chapter Seven: "So What? Who Cares?": Saying Why It Matters
p. 92 writers must always address the crucial question of why their arguments matter

p. 95 Templates for Indicating Who Cares
e.g. "This interpretation challenges the work of those critics who have long assumed that _ _ _ _ _."

p. 97 "The best way to answer such questions about the larger consequences of your claims is to appeal to something that your audience already figures to care about."

p. 98 Templates for Establishing Why Your Claims Matter
e.g. "Huckleberry Finn matters because it is one of the most widely taught novels in the American school system."

Chapter Eight: "As a Result": Connecting the Parts
joining simple, declarative sentences to construct more appealing syntax

p. 107 nice cartoon, illustrating how the current sentence needs to connect with the previous one and look to the one to come

p. 108-110 several pages of transition words perhaps an image of my own, with a locomotive and establishing a "train of thought" w. transitions as the links binding the cars together?

p. 109 transitions fall into several categories: the text is echoing a previous sentence ("in other words"), adding something to it ("in addition"), offering an example of it ("for example"), generalizing from it ("as a result"), or modifying it ("and yet")

p. 109-110 groups of examples for addition, example, elaboration, comparison, contrast, cause and effect, concession, and conclusion

p. 111 then moves on to combining sentences with a transition

p. 112-113 using "pointing words" such as relative pronouns (this, these, that, those, their) near the start of a sentence or other pronouns (his, he, her, she, it)

p. 116- discussion of deliberate and useful repetition

Chapter Nine: "Ain't So / Is Not": Academic Writing Doesn't Always Mean Setting Aside Your Own Voice
p. 121 "Academic writing can--and in our view should--be relaxed, easy to follow, and even a little bit fun."

p. 122 how to blend styles, being formal or official enough to pass muster, yet individual and interesting enough to not bore the reader

p. 127 When to mix styles? Consider your audience and purpose: "dressing up" or "dressing down" your language

Chapter Ten: "But Don't Get Me Wrong": The Art of Metacommentary

p. 129 sometimes writing not offering a new point of view, "but telling an audience how to interpret what they have already said or are about to say. In short, then, metacommentary is a way of commenting on your claims and telling others how—and how not—to think about them."

it acts like a Greek chorus

p. 130 cartoon about main text, vs. the metacommentary

p. 131 Journals are a great way to practice metacommentary, something more than just comprehension reading notes, but not yet to formal, lucid analysis

p. 132 templates:
e.g. "In other words, she doesn't realize how right she is."
e.g. "What _ _ _ _ _ really means is _ _ _ _ _."

p. 133-134 Titles a great way to sneak in extra metacommentary

p. 135 Templates for Introducing Metacommentary. Many categories
To ward off potential misunderstanding
To alert readers to an elaboration of a previous idea
To provide readers with a roadmap to your text
To move from a general claim to a specific example
To indicate that a claim is more, less, or equally important
To explain a claim when you anticipate objections
To guide readers to your most general point

Chapter Eleven: "I Take Your Point": Entering Class Discussions
p. 141 "Good face-to-face classroom discussion doesn't just happen spontaneously. It requires the same sorts of disciplined moves and practices used in many writing situations, particularly that of identifying to what to whom you are responding."

p. 142 Frame your comments as a response to something that has already been said. Single most important skill, to connect with previous speaker
e.g. "I really liked Aaron's point about the two sides being closer than they seem. I'd add that both seem rather moderate."

Try to add the previous speaker's name in your comment as well as the specific idea, to avoid confusion

p. 143 To change the subject, indicate explicitly that you are doing so

p. 144 Be even more explicit than you would be in writing (because listeners in a discussion can't go back and re-read what previous people have said)

Chapter Twelve: "What's Motivating This Writer?": Reading for the Conversation
p. 146 be ready to always see two arguments, the author's and your reaction to it

p. 147 by doing this, readers become active participants in the reading, rather than passive recipients

Deciphering the conversation: nice imagery of imagining the author in a crowded coffee shop, talking to others who are making claims that her or she is engaging with. the concept of an ongoing, multisided conversation helpful

p. 148-149 students often miss a sub-layer of meaning. "We often ventriloquize views that we don't believe in, and may in fact passionately disagree with, all the time" Great verb and useful image for kids

p. 150 relevant for many passages on the mul.ch or essay sections: " . . . in texts where the central "they say" is not immediately identified, you have to construct it yourself based on the clues the text provides.

p. 151 When the "They Say" is about something "nobody has talked about"

p. 154 "Critical reading is a two-way street."

Chapter Thirteen: "The Data Suggest": Writing in the Sciences by Christopher Gillen
Perhaps useful for Dave, Ralph, Jacque and other science teachers

Chapter Fourteen: "Analyze This": Writing in the Social Sciences by Erin Ackerman
Perhaps useful for Jill?

Readings:
p. 195 "Don't Blame the Eater" by David Zinczenko

p. 198 "Hidden Intellectualism" by Gerald Graff (one of the authors of the book)

p. 206 "Nuclear Waste" by Richard Muller

p. 214 "Agonism n the Academy: Surviving the Argument Culture" by Deborah Tannen

Index of Templates
p. 221-235 VERY useful section, could photocopy that for the English Department or whoever, as a summary of the book

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