“They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing

The ability of a to express his/her thoughts is the primary ingredient that brings mastery over argumentative writing. Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, in their book, They Say/I Say The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, provides a handful of key templates that would benefit academic writing for the students to convert their ideas effectively. According to the authors, the key for any academic writing is in engaging with the ideas of others, while asserting one’s own ideas in a less judgmental way.

In the chapter, “Her Point Is”, the authors stress the importance of the art of summarizing. Placing a persuasive argument requires a substantial summarizing of the facts and opinions of other authors, in line with your own opinions regarding the topic. A summary is not just the response to an idea but a structured content that balances its focus on the original idea and the particular topic that is to be addressed. “A good summary, in other words, has a focus or spin that allows the summary to fit with your own agenda while still being true to the text you are summarizing.” (Graff and Birkenstein 34) It is essential that a summary must stress on the elements or points related to the argument to be presented, rather than listing off all the points without any main focus. The primary intention of summarizing is that it must allow the readers to get a grip on the topic, without agreeing or disagreeing with the idea behind the content.

The chapter, “So What? Who Cares?” implies the need for reasoning out the writer’s thoughts and why it matters. Since the texts are a part of a larger conversation, it is not enough to just acknowledge the views but to provide factual reasons for the readers to know the answers to the claims presented. So, the passage has to be distinct by providing a refutation to the proposed thoughts and stating why the readers have to care for the topic. It is necessary for every writer to respond fairly and clearly to the objections as it would make the argument more persuasive. Moreover, effective addressing of counterargument would give greater depth and precision to one’s stand in the argument.

The authors tend to state the art of meta commenting in the chapter “But Don’t Get Me Wrong”. It is essential for the writers to explain the audience the entire thought process in the writing and how it has to be interpreted, relating to the topic. It is a way of commenting on the claims proposed with respect to others’ viewpoints and objections relating to the discussion. Apart from the main text, this metacommentary would anticipate the readers’ difficulties in understanding the ideas, and explain the intention behind each part of the argument. It also helps the readers to effectively persuade the points argued, by warding off the potential misunderstandings, elaborating the ideas, as well as indicating the equally possible objections and counterclaims.

According to my personal reflection of the book, I can say that it instructs the students to develop his/her ability to express their own ideas and generate a sturdy argumentation. It provides a good base for stirring controversial topics and mastering the technique of how writing can cause discussion in a fairway. Also, the templates provide a great opportunity for the students to hone their skills of academic writing. Even though it is viewed that using templates in writing would diminish one’s creativity, it is possible only to some extent. I can strongly argue that the templates in this book provide a cornerstone for novice writers, particularly students, to start with their paper and build it up in a creative manner, without distracting from the central issue. The book initially helps the students to look beyond their own thoughts and see through the other’s point of view, which is ultimately the essence for an engaging argument or discussion.


Work Cited
Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing.
W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.